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4 Technology Hacks for Industrial Fabrication

Earlier this month, 3D Imaging Services Project Director, Michael James, was invited by Hexagon Live to present on how technology can be applied to industrial fabrication. We’re recapping four of the “hacks” he shared that can be applied to your next project.

1. Coordinate in the Point-Cloud

Recently, 3D Imaging Services provided scanning services during the construction of a new 114 MW combined cycle natural gas power plant. Our objective was to identify potential clashes during the in-progress construction. However, the expedited schedule did not provide adequate time to convert the point-cloud data to a working model for analysis. Instead, we coordinated directly in the point cloud. By using this method, we saved time and were able to detect clashes for structures not typically included in the coordination model – such as piping less than 2 inches in diameter and structural support steel.

Coordinate in the Point-Cloud

2. Animate to Communicate

“No one would question how we build cars today. It would be comical to have all the parts delivered to your driveway with a dozen workers to build it,” said Modular Building Institutes, Executive Director Tom Hardiman. “Yet we build our homes, schools and offices in this inefficient and wasteful manner every day.”

When we discuss modular fabrication and construction with building owners, it can be a difficult concept for them to envision. They are familiar with the process of contractors arriving to a project site with tools, parts and supplies. We use animation to communicate the prefabrication process and why it will be more efficient. This simple animation uses a basic point-cloud and dimensions of a modular package to illustrate the installation process. After seeing this, the customer better understood our method for reducing installation time and onsite labor.

3. Centerline Verification of Pipe Spools

Pre-fabrication of pipe spools can make onsite installation fast and efficient – unless human error forces field rework on a project. To remove this potential for error, we use 3D laser scanning to verify pipe spools against existing conditions prior to fabrication. In this example, we utilized the point-cloud to identify the exact locations of pre-installed footings, a pump house and existing tank. The spools were modeled to these conditions and then fabricated. Next, we scanned them again, verifying the centerline connections in Navisworks. When the spools arrived to the project site, they were installed precisely, and with absolutely no field rework.

Centerline Verification

4. Installation Validation

Heavy equipment often requires expensive means of transportation. For the world’s largest ship loaders, the installation required 40 engineers and a crane that cost $30,000 per day. The footings were designed to fit precisely over 144 steel bars, but if the dimensions were off, the ship loaders could not be set into place. 3D Imaging Services used conventional survey techniques and point-cloud analysis software to identify construction and fabrication errors that would have prevented the installation. Instead, the contractor was able to use this data to make modifications and successfully install the ship loaders, saving the project more than $300,000 and several weeks of delay.

Installation Validation

How can we use construction technology to “hack” your next industrial construction project? Give us a call or drop us a line.

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Case Study: Scanning to Fabrication with 100% Accuracy

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Case Study: Scanning to Fabrication with 100% Accuracy

In order to commence operations, one Southeast Michigan landfill owner needed to finish construction of the site’s treatment facility. The deadline for bringing the facility online was rapidly approaching, but the tank pictured here still needed mechanical piping run to the nearby pump house.

treatment tank and pump house

When routing pipes from point A to point B, a conventional contractor for a job this size would send a team to the project site to field fit it. They’d start at the tank, tacking and welding until the pipelines reached the pump house. The entire process could take as long as three weeks, potentially pushing the project past the owner’s deadline.

Instead, mechanical contractor Andy Egan partnered with 3DIS using a scan-to-fab construction method that cut installation down to just four days.

First, 3DIS took a complete 3D laser scan of the project site’s existing conditions in a single day. Egan’s project foreman estimates that manual measurements would have taken a week to compile, yet for this project he never once had to use his measuring tape.

Laser Scan of Landfill Treatment Facility
3D Model of Landfill Treatment Facility

From the point-cloud, Egan and 3DIS modeled a route for the pipes to run from the tank to the shed. A previous contractor had poured uneven concrete footings that the pipes had to travel over for support, further complicating the route. Nevertheless, the combination of 3D laser scanning and fabrication ensured that the supports hit precisely where needed on the footings.

