If you were tasked with coming up with a one-word adjective to describe the work done by the AEC industry professionals, one thing is for certain, “simple” would not be it.
All three of the professions that make up the AEC industry—architects, engineers, and construction specialists—rely on ingenuity and creative problem solving daily to construct the buildings and civilian infrastructure that most of us take for granted.
One of the main tools they use to make this work more efficient are reality capture solutions like Autodesk’s ReCap Pro. These three-dimensional, high-density point clouds model real-world assets in exacting life-like detail. As most of you are already aware, reality capture improves productivity, accuracy, quality, and project safety from start to finish (… otherwise you wouldn’t be using it or reading this blog!)
It’s All ( … well, okay, mostly) Good
But there are some downsides. As effective as point clouds are at digitizing the real world, the files they create are often too large for PC-based AEC software to process quickly. Sharing these large files with colleagues across multiple time zones can also be challenging. Getting a multi-terabyte file from point A to point B today often requires loading it onto a hard drive of some sort and boxing it up to be shipped. Transfers files and having them processed off-site can take days or weeks. If files must be sent back and forth, this process can add considerable delays to any project timeline.
Even if files are not shared, the size of the files creates rendering issues. Waiting for a point cloud to refresh with updated information can take 30 minutes or longer—once again adding measurable overhead to project deliverables and budgets.
To cut rendering times, designers often slice point clouds into smaller and smaller tiles so changes render faster. While this speeds up the process, it also creates a lot of duplicate data. Even though the tiles are smaller, a new version of the entire point cloud is being created each time it is sliced up. Once multiple versions of the same data are in use, they must be accounted for and managed. This can create version control issues and questions about the data itself. Because of these and other issues such as not having licensed personnel on staff to work with Autodesk’s solutions, AEC firms have told us they won’t bid on projects that require the extensive use of point clouds.
But, as with most things in life, if you try hard enough there is a solution.
ReCap Pro in the Autodesk Construction Cloud or BIM Cloud
Yes, it seems like a bit of a no-brainer to do the heavy lifting work —rendering, updating, element and feature extraction, version control, file sharing—in the ACC and BIM clouds. But, as you know, the AEC industry is not an industry quick to embrace change. Still sometimes an idea is just so good we have to go ahead and do it anyway.
Over the past decade, we’ve been applying your feedback to steadily advance the capabilities of Recap Pro. Our goal is to improve your Scan-to-BIM workflow by adding the functionality you want and need, such as automatically extracting vector elements, 3D objects, alignments, and feature lines directly from the cloud.
These new cloud-based capabilities not only save money by using our compute, network, and storage resources to reduce overall design time, they help you reduce errors and rework by designing from real-world conditions.
Wait, There’s More …
Another key feature of working in the cloud is past iterations of the same projects are just a few clicks away. You no longer have to search for data stores and lost hard drives to extract the few elements that you need.
Because all of your point cloud data is stored in the cloud displaying it has never been easier. You can use any device display and move through your point clouds in real-time with no downloading required. Even files approaching the terabyte range can be accessed and viewed over a network connection.
You can also do model coordination (a feature you’ve been asking for) in the cloud by automatically overlaying point cloud data, which is stored in the Navisworks (NWC) format to create a custom overlay mesh to create detailed visualizations of your models. Because you’re working in the clouds you don’t have to download anything nor do you have to be expert at using these tools. You can work on these meshes in real-time with other people and see updates as they happen.
This capability allows you to find and fix errors faster, clean up images, ask for more detailed information on the fly, and make changes without having to wait for the model to be processed locally and then shared with other teams or creating rework for your field personnel.
It’s Not Just You
While all of these capabilities are aimed at improving individual workflows and saving your organization time, money and effort, the AEC industry as a whole also benefits. Working in the cloud will speed up projects, improve data sharing and accuracy, reduce project management to overhead, cut project costs significantly (point cloud storage alone can cause millions of dollars). Working in the cloud will also create a platform for the introduction of more automation and AI-enhanced workflows as both the capabilities and acceptance of those technologies increases.
As so many other industries have discovered, working in the cloud brings major benefits and cost savings to their business processes. It is more than past time for the AEC industry to change the status quo by taking advantage of this mature, time-tested technology.Check out the tutorial below if you’re looking to reap the benefits of reducing overall design time, reducing errors and rework by designing from real-world conditions in the cloud.
For more information, visit our ReCap Pro site.