Do You Need to Model a Point Cloud?

It’s a frequent question among industry veterans. Do you need to model a point cloud? The answer varies, as it depends on your goals and the parameters of your project. In most cases, however, scanning to BIM — or Building Information Modeling — benefits your work. It delivers a real-world model that’s accurate, which helps architects design with accuracy. That leads to another set of benefits, from minimizing alterations to decreasing project costs. In most instances, you should model a point cloud.

Why Model a Point Cloud?

For many companies, there is a reason they’d prefer not to model a point cloud — it requires a powerful computer and a higher skill set, which can lead to increased costs for the scan as well as a five-step process for exporting the point cloud to BIM. While price, time and expertise are all valid considerations, you also have to think about the benefits offered by scanning to BIM.

A point cloud’s advantages include:

  • Accurate: A point cloud delivers an unparalleled level of accuracy. It’s created from the actual space, resulting in millions of points that form a cloud.
  • Efficient: A 3D scan of a location can take a day or more but boosts efficiency later, ensuring teams are working via a real-world model to prevent errors.
  • Cost-Effective: A point cloud, following its scanning to BIM, offers a cost-effective solution by eliminating design mistakes.
  • Accessible: A BIM model, following a point cloud’s export, is available to every party involved in a project, from engineers to managers to architects.

Opting to use a model of a point cloud of for scanning existing conditions offers many benefits, which is why most companies receive a return on their investment.

How to Complete Scanning to BIM

As a point cloud does not result in a 3D CAD model, it requires conversion, which is why scanning to BIM includes the following steps:

  • Create: The most critical step in producing a BIM from a point cloud is your initial scan. That’s why you’ll want to determine your ideal resolution and scan area, as well as the goal of the point cloud, before arriving at the site. Depending on the size of the structure, you can entrust one person to complete the scan with a 3D laser scanner.
  • Register: The next step for using your scan data for existing conditions is registration. You’ll require software, like Trimble® RealWorks®, and a computer with the appropriate memory, solid state drive and RAM — at the minimum, you’ll want 16 GB of RAM. If your 3D laser scanner includes a USB flash drive, remove it and plug it into your computer. Import the files and the program will register them.
  • Consolidate: Due to the power requirements of point clouds, it’s recommended to consolidate your cloud into segments. By taking this step, you’ll speed-up the process for scanning to BIM. If you’re using Trimble® RealWorks®, the program includes a tool, called Cutting Plane, that makes it a seamless process to divide your point cloud into pieces.
  • Export: Your next step, which brings you closer to using the scan data for a location’s existing conditions, is exporting those segments into your modeling software. Times vary for this part of the process, but it should take less than registration.
  • Model: After exporting your point cloud into your modeling software, you can begin using your scan data. Model your doors, windows, walls and more, with the imported point cloud correcting you about the location of items to ensure accurate models.

Following the modeling and revision process, your team can proceed with construction and deliver a quality product.

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