Michael Barger, PLS


It adds value, improves accuracy, and serves as your foundation for future planning
I’m a veteran of surveying, and change is not always top-of-mind. Throughout my career, I’ve beaten up more tape measures than I can remember, worked with AEC professionals utilizing drafting compasses, and still see an occasional T-square or protractor in an office.

But AEC firms are rapidly embracing new technologies like 3D scanning that are revolutionizing how we do business. At Prime, we’ve embraced the capabilities offered by 3D scanning and our clients are increasingly on board as well. We recently employed our new 3D scanners to create a complex model of a multi-story manufacturing facility for a client. The team spent a lot of time on this project…but appreciably less than what would have been required using more traditional tools.

Our objective was to generate 3D maps of the existing structure, from which we would develop a 3D model and drawings of the IIG-rated structure. These deliverables would allow the client to both understand current equipment layout to ensure proper equipment compatibility during upgrades or maintenance and evaluate the feasibility of future engineering design.

The task was straightforward, but the 11-story environment was not. We faced:

  • Extremely tight quarters with huge pieces of machinery in place, nestled into the confines of an older structure.
  • For reasons of safety and precision, we could scan only when the plant was shut down on holiday weekends. The 3D scanners allowed us to gather and deliver all data in a single phase, ensuring that the plant remained profitable.
  • A rooftop landing area from which we deployed scanning equipment into the tight quarters below.

Using ground- and catwalk-based positioning for our Faro Focus 3D laser scanners, we designated 231 different scan locations to capture every millimeter of the plant and later stitched it together to create a holistic 3D model of the facility. While challenging, the 3D technology freed us from extension ladders, tape measures, and the need to squeeze large bodies into tight spaces. It allowed us to create a highly detailed, rigidly accurate model for an important client.

We’re in the final stages of completing the assignment, but we’ve learned valuable lessons about how to deploy 3D scanning and the benefits of it for our clients and ourselves:

  • While not inexpensive, our investment in 3D scanning is already paying dividends in terms of time and capital efficiency.
  • I pride myself on precision accuracy, but my eyes and tape measure can’t match the accuracy of 3D scanning. Manufacturers claim that a 10,000-square-foot space can be measured within 0.125” level of accuracy.
  • Silos are great for grain storage but terrible for business collaboration. 3D scanning equips architects, planners, engineers, designers, financial, and risk management professionals with the information they need in a highly integrated fashion, making current maintenance and future replacement or rehabilitation a far more integrated and accurate process.

Nothing beats experience. Bleeding-edge technology in the hands of inexperienced or incompetent professionals can deliver disastrous results. And deploying new technology without embracing the accompanying training can also be problematic. But our experiences with 3D scanning at Prime is opening our eyes to more ways that we can deliver solid business results to our clients by equipping them with accurate and integrated data to form the foundation of their capital planning needs.

Are you using 3D scanning or interested in hearing more about mine? I’d love to hear from you at [email protected].

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