Blog Post

Don’t Invest in a 3D Laser Scanner Until You Read This

By David Burczyk. Originally published on

You may already know the benefits of 3D laser scanning in building construction. Using the accurate field data you can gather from a 3D scanner, you can effectively reduce rework, increase productivity, and improve communication and collaboration between all project stakeholders.

But to realize these benefits, you need to evaluate more than just what the hardware—the physical instrument itself—can do. The software that integrates with the scanner is what really allows you to make the 3D data valuable and shareable, so you can use it across construction workflows and drive greater efficiency.

With the right software, you can:

  • Auto-register scans right in the field
  • Create 3D models on the spot
  • Share data and collaborate with others in real-time
  • Validate designs and track project progress​

Here’s a closer look at three software applications that integrate with Trimble’s 3D scanning solutions, including the intuitive Trimble X7 3D laser scanner. Read on to discover how the right software helps you get more mileage out of your scans and maximize the value of your 3D data and BIM models.

Register, Reference & Share Scan Data

When scanning in the field, teams need to be able to register point cloud data and reference it with the model, as well as share as-built information with other stakeholders. You also need to ensure all data is collected the first time and that the 3D model is aligned with both design intent and the real-world environment. When you lack these capabilities, productivity suffers and disconnects between teams can occur.

Trimble FieldLink software manages the as-built data collection process by enabling a seamless interface between the field and the office so teams can share and access the same accurate site information. Scan data can be collected, registered, stored, shared, and updated from the field in collaboration with other teams, eliminating the need for multiple trips to the jobsite.

Specifically, FieldLink lets you register your scan data in real-time as you are collecting scans onsite, instead of having to return to the office to manipulate the data. You can also geo-reference your scan data to the project coordinate system to make sure the model and scan data are properly aligned. By making it possible to register scan data in the field and share it with teams in the office, FieldLink helps you collaborate more effectively and make better, faster decisions.

With FieldLink, you can:

  • Register your point cloud in the field, without having to return to the office
  • Reference 3D data and compare the scan to the model
  • Document as-built conditions to help with RFIs and changes
  • Use flexible export and reporting capabilities to improve collaboration​

Do you know the must-have features to prioritize in a 3D scanning solution?
Download the buyer’s guide to learn more.

Visualize & Model 3D Data

3D modeling has become a regular part of the construction process. 3D data capture from the jobsite is also increasingly commonplace with the growing use of intuitive 3D scanners like the Trimble X7. You can maximize the value of these capabilities by using the 3D point clouds produced from scan data in the modeling process. But creating accurate models from point clouds typically requires going back and forth between the site and the office to make measurements.

Trimble Scan Essentials for SketchUp is a complete point cloud solution for modeling directly from scan data. With the Scan Essentials extension, you can easily import point clouds into SketchUp, view them, then use native SketchUp tools to snap on the points during model creation. You’re able to quickly realize the value of point clouds created in the field by bringing the scan data directly into a true modeling platform like SketchUp for visualization and rapid model creation.

In addition to providing visualization and modeling capabilities, Scan Essentials lets you compare the point cloud to the model to inspect model accuracy. A heat map is generated to visualize the accuracy of the model to the point cloud. You can model directly on the point cloud and lock on to either scan data points or SketchUp elements to confirm accuracy.

With Scan Essentials for SketchUp, you can:

  • Bring 3D scan data and point clouds directly into SketchUp for visualization and rapid modeling
  • Run as-built comparisons and QA analysis to ensure accuracy of the model
  • Use advanced tools for viewing cloud data, including outline, shading, colorization, and a “look inside” feature
  • Easily import a variety of file types and sizes

Validate Designs & Document Project Progress

During the course of construction, design changes occur that may not get documented or shared, making it difficult to ensure you’re working with the most up-to-date information and accurately monitoring the project’s progress. You might also get 3D data from multiple sources that aren’t easy to work with or share with others.

Trimble CloudEngine is a next-generation design and point cloud editor that utilizes 3D capture data. As a project-based software tool, it provides design validation features for analysis, remote collaboration, clash detection, and visualization tailored to the constructible workflow. Construction progress can be monitored, documented, and shared with project stakeholders through a web-sharing interface that can be viewed on multiple devices, and data can easily be downloaded to BIM/CAD platforms.

CloudEngine lets you combine as-built point cloud data, 3D construction models, 360-degree photography, and project drawings in the same file. Your point cloud becomes a living database of up-to-date project information that both technical and non-technical stakeholders can access and use through the web-sharing interface.

With CloudEngine, you can:

  • Perform deviation analysis, clash detection, and change management
  • Monitor project progress and document any changes over time
  • Share design analysis results with stakeholders in a customizable report
  • Visualize construction sequences with real-time animations to plan workflows
  • Analyze horizontal and vertical surfaces for workflows such as concrete construction using industry-standard testing methods
  • Securely share data with project teams through Microsoft Azure

Be Sure to Ask about Software When Evaluating 3D Scanning Solutions

Investing in your own 3D laser scanner is an important decision. But choosing the right hardware is just one part of the evaluation process. When you choose a comprehensive 3D laser scanning solution that also includes integrated and seamless software capabilities, you’re able to use 3D scan data across a variety of workflows and break down the silos between the field and office.

You can maximize the benefits and applications of your 3D scan data—and the return on your scanning investment—with software that lets you:

  • Register scans in the field to ensure completeness and accuracy
  • Bring scan data directly into the modeling environment
  • Share 3D scan data and current project information in real-time
  • Collaborate and communicate more effectively

To learn more about what to look for in a 3D laser scanning solution, download the buyer’s guide.

Get Our FREE Buyer's Guide to 3D Laser Scaning Solutions


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