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Using 3D Laser Scanning in Construction
By Jaimy Ford for America's Backbone Weekly

Historically, the construction industry hasn't always been the quickest to adopt new technologies. That may be changing as some cutting-edge options are modifying the way businesses operate, saving owners time, money and a truckload of headaches.

Take 3D laser scanning. This innovative technology digitally scans a building or location and captures the dimensions and positioning of objects within the area. For large areas, multiple scans from different angles are captured and linked together. That data is then used to create a replication of the scanned objects in a point cloud image. For example, it captures a physical object's exact size and shape and creates a 3D representation. Once a point cloud image has been created, you can quickly and easily export the data to computer-aided design (CAD) and building information modeling (BIM) programs and render 2D CAD drawings or 3D models.

Check out a few of the ways 3D laser scanning technology can change the way you run your construction business:

  • Save money. While initial sticker shock may hinder some small businesses from adopting the technology, reports suggest 3D scanning can reduce total project costs by as much as 7 percent on industrial projects. Because the exact measurements improve planning, you are more precise with material purchases, minimizing waste.
  • Finish projects sooner. Laser scanning can cut the time you need to collect data to mere hours, much quicker than older methods of collecting data. For extremely complex projects, in some cases you can begin construction weeks earlier. You also decrease your chances of mistakes, keeping projects on schedule.
  • Simplify modeling and layout design. All the precise measurements and dimensions are delivered to you. You can then either export the data to your BIM software or use it to create an accurate scale model. Either way, you save time and effort. Laser scanning offers a level of detail other methods can't.
  • Create updated as-built drawings. You can view your progress during every stage of a project, allowing you to make real-time adjustments to keep the project on track and on budget, vastly reducing the need for costly and time-consuming rework.
  • Control job site robots. If you have or plan to have robots doing some of the heavy or repetitive lifting, laser-scanning technology can serve as the eyes and/or brains of the robot, so you don't need humans to control the equipment.
  • Construct and maintain roadways and bridges. You can use laser scanning to construct roads, tunnels, bridges and more. It can also be used to survey road topography and profile surface and pavement to make repairs as needed.
  • Evaluate damage. Assess bridge and building damage, and monitor deformations in both to determine when you need to make critical upgrades to infrastructure.
  • Renovate existing buildings. There isn't access to as-built drawings for many older buildings, but 3D laser scanning can create the models, enabling you to plan renovations. The technology can document the existing conditions of a building, making it possible for you to alter the interior and exterior without damaging the integrity of the existing building. It also allows you to integrate new additions with old builds seamlessly.
  • Keep your crew safe. Because the scanning happens so quickly, you reduce the number of people required to enter an area for additional surveying and their time exposed to hazardous materials. And because you can view the images from afar, you can keep employees out of risky situations; for example, alerting them to potential hazards in a damaged building.

With many contractors from small business owners to large corporations adopting BIM technology, experts see 3D laser scanning becoming rapidly more mainstream given how ideal the preciseness of the data is for BIM software.

It could be worth finding out for yourself if 3D laser scanning technology can increase your productivity, reduce mistakes and speed up your overall planning process.

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Jaimy Ford is a professional business writer withnearly a decade's worth of experience developing newsletters, blogs, e-letters,training tools and webinars for business professionals. She contributes to bothThe Intuit Small Business Blog and She also serves as editor-in-chief of SalesMastery, a digital magazine writtenspecifically for sales professionals.

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