How to Perform Remote Inspections Using 3D Capture

September 17, 2020 David Burczyk

COVID-19 has changed day-to-day operations in the construction industry. Social distancing as a safety precaution is now the norm on many jobsites, and enforcing it often means restricting the number of workers who can be onsite. At the same time, social distancing requirements shouldn’t prevent projects from moving forward and teams from being able to do their jobs. Adopting construction technology that allows processes and tasks to be performed remotely is a viable way to address this new challenge.

For example, a 3D laser scanner allows your teams to capture changing conditions on a jobsite and document project progress, then share the information with others who are located remotely. The scanner can be set up in different locations around the site while the laser takes 360-degree measurements of different surfaces, generating millions of points within minutes to create a highly accurate 3D representation of the space. After multiple scans are taken, the scans can be registered to create a 3D composite point cloud which can then be shared with remote workers to help them compare what’s happening on the site with existing models and designs.

One component of construction that benefits from 3D capture capabilities is the inspections process. Here’s how you can use 3D capture with a scanner to conduct inspections remotely and avoid compromising the safety of inspectors and workers.

Step 1: Capture and Review Scan Data in the Field

Teams with permission to be onsite can use a 3D laser scanner to collect and verify accurate scan data in the field in real time.

With the scanner, users can quickly capture scans and add the data on the spot into integrated software using a tablet controller. They can also use the tablet to preload and view layout and model information, including PDF drawings, CAD models, and 3D models. 

In addition to the tablet controller, an integrated laser pointer allows users to tie the data to the building coordinate system to ensure scans are aligned with the same locations as the models. The scanner’s self-calibrating and self-leveling capabilities ensure the most accurate data is collected in the most user-friendly way.

With in-field registration, users can verify they’ve collected everything they need before they leave. They can easily review all information and add field notes to the scans while onsite, instead of having to return to the office to process the data. This is especially important when social distancing requirements are in place since teams may be limited in how many times they can go to the jobsite or how much time they can spend while there.

Step 2: Share Scan Data with Remote Teams

Once the scan data is captured and imported into the software, it can be shared with and accessed by project teams who are located remotely. 

The cloud-based software allows stakeholders to take the data registered at the site and analyze it from wherever they’re located without the need for any additional refinement of the data. They can combine different pieces of project information to create a living document of the conditions on the site, including scan files from other scanners, model data from different modeling applications, or even images created at the site. Project teams can also easily update the information as conditions change throughout the lifecycle of the project.

Using up-to-date data, inspectors can verify the accuracy of what’s being constructed and sign off on the work. The use of a heat map or cone geometry helps them visualize where elements are in or out of tolerance. Without having to physically be at the jobsite, design and construction teams are able to remotely perform design validation to see how the real-world conditions in the field relate to the model, including: 

  • Running floor and wall surface profiles
  • Verifying the flatness or levelness of a slab during or after the concrete pour
  • Performing clash detection to observe where clashes may exist between reality and the design
  • Creating real-time animations to illustrate the sequence of construction
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Step 3: Use Inspection Reports to Make Better, Faster Decisions

The inspectors’ analysis report is stored in the point-cloud database, including deviations, clash detection, and any other imagery. 

As additional stakeholders review the inspection information, they can make changes to the overall design and update the project documentation. From there, stakeholders can package the information into a web-ready file and use it as a single source of truth about the project. The file is stored in a web server with a shareable link so that all stakeholders have access to the most accurate and up-to-date information. No special software is required; stakeholders only need an Internet browser to view the web-ready file.

When all project teams and stakeholders have access to the same project information, they can communicate and collaborate far more effectively. With inspection reports included in the complete package of project information, a variety of teams can uncover potential errors or issues, resolve them before they turn into major problems later, and make faster, better decisions about the project.

Conduct Remote Inspections with 3D Capture

With an intuitive mid-range 3D laser scanner, a range of professionals can capture accurate site data with no special training required. Even without pandemic limitations in place, 3D capture facilitates a connected construction workflow. By providing stakeholders with a reliable single source of truth about the project, they’re able to work more efficiently and effectively. 

Whether you face remote-work demands now or down the road, 3D scanning technology can help you meet them and keep your business running strong.

To learn how easy it is to get started with 3D laser scanning, get the eBook.

About the Author

David Burczyk

David Burczyk is the Segment Manager for the 3D Capture Portfolio with Trimble Buildings. With over twenty years of AEC industry experience promoting technology and collaboration among design and construction teams, David brings a comprehensive understanding of Building Information Models (BIM) and Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) processes. Through the use of 3D capture and positioning technology, David is focused on the development and implementation of tailored solutions to advance the field productivity of AEC contractors, architects, and engineers.

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