Landfill Piping Route

Egan’s application of cutting-edge construction technology cut overall modeling time in half for this project. By using Victaulic Tools for Revit, the innovative Victaulic toolbar, Egan’s BIM specialists could work entirely in one software program, modeling right on top of the point cloud, exporting spool drawings and creating fab maps for the fabrication shop.

The piping path wouldn’t allow for the use of true 45 and 90 degree turns, so the resulting spools were all fabricated with unusual angles. If this had been constructed in the field, pipefitters would have painstakingly used protractors to determine all the unique angles.

Because the project site was nearly three hours away from the fabricator, it was critical that every spool fit the model precisely. After fabrication, Egan shipped the spools to the landfill, where they were quickly installed in just four days. To the owner’s amazement, not a single spool was out of place. The project required no onsite pipe welding and no field rework.

Installed Pipe Spools

Together, Egan and 3DIS delivered this turnkey project that included 3D laser scanning, 3D modeling, fabrication of pipe spools and supports, insulation and final installation, including equipment setting. Instead of 3 weeks, onsite installation was reduced to less than a week. Every spool was bolted flange-to-flange with 100% accuracy. Most importantly, the project wrapped up ahead of schedule, allowing the owner to meet critical deadlines.

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Under the Dam

How many people wonder about the inside of a hydroelectric dam? Admittedly, not many. However, like most useful machines, the inside of a hydroelectric dam will eventually wear out what with all that water rushing through it. So some specialists and, of course, the dam owners are very interested in the internals.

This is the story of how laser scanning has changed the refurbishment of just one of the more than 1750 hydroelectric plants in the United States.

The insides of a major installation can appear to be part of a dystopian science fiction movie. This sample image shows the spillway of a large hydroelectric dam. (This is an example. US government regulations and privacy agreements prevent the use of any identifying data or images.)

Hydroelectric Dam.jpg

In operation, the spillway is lined with a continuous skin of steel plates, which of course must be replaced from time to time due to the erosive and corrosive effects of the water rushing through. Replacing the steel plating is a massive and tricky project.

Here’s how 3D Imaging Services cut costs and reduced risks in this difficult project.

The contractor recognized the need for highly accurate measurements so that the project would not suffer delays and overruns. The contractor first built a coffer dam around the entry point of the spillway. Next, the spillway was drained, and the old steel plating removed. All damage to the underlying concrete was repaired.

The new plates had to be fabricated to exactly conform to the complex shape of the concrete. Difficult enough given the curving, sloping surfaces. And the attachment mechanism to connect the plates to the concrete had to meet particular specifications. The fabricators – located many miles from the dam – would cut holes in the steel plates as they were manufactured; then, on site, each plate would be held in place temporarily while the installers drilled through the holes in the plates into the concrete. Special steel rods would be driven through the holes into the concrete and welded to the steel plates. But this method comes with a difficult specification: the holes cut into the concrete must not cut into the underlying rebar. Here is how this problem was solved.

First, a team of Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) technicians mapped all the rebar in the spillway. They painted red markings on the concrete to show the location of all underlying rebar. Next, 3D Imaging Services used laser scanning to create an exact CAD model of the interior of the spillway. (The developed model was a wire-frame mesh.) And the model included the locations of all of the rebar markings.

The model was also aligned with the coordinate system for the project. This enhanced model was delivered to the fabricators so they could form the plates and cut their attachment holes with the certainty that the rebar would not be compromised and that the plates would fit tightly against the surfaces.

The down time for any electric generating plant is very costly. Any errors in the fabrication of the curved steel plates would have caused considerable delay. And the cost of repairs to the spillway if the rebar had been damaged would have added considerably to the project. The intelligent use of 3d laser scanning to give the fabricators exact measurements of the surfaces and underlying rebar saved a lot of time on the project and substantially reduced the risks.

Do you have questions about how this technology might be applied to your business or area of study? Give us a call or drop a line. (We can also put you in touch with the contractor if desired.)

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Case Study: Quality Scanning for Construction Fabrication

On any production line, a tension exists between the financial impacts of lengthy downtime and the need for ongoing maintenance and plant improvements.

3D Coordinated Sterilizer Skid.jpg

In the case of one food ingredients producer, the installation of a new sterilizer system highlighted this tension. Production would be interrupted during installation, and extended downtime would have a significant impact on the bottom line.

