6 Ways 3D Laser Scanning Can Save Time and Money

3D laser scanning reveals hidden truths behind potentially expensive or dangerous unknowns.

One of the biggest threats to a construction schedule and budget is the unknown.

For example, in new construction, sometimes it's not apparent that the metal framer laid out a wall section incorrectly until the doors and cabinets don't fit during an installation attempt. In a renovation, a current blueprint of the structure may not exist, leaving crews to tempt fate and start work without accurate measurements.

3D laser scanning technology can help eliminate guesswork and errors. 

To create a 3D laser scan, the operator sets up the scanner on equipment similar to a surveyor's tripod. He then places targets — typically patterned pieces of paper or some other objects — at various positions in the scan area.

Since laser scans follow line of sight, multiple scans are usually taken for each space to create an accurate 3D model. The scans create a point cloud of data that can then be used in building information modeling (BIM), CAD and other applications.

How can this technology save construction companies time and money? Here are a few examples.

1. Reduce waste. With the precise measurements that 3D laser scanning provides, contractors can order exact quantities of materials, eliminating over-ordering.

2. Preserve the schedule. Since laser scanning is done periodically throughout the project, construction managers can use the scans to keep a record of true progress and tweak the schedule as necessary to ensure on-time delivery.

3. Ensure flatness and levelness. Concrete flatwork is the base for many structures, and it's important to get it right. Some 3D laser scanning systems can scan a fresh concrete pour for flatness and levelness and deliver the results fast enough that crews can make changes while the concrete is still wet. 3D laser scanners can also be used before the pour to check for proper site conditions, such as correct placement of electrical, mechanical and plumbing sleeves, potentially avoiding big repair bills down the line.

4. Take measurements of older buildings. In renovations, especially of older buildings, current blueprints may not exist, and conditions may make it dangerous for multiple workers to try to maneuver through the space at once, which means assessing the layout and taking measurements can be difficult. But one person with a 3D laser scanner can capture that information easily enough.

5. Enhance safety. 3D laser scanning can help keep employees safe from hidden hazards. For example, a scan can identify holes in floors and dangerous slopes.

6. Provide legal protection. 3D laser scanning creates a record that can be used in a future legal action or an insurance claim that questions whether work was performed completely and accurately. This record can save on pricey legal bills or help you avoid a hike in insurance premiums.

3D laser scanners aren’t cheap, but third-party scanning services make it more affordable for one-off projects.  In any case, 3D modeling is the way of the future, so 3D laser scanning technology is something contractors can't afford to ignore.