• BIMNYC Team

Laser scanning - technologies, usages and advantages in design and construction industries (Part 3):

Authors: Shahryar P. Monajjemi, Parisa Mansourian


Hello everyone!


After having super busy months, we prepared the third part of our “3D Laser Scanning (LiDAR) Technology” related topic due to several requests from our audiences. In this post, we discuss some popular laser scanning devices, models and types, their functions, usages, and related topics. Like before, answers to most of your questions are included in the content. Please note, this post is developed based on our own practical experiences and we have not used any information from the third-party sources. So, if you like to add, change, or update anything in this blog content, we would be more than happy to see your comments here or emails to blog@bimnyc.com.


Our team is FARO certified laser scanner operators, but also have working experience with Trimble and Leica devices. We received many questions regarding the various types of laser scanners and their usages. First, we would like to start with Leica BLK360 device and continue with other devices considering their costs, from low to high. Due to the price variations, we are not going to mention device-specific costs here, but for you to have an overall sense of price ranges, the cost of discussed devices in this post starts from approximately 20,000 USD to over 200,000 USD.


Q: Does it (BLK360) worth to buy?

A: It is like you are asking: “Should I buy a Mini Cooper?”. It really depends on the type of work you want to use BLK360 for. BLK360s were developed by Autodesk and Leica in 2016. The intention of BLK360 development was to create an easy to use, affordable, easy to transfer device. This also needed to be compatible with Autodesk platforms, and to use frequently on construction sites. Meaning that, if you are looking for something to scan mid-size interior spaces, or if you want to monitor your construction activities and workflow progress on small pieces frequently, BLK360 is the right choice.


General understanding about the utilization of laser scanners in today’s industry is “we need this technology to acquire as-built information of most complicated buildings/facilities (such as reactors, airport terminals, water and wastewater infrastructure facilities, etc.) with high precision”.


So, if that is the intention and if you want to tie 300 scan positions for a 300,000 SF of the complex facility to each other, do not use BLK360. The range, resolution, and quality are lower than the devices which can be used for the above-mentioned examples. Please consider the cost, BLK360 is one of the low-cost devices in the industry.


The point cloud data can be registered and processed with both Leica Cyclone1 and Autodesk Recap2. Recap versions 2018, 2019 and 2020 are fully capable of performing registration and processing. So you do not need to pay extra for Leica Cyclone if you already have Autodesk AEC Package Subscription (which includes Recap pro as well). But this needs to be mentioned that BLK360 has on-site and real-time point cloud registration capabilities that require Leica Cyclone 360 program to be installed on a laptop or tablet. The device can be connected to a laptop or tablet via Wifi. However, in high quality and high range scanning, due to the large size of the data, sometimes real-time registration is not the best option to choose and you probably face some errors.


To summarize everything about BLK360: This device is affordable, easy to use, easy to carry, and you can perform on-site scanning/registration on daily basis to review the progress and spatial location of your building elements. Do not expect this little piece of art to capture exterior long-range tasks. This will not work in very hot/cold weather conditions, and will not perform well in case of rain. You will have too much point cloud noises if you scan wet surfaces. Do not put your scanning positions more than 10 to 15 feet far from each other. And do not expect to get the same quality data as Leica P50.


Leica BLK 360 – Photo Credit: Archiproducts

FARO S70:

Something in between. We cannot call this device neither “a perfect” solution or a weak one. The maximum range is 70 meters. It is not easy to carry like BLK360. We do not count on S70’s maximum range. We found discrepancies and noises in the point clouds in high range scannings. It is also slower than other devices. But like others (X330 and S350), this device also has 360-degrees HD photo capturing. In the new series (after 2017) you can perform on-site registration. One other thing about S70 devices is, when something in the range of 2 to 3 feet is captured, some black lines along with a good amount of noise will appear in the point cloud. This happened to us with two separate new and calibrated S70 devices.


But in general, FARO S70 can perform interior long-range scans pretty well. It is also fine to use this device for medium-range exterior scanning. We would prefer to spend some more money to operate S150 devices to have a better quality point cloud.



FARO X330, FARO S350:

We really could not separate these two devices. The range is a bit different. 330 meters versus 350 meters. Hard cases and packaging of these two are also different. S350 package is easier to carry. The device sizes are the same. X330 was cheaper but FARO is not producing this device anymore, and we do not recommend purchasing used devices due to possible calibration/warranty issues. S350 can be operated in cold/hot weather conditions. It is semi waterproofed but do not use it under heavy rain.