Skid Fabrication

Fabricator Andy J. Egan Co., Inc. constructed the sterilizer as a “plug-and-play” modular package, complete with insulation and controls. Meanwhile, sister company 3D Imaging Services traveled to the manufacturer’s site to scan the location where the sterilizer would be installed.


When fabrication was complete, 3DIS performed a quality scan of the modules, verifying that the as-built dimensions precisely matched the design and that all tie-in points would align with site conditions. In addition, 3DIS scanned the surrounding areas, to identify any potential obstacles that would prevent installation.

By verifying critical conditions in advance of shipping and providing an accurate model to the customer, 3DIS removed the potential for unexpected field work and minimized interruptions to production during installation.

Hear the project team describe the verification process. 

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They Said, "We Can't Do That"

Applying sophisticated technology to unusual conditions separates the average provider from the superior.

Last year, 3D Imaging Services spoke to Sight & Sound Theatres about scanning and modeling the interior of their 2,000+ seat theater in Pennsylvania. (www.sight-sound.com) One of the largest theaters of its kind, Sight & Sound produces elaborate, sophisticated renditions of Biblical events. A new production requires months of work, and the audio and visual engineers and artists need an accurate model of the stage, back stage, the floor, the catwalks, tunnels, and more.

The complexity and size of the theater, and especially its surfaces, make laser scanning problematic. The ceiling is black. Hanging below the catwalks is a net that holds numerous lights. When asked, other scanning companies had told Sight & Sound, "We can't do that."

Theater Point Cloud

3D Imaging Services has more than eleven years of experience in scanning and modeling in difficult circumstances. After discussion with our client, we agreed to tackle the job. This past summer, our team spent three days (actually nights) using two different scanners, to scan the theater.

We will not minimize the difficulty of this project. Conditions were less than ideal. The matte black ceiling did not reflect the beams well. The netting blocked a substantial proportion of the beams and made certain oblique scanning angles impossible. Consequently, registration was more difficult.

Sight & Sound Theatres makes extensive use of platforms above the main floor and the stage, and these are above the netting. The designers of the production position an extensive array of sound and lighting equipment on the platforms and the various railings. Each platform, railing, stair, and piece of equipment had to be modeled in addition to the floors, walls, passageways, and the multiple areas that are below, to the sides, and behind the main stage. Of course, the difficulty in scanning contributed to the difficulty in modeling.

More than a thousand objects were included in the model. This first image takes a viewpoint from just behind the stage, looking towards the audience. For reasons of safety, many of the objects modeled are not shown in these images.

3D Laser Scanning, Entertainment Industry
3D Laser Scanning for Theaters

Although the project took longer than expected, 3D Imaging Services is gratified at the outcome. We worked with a fine team at Sight & Sound who understood the difficulties we all faced. They were thoughtful and helpful in making the project a success. Making the project a cooperative venture, we were able to deliver an excellent product where others had said, "We can't do that."

Do you have questions about how this technology might be applied to your business or area of study? Give us a call or drop a line.

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POWER-GEN Attendees Can Experience 3DIS Technology & New Workforce Management Tools at Egan Booth

3D Imaging Services will join sister company Andy J. Egan Co. at POWER-GEN International, where attendees can learn about applications for new construction technology tools in the power industry. 3DIS will be showcasing its high resolution reality capture capabilities, and Egan will unveil JobPointe, a web-based software for employee management and project assignment.

POWERGEN Logo

At POWER-GEN Booth #10908 from Dec. 5-8 in Las Vegas, 3DIS will demonstrate how laser scanning technology is bridging the gap between BIM models and what really takes place on the construction site. The technology quickly captures millions of highly accurate 3D measurements, guaranteeing precisely fabricated components for both retrofit projects and new construction. Attendees can view Egan’s recently completed power projects where the use of laser scanning from 3DIS expedited schedules, reduced job site labor and identified costly errors before they were executed in the field.

 3DIS identified this potential construction error using progressive scanning during the construction of a power plant.

3DIS identified this potential construction error using progressive scanning during the construction of a power plant.

