What are Point Clouds, and how can you generate them?

What are Point Clouds, and how can you generate them?

Companies continue to bring about new technologies, entirely disrupting industries. One of the most promising technologies claiming to change our interaction with the physical world and industrial assets is the Point Cloud.

Just imagine everything you can do by having an exact and realistic 3D digital replica of any of your industrial assets.

Point clouds have given rise to a new industrial revolution. This new technology is still showing its capabilities and already creating a significant impact in the workplace. However, there are still many doubts and uncertainties about this technology. Let's break it down:

What is a Point Cloud?

Point Clouds are 3D digital replicas of physical assets made from a measured set of data points in space (see image below). Technically, a Point Cloud is a dataset that contains millions of points existing within three dimensions, each having X, Y, and Z coordinates and some other attributes (e.g., RGB and Intensity values) in some cases. Each point represents a portion of a surface within a particular area, becoming an actual digital record of an object or space.

People tend to think of these points as pixels in a picture but within a 3D environment. Just like by having more pixels, you get better photo quality; the denser the point cloud is the more details and terrain properties you will see, allowing smaller features and texture details to be more defined.

Close up of a Point Cloud

How do you create a Point Cloud?

We can generate Point Clouds using reality capture technologies, such as terrestrial and airborne laser scanners, mobile mapping, cameras, and even smartphones.
These reality capture technologies create a realistic view of different objects since they perceive the physical world to create replicas in a 3D digital environment.

In Point Cloud generation, we can use two methods: laser scanners and photogrammetry.

1. Laser Scanning

The 3D laser scanners use LiDAR technology, which stands for Light and Detection Ranging. This technology uses a pulsed laser to measure the distance between surrounding objects and the scanner, giving a 3D scan of what is along its path.
Most advanced terrestrial laser scanners capture more than a million points per second and 360 photorealistic photos with a millimeter accuracy of any survey performed.

The LiDAR scanning technology comes in different shapes and sizes, from tripod-mounted scanners to drones. These scanners can be attached to helicopters, cars, small airplanes, and even used in mobile terrestrial equipment. These technologies have their pros and cons, but using one over the other depends on using the Point Clouds.

For instance, the tripod-mounted scanner is the most suitable to achieve millimeter accuracy for engineering and industrial applications. Their static characteristics allow them to capture more than millions of points per second, increasing the model's level of detail.

To digitalize an entire facility, the tripod-mounted laser scanners should be located in different positions to capture the overall shape of all objects or the area of interest. When the site scanning is completed, the data collected is then stitched together like a puzzle, creating a complete capture of the scene.

2. Photogrammetry

When wanting to digitize a large area in a short time or wanting a 3D visual realism of a physical object, photogrammetry is the way to go.

Photogrammetry consists of taking pictures of space from different angles and distances to capture the tridimensional surface of objects. After capturing the data, those photos are imported into specialized photogrammetry software for further processing, resulting in a 3D model.

Using aerial photogrammetry is the main advantage of capturing a vast extension of the area from higher elevations, allowing higher accuracy and detail of vertical assets.
The main output of photogrammetry software is a 3D mesh.

Meshes are 3D solid digital representations of objects and surfaces. The main advantage of photogrammetry over laser scanning is the quality of the texture of the 3D mesh. The meshes with laser scanning technology will not be comparable to the proper photogrammetry deliverable even with the dense and colored point cloud and advances in a mesh-from-point generation.
Nonetheless, there is a non-spoken truth on the difference between the point cloud and 3D mesh. The 3D mesh is intended to look nicer than accurate, so it is not recommended to be used for precise measurements or AEC applications.

What is a Point Cloud?

New software and new equipment are being released constantly to improve the data capture and acquisition process while reducing time. The future of point clouds is looking bright, and most industrial sectors, even governments, are starting to realize the capabilities of this game-changing technology.

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    By: Argenis Pelayo

    Research Engineer

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Ivan Marten

Senior Partner Emeritus at Boston Consulting Group

Ivan Marten is a senior partner emeritus at Boston Consulting Group. He is also a member of JP Global Digital Advisory Board as from April 2019. He has supported various companies in the energy, Oil & Gas, power, and environment sectors on developing their strategic visions for over 30 years. Ivan holds a degree in economics and business administration, and a Ph.D. in business administration and economics from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. He was named one of the" Top 25 most influential consultants of the year by Consulting Magazine in 2003.

