3D Laser Scanning for Construction: Benefits and Services
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Over the last several years, the construction industry has adopted many new digital technologies to help improve efficiency, reduce overall project risk, minimize rework, improve communication, and optimize project designs. The adoption of these technologies has been catalyzed by new challenges within the industry, such as those stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent safety guidelines. As the industry continues to navigate through these added challenges, teams need robust methods to work remotely while maintaining efficiency and accuracy.

3D laser scanning is among the growing list of technologies being integrated into the new digital project execution workflow. From front-end planning through construction, the utilization of 3D laser scanning for construction projects can improve risk identification and mitigation while producing more efficient installations that minimize overall schedule duration and cost.

Let’s take a closer look into 3D laser scanning for construction projects, the added benefits of laser scanning throughout the entire project life cycle, and when to utilize 3D laser scanning.

3D Laser Scanning for Construction Projects

3D laser scanning for construction—also referred to as Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) or High Definition Surveying (HDS)—is the process of capturing, mapping, and visualizing the 3D geometry of existing site infrastructure and existing plant conditions. This scan can then be uploaded and processed in the proper coordinates into a file that can be loaded into modeling software, providing a highly accurate (typically accurate up to +/- 1/16”) representation of the facility that can be used in a variety of ways. This highly accurate and detailed information lends itself well to optimizing project designs for both constructability and maintainability. Having access to this level of detailed information is also crucial for an effective and efficient engineering team. 

Benefits of 3D Laser Scanning Throughout the Project Lifecycle

3D laser scanning technology can be incorporated to capture existing infrastructure, improve engineering efficiency, provide virtual walkthroughs, and produce a final product with improved dimensional accuracy, clash detection, and clarity. The integration of laser scanning throughout the entire project life cycle provides many notable benefits to project owners and contractors, as listed below.

Benefits During the Front-End Planning Phase/Scope Development

  • Virtual walkthroughs
  • Early identification of issues and difficulties
  • Assistance in producing optimal project options
  • Remote or tight location accessibility
  • Continuous workflow without delays

Benefits During the Detail Engineering and Design Phase

  • Scan integration into CADworx 
  • Model reviews with scan overlays 
  • Image capture via laser scanner
  • Alignment of operations and maintenance interests
  • Ability to design around obstructions
  • Elimination of inaccuracies and uncertainty
  • Ability to overlay existing infrastructure with new infrastructure 

Benefits During the Procurement and Fabrication Phase

  • Verification of critical fabrication items
  • Ability to provide seamless installation
  • Increased time for necessary adjustments

Benefits During the Construction Phase

  • Minimization of rework
  • Cost savings from scanning up front
  • Integration of all disciplines to minimize field errors
  • Quick mitigation of issues after project start

When to Utilize 3D Laser Scanning for Construction Projects

The integration of 3D laser scanning can benefit any capital project; however, there are certain circumstances in which 3D laser scanning can be particularly helpful for constructability purposes. Here are several examples of when to use laser scanning for constructability throughout the project life cycle:

When to Utilize 3D Laser Scanning for Constructability
Project Phase Circumstances
Front-End Planning/Scope Development
  • Multiple layout options available for consideration
  • Accessibility issues (e.g. tight and/or remote)
  • Multiple scheduling options for project execution (i.e. turnaround vs. pre-turnaround)
  • Topography analysis with high accuracy needed for greenfield projects
Detail Engineering and Design
  • Obstructions present in facility
  • Previous issues with inaccuracies and uncertainty
  • Misaligned interests between operations and maintenance
  • Confirmation needed for as-built basis of plant
Procurement and Fabrication
  • Critical fabrication present (e.g. field erected tanks, higher design tolerances, unique pipe geometry, etc.)
  • Time limitations for install
  • Confirmation needed for the geometry of remotely-fabricated equipment before shipping
  • Previous communication issues across disciplines
  • Isolation plan for tie-points needed
  • Time limitations/restrictions after project start
  • Challenging construction execution, accessibility, congestion, etc. expected
  • Verification of third-party engineering deliverables against plant needed

3D Laser Scanning Case Studies Throughout the Project Lifecycle

To provide further insight into how 3D laser scanning can be integrated into each project phase, we have provided case studies highlighting the encountered problem and the solution achieved via laser scanning.

Case Study One: Front-End Planning/Scope Development 

Issue: Determine the best location for new equipment with minimal impacts on existing equipment.

Solution: Scan the facility to determine where the best fit is with the least impact on operations, maintenance, construction, and future work in the area.

Case Study Two: Detail Engineering and Design

Issue: Locating tie-ins and identifying demo scope.

Solution: Utilize the scanner to take pictures for better identification in the field.

Case Study Three: Procurement and Fabrication

: The tank was field erected, and upon completion of the tank, it was discovered that the nozzle angle and projects were slightly off from the drawing/model. This was critical, as a lined pipe was routed to the tank.

Solution: Scan the tank at the site and drop it into the model to identify any discrepancies and rework in design rather than construction.

Case Study Four: Construction

Issue: 18” weld at north/upper 45 was sitting on new pipe support.

Solution: The header was lengthened to push the north/upper 45 further south/down and off the pipe support. This fix pushed the 45 south, but the travel had to be shortened to keep the piping on the new piping support as shown in the above image. The 6” line required modification for the same reason.

The H+M Advantage

Our 3D laser scanning services are fully integrated into every service we provide and are incorporated throughout our EPC approach to provide benefits through every phase of your capital project. Whether you require design-build or design-bid-build project delivery, our 3D laser scanning services provide unique advantages and greater efficiency through each phase of your project, from front-end planning to construction. Our utilization of cutting-edge laser scanning technology enables us to produce predictable project execution while reducing project risks.

“Our in-house laser scanning allows our team to capture an accurate representation of any facility. Using this data, we are able to provide you with the speed and accuracy needed to achieve a successful project with minimal rework.”

Jessica Adams, P.E.

Mechanical Department Manager

About the Author

Want to Learn More About Project Management?

To find out more about 3D laser scanning for construction, contact us through our website today.

To find out more about the advantages and disadvantages of turnkey projects and how H+M Industrial EPC can meet your capital project needs, contact us through our website today.

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The H+M Industrial Team

For over three decades, we have provided best-in-class capital project management services to Energy and Chemical industries through our proven EPC approach. We are dedicated to providing trust, experience, and efficiency through all stages of engineering, procurement, and construction--on budget and on time.

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