Egan’s headquarters in Grand Rapids, Mich., boasts a 60,000 square-foot fabrication shop that supplies the power industry with pipe spools, pipe racks and turnkey skid packages. At Egan, 3D laser scanning is transforming the fabrication process with quality scans at key points of the fabrication process. The quality scans eliminate the human error in standard measurement techniques, which reduces both field rework and facility outage time.

Egan’s ASME-certified welders are experienced in power projects such as compressor stations, power plants, city gates and more. Customers and projects in the power energy include Alstom, Barton Malow, Burns & McDonnell, Consumers Energy, DTE, Duke Energy, Eaton, GE, Jacobs, Kiewit, Miron, Mitsubishi and Siemens.

Egan will also be introducing and demonstrating JobPointe, an easy to use, customizable, web-based software for managing the employees assigned to a business’s projects. This dynamic employee planning tool allows users to:

  • Identify the best team for every job through filters customizable to their business.
  • See at a glance average anticipated labor costs per job.
  • Communicate staffing changes instantly to the employees, their managers and other affected stakeholders.
  • Run more effective staffing meetings.
  • Generate custom reports based on current and future labor needs.
 Andy J. Egan will demonstrate JobPointe, a digital workforce management tool, at 2017 POWER-GEN International.

Andy J. Egan will demonstrate JobPointe, a digital workforce management tool, at 2017 POWER-GEN International.

“For nearly 100 years, our company has been known for its innovation,” says Amy Jones, Egan’s Vice President. “But until recently, we managed our jobsite crews with white boards, post-in notes and endless spreadsheets. We found that most of our peers used the same methods, so we created JobPointe to end this inefficiency. Now we’re making the solution available to other businesses.”

POWER-GEN International attendees can learn more about both 3D Imaging Services and JobPointe (www.JobPointe.com) at booth #10908, or email sales.mi@3dis.com to schedule an appointment during the show.

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Case Study: Sleeve Validation Through Progressive Scanning

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Case Study: Sleeve Validation Through Progressive Scanning

 Sanitary sleeves installed using BIM point layout.

Sanitary sleeves installed using BIM point layout.

To avoid the messy and time-consuming process of coring recently cured cement, mechanical contractors often layout sleeves for future plumbing before the cement is poured. This was the approach Andy J. Egan Co. took for the new construction of a 10-story hospital to avoid any construction interference with the building’s radiant heating system. Traditional layout methods are prone to human error, however, and by the company’s estimates, would have taken two weeks per floor.

Egan partnered with sister company 3D imaging Services to layout sleeve locations, using a total station that’s coordinated with the project’s BIM model. Once survey control is established, the crew is able to mark installation locations with .5 inch accuracy. Each floor required 350-400 points, which the 3DIS team completed in just two days, far less than the two weeks estimated for a manual layout.

 3D point layout and progressive scanning of sanitary sleeves.

3D point layout and progressive scanning of sanitary sleeves.

In addition, the project team used progressive laser scanning to validate the location of those sleeves and hangers once they were installed. Doing so ensured that any field errors were caught early and immediately corrected, or accounted for in the plumbing fabrication being done off site. Both the site superintendent and project manager agreed that this combination of progressive scanning and fabrication saved significant time and money on this project.

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Sculptures and Gardens in Grand Rapids

The original was thirteen years in planning, design, and construction. This year, after 22 years in operation, the Frederik Meijer Gardens began a $115 million expansion and improvement project for several buildings on the grounds. A new education section, new entryway, new mezzanine, and office space are all included in the expansion of the main building. 3-dimensional laser scanning has already yielded four significant advantages to the architects and engineers running the project.

First, the engineers and architects used the expertise of 3D Imaging Services to laser scan and to build a base Revit model of the building. The extensive model cut the time to prepare various required documents in half, according to the Engineering BIM Manager, Steve Saltsman of Progressive AE. He added, “3DIS became an extension of our team, working with us to finish on time.”

