Point clouds: laser measure points that map the world in 3D

Point clouds: laser measure points that map the world in 3D

Documenting the Third Dimension

Point Cloud exampleEvery day we are asked about point clouds: What are they? What can they do? A few years ago most people would have told you they are related to meteorology. Today, capturing and analyzing point clouds is the core focus of Smarter Spaces; it enables us to provide an array of information to businesses. This data helps them understand spaces, assets, the environment and much more to help them make more informed business decisions.

Definition of a point cloud

Point clouds are a collection of millions of very accurate dots, that when viewed together create a three dimensional image of a structure or real-life object or space and much, much more.

What they look like

The following images demonstrate the level of detail that can be captured, processed and analysed.

Heritage buildings and spaces

This example is a scan of a heritage building in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Elements not integral to the mapping, such as people, can be filtered out if needed. Unlike photography, point clouds provide exact measurements, which can be used to create extremely accurate CAD drawings and much more.

Resources, stockpiles, and the environment

Point clouds can quickly capture data points for practically everything, from the amount of resources contained in stockpiles to features in the natural environment. This image shows a  wood chip pile larger than two football fields that took less than 18 minutes to capture. Data generated from the pile capture enabled the volume of wood chips to be calculated, which helped in the accurate planning and distribution of this resource.

Facility front-facing and utility spaces

This example shows the conversion from a point cloud into a usable design file in AutoCAD or Revit software.

Above ceiling scans are an example of how point clouds can map elements in hard-to-reach spaces.

When to use point clouds

The most common use of point clouds is capturing measurements to create updated drawings of a building that are used for designing and managing renovations. Point cloud data is processed in several software programs to produce different types of 2D drawings and/or 3D models with accompanying data that is used by engineers, architects, facilities planners, etc.

3D Scanning creates the Third Dimension

3D scanning and point clouds measure the scope, scale and volume of spaces and objects using x, y, and z vertices and their corresponding data points. These point map them in a way that represents their actual presence, shape and form in the environment. The Third Dimension is how a solid object is distinguished from a 2D projection of itself or from any 2D object. It heightens the reality, vividness, or significance* of what’s being mapped.

See also: 3D Laser Scanning by Smarter Spaces

Next post: Point cloud capture technologies

In our next post, we will look at the different technologies and ways you can capture a point cloud.

* Definition of Third Dimension – http://www.dictionary.com/browse/third-dimension