Javier San Juan

President of the Latin America Region at L’Oreal

Javier is the president of the Latin America region at L’Oreal. He is a member of JP Global Digital Advisory Board as from January 2019. He has over 27 years of experience with a world leading cosmetic company where he held various positions across Europe and the Americas. Javier holds a master’s degree in Law, a master’s degree in Economics from the University ICADE in Spain, and a Diplôme HEC from the Hautes Etudes Commerciales de Paris He is the co-founder of Gibraltar Corporation and is one of the advisory board members.

Elizabeth Coronado

Co-Founder and Communication Executive 

Elizabeth graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communication. She has three years of experience supporting the management of internal and external communications. She holds a Digital Marketing Certificate from the University of Miami.

She works hand-in-hand with multiple departments including Quality Management System, Human Resources, and Marketing. She is currently involved in the process of raising funds.

Argenis Pelayo

Research Engineer

Argenis has a bachelor degree in Geophysical Engineering and an MBA. 

Argenis is experienced in the implementation of agile methodology, and project planning. He is knowledgeable in C++, MATLAB, and Python programming languages. He has almost two years of experience in his field.

King Yung

Data Processing Specialist

King is a mechanical maintenance engineer with an MBA. He has almost 15 years of experience in the oil & gas industry. In the last five years, he has specialized and certified in laser scanning. He is focused on industrial data processing in Panama, the Republic of Panama.

Eduardo Colmenares

Project Leader

Eduardo is a mechanical engineer with an MBA. He has more than 10 years of experience in the construction and oil & gas industry. In the last five years, he has specialized and is certified in laser scanning. Eduardo has focused on leading industrial asset digitalization in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Valentin Malave

Project Leader

Valentin is a civil engineer with almost 20 years of experience as a project engineer. In the last two years, he has focused on leading industrial asset digitalization in Houston, TX. He has specialized and is certified in laser scanning.

Ana Gutierrez

Project Leader

Ana has 10 years of experience in the design and engineering area of telecommunications and networks, and digitalization. In the last four years, she has specialized and certified in laser scanning.

Customer and results-oriented. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in electrical, electronics, and communications engineering, a Master in Management, and a MBA.

Roberto Ocando Morales

Research & Development Leader

Roberto holds an associate degree in information technology and a law degree. He has an MBA and a specialization in strategic senior management.

He has been a scrum master focused on software and applications development. He has 24 years of experience in his field.

He was second place within the 100 Best Technology Projects Executed in Venezuela in 2006- according to IT Manager 100 Empresas High-Tech 2006

Marvelys Gonzalez

Head of Operations

Marvelys is a civil engineer with a master in project management and specialized in project design and hydraulic engineering. She also holds an MBA and a master in Big Data & Business Intelligence.

She has more than 17 years of experience in her field, and for the last three years, she has focused on industrial data processing. She is located in Mexico City (DF).

Hernan Ocando

IT Team Leader

Hernan has more than 20 years of experience in computer science, cryptography, IT, data center design, telecommunications, and digitalization.

He also has experience as an information security management system auditor, and data processing platform manager in both private and public corporations.

Hernan holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering and a master in Computer Science, Finance, and Strategic Management.

Freddy Martinez

Partner and President

Freddy is a successful senior executive with more than 35 years of experience supporting global companies in their growth.

Freddy is a strong business development professional with an MBA from The Wharton School and an MSE focused on materials science & engineering from The Moore School, University of Pennsylvania. Both degrees were simultaneously earned from 1984 to 1986.

Daniel Coronado

COO & Co-Founder

Daniel is the chief operating officer and co-founder of JP Global Digital. He is responsible for leading the entire overall global operations of JP Global Digital and the implementation of organic growth.

Daniel has a law degree. He has over 25 years of experience founding and developing a series of corporations in the agricultural, mining, construction, and technology sector since 2015.

Ysaac Coronado

CEO and Co-Founder

Ysaac is the CEO and co-founder of JP Global Digital. He is responsible for the overall business performance of JP Global Digital and is highly committed to the development of high-quality 3D digital solutions and to obtain the highest level of client satisfaction and growth for the Oil & Gas, Large Industrial, and Maritime Sectors.

Ysaac has a law degree with a specialization in corporate law. Ysaac has over 25 years of experience founding and developing a series of corporations in the agricultural, mining, construction, and technology sector since 2015.