Registration: the new 3d laser scanning bottleneck

This 3d laser scanning trend for 2021 will change the way you buy computers

We have always thought of 3D scanning as being fast when compared to taking hand measurements. Even at 50,000 points per second, the 3D laser scanner is incredibly efficient at scooping up large quantities of measurements in a short period of time. But legacy 3D laser scanning equipment has always had certain limitations when it comes to speed. As a general rule of thumb, one could do a day’s worth of scanning and spend half that time back in the office registering the scans.  But this ratio seems to have shifted. 

With incredible new offerings such as the Leica RTC360 which Arrival 3D uses, it is literally possible to take hundreds of scans in a day. Of course, most projects have other factors that limit the speed of the scanning such as positioning the scanner, acquiring color, resolution etc, but it is theoretically possible to capture 400 scans in an 8 hour period. This presents a challenge when heading back to the office. 

Get the files to the registration workstation

Typically 3D laser scanning is done onsite, so normally one would not expect to have a high-powered registration workstation with them when in the field. This means that after each scan, one must get the scans to the workstation. Perhaps this means that the scanning engineer carries them back as they travel back to the office by plane or by car. It could also be that the registration team is in a different location and the files must be shipped by Fedex or UPS, or transferred by internet. When dealing with the significantly large project sizes that are typical these days such as 100 GB or more, transferring by internet is not easy.

Importing scans to the computer, a CPU-intensive task

At some point when the 3D laser scanning is done and you need to get that wealth of point cloud data from the scanner onto the computer, the number crunching begins. Immediately there is a the time it takes to copy files from the USB drive to the workstation. If one doesn’t have USB 3.0 this alone can take some time when we are talking gigabytes. But then the big one comes – importing the scans into the registration software. This step along can add days to your workflow. 

graphics card is not so much a factor

One of the things we have learned is that when doing registration tasks like importing scans, the graphics card is not usually the limiting factor. When you look at the performance monitoring tool in Windows, you will see that hard drive, CPU and memory resources are quickly maxed out. This is why when spending money on a registration computer, it is vital to buy a fast multi-core processor and the most memory you can afford. SSD’s should be used for hard drives as well, though I am probably pointing out the obvious here. 

budget more time for registration

Even if you have a top of the line computer such as this one from BIM BOX, you must get used to budgeting more time for registration activities. Gone are the days of spending 4 hours of registration for 8 hours of scanning. Our rule of thumb now is 8 hours of registration per day of scanning, mainly due to the sheer number of scans that are possible. 

scanning is easier

3D laser scanning is easier than it used to be. The instruments are smaller, lighter, have better batteries and have nice touch screen interfaces that can be operated remotely. We are really moving into a “golden age” of scanning, and it comes just in time as the world is becoming more accepting of virtual environments. At some point, no plant is going to want to be without an accurate as-built record that has been captured using 3D laser scanning. To be without it would be a disadvantage. 

Final thoughts

3D laser scanning is rapidly evolving. For the moment it seems that Leica and Faro have hit a limit – that being the speed of light. But we are sure that the smart engineers at those and other companies are working on ways around this. What will it be – multiple lasers? We can’t wait to find out what surprises the 3D laser scanning industry has in store for us next. 

Keep reading: more articles about 3D scanning

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