Second, the new Revit model supplanted inaccurate printed documents. The laser scanning revealed significant errors in the old drawings, e.g. structural columns that were actually a foot away from where the drawings showed them. Also, the new model contains a lot more detail than the printed construction documents. And the laser scanning data includes every detail of the building, inside and out. By correcting the errors of the old drawings, both engineers and architects have a perfect base on which to build their new designs. The longer the errors went undetected, the more expensive it would have been to correct them. A common estimating heuristic says correcting such errors during construction is as much as 500 times more expensive than making the correction in the early stages of design.

Third, the use of a common, accurate base model has made communication between the architects and the engineers much easier. Changes made by one organization are immediately visible to all the others. Coordinating changes has become almost trivial instead of worrisome and prone to errors.

Fourth, with desktop access to the laser scanning data, the engineers and architects can answer a myriad of questions that come up during every project. (“Is there enough space to bring in the new chiller through that aisle?” What about the cable overhead?) These and many other questions are answered with a few clicks without ever leaving your comfortable office chair. No trip to the site – three states over – is needed. The savings in time and money compound.

Do you have questions about how this technology might be applied to your business or area of study? Give us a call or drop a line.

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Case Study: BIM Point Layout "Pays For Itself"

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Case Study: BIM Point Layout "Pays For Itself"

Working as a foreman for 3DIS sister company Andy J. Egan Co., Inc., Terry Patterson oversaw the plumbing, HVAC and medical gas for Spectrum HealthPointe, a new 100,000 square-foot hospital.

When construction began, the job site was “pretty rough” according to Terry. There were no columns in place yet and the footings were deep, so his team couldn’t use the traditional method of pulling strings to lay out the underground.

 3D Imaging Services conducting BIM Point Layout onsite at Mercy HealthPointe.

3D Imaging Services conducting BIM Point Layout onsite at Mercy HealthPointe.

By overlaying the virtual model at the construction site during surveying, 3DIS accurately identified all of the underground installation points. This BIM Point Layout Method uses preset control points and the underground prints to mark 3D coordinates for components such as risers, sinks and floors drains.

 Underground plumbing installed with BIM point layout

Underground plumbing installed with BIM point layout

Lacking reference points from which to measure, Terry says that this layout process was the team’s only means of measuring and that attempting a traditional layout method would have taken at least two weeks longer.

The absence of strings running throughout the site was also a welcome improvement. There’s no danger of another colleague skewing measurements by driving equipment over a string or knocking a stake out of the ground.

In addition to easier installation for field employees, Egan’s engineers were able to maintain an accurate model throughout construction by accessing the as-constructed conditions in the scan data. Terry says he absolutely would use this layout method on his next project because “with the amount of money you save, it pays for itself.”

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3DIS Project Makes ENR's Best of 2016 List

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3DIS Project Makes ENR's Best of 2016 List

Engineering News Record (ENR) has awarded the Polk Penguin Conservation Center at the Detroit Zoo the Midwest's Best Project of 2016 in the Sports and Entertainment category. The $29 million center is the world's deepest-dive penguinarium with more than 80 penguins. DeMaria was the lead contractor on the project, with support from Wharton-Smith.

 The green highlights show where the as-built structure deviates from the original design.

The green highlights show where the as-built structure deviates from the original design.

3D Imaging Services provided Building Information (BIM) Validation services throughout the project using 3D laser scanning. By identifying areas where installation deviated from the BIM model, 3DIS was able to prevent costly project delays. For example, during BIM validation, 3DIS found areas where the structural steel was outside of tolerance ranges for the installation prefabricated panels. The fabricator was then able to modify the panels to fit as-built conditions before they were shipped to the job site.

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Productivity Through Progressive Scanning and BIM

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Productivity Through Progressive Scanning and BIM

Perhaps you’ve read the statistics or seen the graphs of flat or declining productivity in the construction business. 

Quit a few studies across the globe said much the same thing. Productivity almost everywhere else has been going gangbusters, but construction productivity has remained flat or declined. Even changing base periods or following different types of construction had little or no effect on the results of these studies. Productivity in construction lags seriously behind the rest of industry and commerce. 

Why?

Most articles on the subject say similar things, if in different ways. Poor project management, inadequate communications, poor risk management, poor project organization, and inadequate Work-Breakdown-Structure are among the most commonly cited culprits. While all these, and more, undoubtedly contribute to the problem, one common thread warps and woofs its way through all the studies, papers, and research. Communication. 

