Civil engineering projects of all natures – from wastewater treatment plants to bridges to facilities construction projects – have been revolutionized in recent years by the advent and increased usability of 3D reality capture and digital twins. Point clouds are an efficient way to keep track of the as-built status of any project for its entire lifecycle. These data sets reduce the need to visit remote sites, enable global, centralized collaboration, and cut costs and time, keeping projects on time and on budget.
The use of point clouds will only increase in the years to come, and the industry is on the cusp of a changed game as 3D reality capture hardware and software continues to evolve and improve.
Civil Engineering Has Evolved
Technology has evolved over the past few decades across all sectors, and civil engineering is no exception. Engineers were still using slide rules and hand drafting as recently as the 70s when HP calculators took over calculations and CAD took over 2D design. Before long, 3D CAD emerged, and then parametric design. Cloud technology and the internet of things (IoT) let sensors send data to remote locations; BIM models let engineers handle more complex projects easily; and 3D printing has revolutionized many aspects of construction.
In fact, technology has changed nearly every aspect of civil engineering – from how engineers communicate with clients and contractors, to digital marketing, to the use of big data to predict patterns and risks to increase safety and improve designs.
3D Reality Capture and Point Clouds
Now a new evolution is taking place: that of 3D reality capture which lets engineers view a project as it’s being built without having to visit the site every time. Whether it’s using drones for aerial surveys before a project, implementing terrestrial scanning, or a combination of scanning tech, surveyors on the ground can create a detailed point cloud – a set of points representing 3D space which describe a project site in detail.
Of course, a point cloud detailed enough to accurately represent a facility such as a new wastewater treatment plant or factory floor contains a large amount of data, and in its raw form is no more readable to humans than any other set of random numbers would be. So, software is needed to visualize this data and make it usable to engineers and clients alike. This kind of software, called point cloud visualization software, is the backbone of the 3D reality capture revolution, giving engineers a centralized view of projects as they’re built, as well as throughout their lifespan.
Transferring and Sharing Large Data Sets
As point clouds first came into use, a few problems cropped up quickly. Most importantly, point cloud data is huge. So big that sharing this data among stakeholders was unwieldy. Typically, entire hard drives were shipped or carried, and separate proprietary software was used by each team member to view and interact with models. This meant risking corruption if hard drives were jostled too much in transit – and even worse, various team members may not be looking at the same version of a project, making decision making and information sharing all but impossible. Data about projects such as design changes or maintenance records were disjointed and scattered, making communication and planning difficult.
Transferring and sharing point cloud data needed to be easier. What teams lacked was a centralized, single place to view, interact with, and communicate about projects – an accurate, up-to-date, single, digital twin representing a project.
Centralizing and Streamlining Data
Now, the solution that makes point clouds and 3D reality capture truly useful is JP Interactive Viewer. In one cloud-based platform, teams can manage digital twins from point cloud data originating from almost any source. All stakeholders – engineers, surveyors, construction managers, clients, facility managers, and owners – can view the same model simultaneously, always looking at an up-to-date, accurate 3D model of the facility as it is on the ground.
Centralizing a digital twin this way means all pertinent info can be kept in one place, connected to the facility and components it describes. All CAD models (as-built and as-designed), all facilities changes, as-is documentation, operational data, custom workflow development, advanced analytics, procedures and specs, maintenance records, and operational KPIs attach directly to the digital twin. This centralized data means a streamlined process which reduces waste, error, and travel, vastly improving overall cost and profitability.
Step Into the Future Now With Point Cloud Visualization Software
Point clouds and 3D reality capture have already revolutionized civil engineering, and these methodologies stand ready to change the game forever. If you’re ready to see what a truly functional point cloud visualization software package can do, contact JP Global Digital today and request your free trial of JP Interactive Viewer.