S350 is a powerful monster. It can capture everything in every range (up to 350 meters in high quality and resolution setup). Reliable, fast, high-quality data and you will get minimum noises in case of scanning wet surfaces. You can perform on-site registration with S350 as well, but you need to have a FARO SCENE license. Like Leica devices, if you do not want to use other features of manufacturer’s point cloud processing software (Leica Cyclone for Leica devices, and FARO SCENE for FARO devices) you can perform registration and processing in Autodesk Recap.


You need to send your device to FARO facilities once per year for calibration. The calibration will cost you around ~$4k to ~$5k per year (2018, 2019 US price). About 3 years ago, calibration used to take about 6 weeks in FARO’s facility in Florida. But now they calibrate and deliver the devices in about two weeks in various facilities around the US.


Another good thing about FARO devices is, for your first purchase, they include a free 3 days training session for two people in their facilities around the US, and you can get your FARO training/operating certifications after completion. Both Leica and FARO have good customer service.


One tricky thing about FARO devices is their drone and mobile scanning kits. For platforms like STORMBEE (drone for FARO laser scanners), SITECO and BEEMOBILE (mobile scanning platforms compatible with FARO devices), an integration kit needs to be included in your device. On X330 series, FARO used to install that kit on all of its products. But later on, this became a random option. Some scanners have the kit and some of them do not. Therefore, if you want to use your S350 scanner in the future on one of the above-mentioned platforms, you better ask FARO to include the kit on your scanner. Otherwise, you need to pay extra later and send your device to a FARO facility to install the kit.


FARO X330 – Photo Credit: Precision Geosystems
FARO S70, S150, S350 – Photo Credit: FARO

Leica ScanStation P30/P40/P50:

To make it short, Leica P30 and P40 are very similar to FARO X330 and S350. Operating FARO devices are easier, FAROs are cheaper, and are more user-friendly. Also, you need two people to carry Leica devices and its related accessories, which is not the same about FAROs. Setting up scanning targets for FAROs is quick, and does not need any kind of calibration. Leica’s are not the same and it takes more time to set up everything before starting the scanning operations. The P50 devices are totally different. They are the most reliable terrestrial scanning devices in the world. They work in EVERY weather condition, their range is 570 meters, it is REALLY 570 meter with minimum errors and noises. So if you want to scan a long-span suspension bridge or dams with a minimum number of scanning positions with the highest possible accuracy and quality, Leica P50 is the best choice.


So far we have not found any compatible platform for aerial and mobile scanning with Leica devices. This is another advantage of FARO devices; you do not need to double pay for scanners if you want to use them on drones or in your car.

Leica P30, P40, P50 – Photo Credit: Leica GeoSystems

Navvis M6:

Not sure in which category should we place this device. This is not a terrestrial scanner. It can be called a semi-mobile scanner. You cannot carry it everywhere; the device is pretty large. You cannot perform the registration yourself and you need to share your data with the developers, and they will do the registration for you. Not the easiest device to use in a congested infrastructure facility like a train yard. Enough space is needed to move its wheels, and to not hit the top to somewhere. Also, this device is more expensive than everything else we discussed above. So, why should someone purchase and operate this device? Navvis M6 is a revolutionary technology for scanning office spaces, airport terminals, museums, residential buildings, and in general in the places which have enough space to move this huge monster! A simple example of Navvis M6 capabilities: along with one of their developers we scanned a 5000 square feet office space in 30 minutes. YES! In 30 minutes with more than a hundred 360-degree HD photos and many scanning positions. All you need to do is to move this device on its wheels to every space that you want to capture.

Do not be surprised if you hear Navvis M6 could capture a 30 story high-rise building in Manhattan in 2 days! But again, you will have some difficulties to scan staircases, elevator pits, facility rooms, etc.

Navvis M6 – Photo Credit: Geospatial Media

Again and again, we truly appreciate all your emails, InMails, and comments. Like before, please let us know your interesting topic related to our area of concentration. We will do our best to share our experiences with you.

At BIMNYC, we are using cutting edge technologies to suit our client needs and budgets. Our team of engineers and designers are trained, educated and experienced in Building Information Modeling (BIM), Virtual Design and Construction (VDC), 3D Laser Scanning, and Digital Construction Management techniques, and their related technologies such as remote sensing, computational design, and asset management technologies.


Our goal is to share what we know and help you, as the client, to achieve your goals. If you are interested in collaborating with BIMNYC, give us a call at 212-433-3553 or shoot us an email at info@bimnyc.com


Cheers,

Shahryar and Parisa



1 https://leica-geosystems.com/en-us/products/laser-scanners/software/leica-cyclone

2 https://www.autodesk.com/products/recap/overview

3 https://www.faro.com/products/construction-bim/faro-scene/

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