Design Drawings

We’re not talking a lack of cell phones here. It’s communication among groups. Here’s an example. The architect may work on paper, or with a 2D CAD program, or with a 3D CAD. The engineering firm(s) might work in different CAD programs. The CMR might work with one set of programs, while the construction firm and subcontractors work in large format paper or some other set of software programs. And often, the communication medium among these groups is paper. 

Enter BIM (Building Information Modeling). Construction professionals have been widely adopting the BIM process to design, construct and manage buildings with the assumption that this level of 3D coordination will improve communication and increase productivity. In the field, however, manual errors still exist. Installations that deviate from the model even slightly will have a domino effect on the remainder of the project. The resulting modifications will invalidate the original model, often making it useless for long-term facility maintenance.

Progressive Field Scan

Progressive laser scanning throughout a project detects deviations from the coordinated model. All parties will see the changes and the affected trades can quickly modify their planned installations or adjust prefabricated components. These changes are then communicated back to the field immediately. This halts the domino effect and maintains the accuracy of the model. The resulting virtual model will reflect precise, as-built conditions for inclusion in a useful turnover package.

The combination of BIM and progressive laser scanning is improving communications on construction projects around the country. This leads to considerably improved productivity. In one case, 250,000 sq. ft. of medical office space was constructed with zero field-detected RFIs

Do you have questions about how this technology might be applied to your business or area of study? Give us a call or drop a line.

Point Cloud to BIM Fade 2.jpg
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Production Doesn't Stop

“We need to shut down the production line.” It’s a horrifying, angst-inducing phrase for the ears of any Production Manager, Operations Manager, or General Manager. “Why?” is unquestionably the very next word spoken.

Production managers do their best to minimize shutdowns, in frequency and duration. They carefully plan and schedule maintenance and improvements. In times past, major improvements required multiple shutdowns. At least one shutdown to gather information about the production line, to make sure the design engineers have the correct measurements and specifications for every piece of machinery in the line. And at least one shutdown for change-over.

That’s why savvy companies and their engineers choose laser scanning and resulting computer modeling to eliminate all the preliminary shutdowns for measurement. Here are two views of the CAD model produced for an industrial packaging line. The complete model and all measurements of the line were built without any interruptions in processing. The savings are enormous for such results. 

 CAD models of processing line created from scan data.

CAD models of processing line created from scan data.

Alternate View of CAD Model from Scan Data

And below is a scanning-based CAD model of a continuous processing line. 

CAD Model of Processing Line.

The most modern laser scanning equipment uses lasers that are barely visible to the naked eye, and they are less dangerous than a teacher’s laser pointer. (Class 1 and sometimes Class 2 lasers, the two safest categories, are predominant in most brands.) So no one needs to leave the area when the scanners are operating. Most of the time, people don’t notice the beams at all.

And the line need not be slowed or stopped for the laser measurements. In addition to the accurate measurements, the laser scanners can detect – in post processing – equipment that is vibrating. And the advantages of scanning extend to both continuous and discrete processing lines.

Another form of processing line is electric generation. Electricity flows continuously from the generators and shutdowns are absurdly expensive. Revenue loss for a 350 Megawatt generating unit can exceed $75,000 per hour. Unplanned and unexpectedly long down times are one of the reasons Production Managers keep antacid tablets in a half-gallon jug. In one case, in a major upgrade at an electric generating unit, a single, manual-measurement error caused weeks of delay when two very large pipes that were supposed to meet were misaligned by 18”. Laser scanning to confirm measurements would have eliminated this delay completely.

Some things aren’t “production lines” in the usual meaning of the term, nevertheless, down time is not allowed. A hospital emergency room doesn’t need a sign in the window, “Open 24 Hours.” Yet emergency rooms must, from time to time, be re-modeled or improved. But in this case, it’s a combination of the speed of the equipment and the sophistication of the technical people using the scanners that eliminates any “outages” of the Emergency Room for measurements. Method here is as important as the equipment.

Do you have questions about how this technology might be applied to your business or area of study? Give us a call or drop a line.

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