Laser Scanning. What Is It And What Are Its Applications?

What Is Laser Scanning And How Does It Works?

Laser scanning is a modern measurement technology that employs laser scanners. These instruments measure the distance from the objects or areas surrounding the scanner and at the same time collect the angular information from the servomotors responsible for rotating the scanner in the horizontal and vertical planes. As a result of such measurements, we obtain a single scan that contains millions of points. Depending on the object or area being surveyed, a necessary number of scans needs to be made to achieve complete coverage of the object. Then, through a process called registration, the individual scans are combined into a whole—a point cloud that is a digital representation of the object. This point cloud can either be used directly in CAD applications for measurements and visualization or it can serve as a basis for further processing by diverse applications, such as programs for creating 3D models.

Types Of Laser Scanners

Here are the main types of terrestrial laser scanners:

  • Time of Flight (ToF) Laser Scanners: These scanners calculate distances by measuring the time it takes for a laser pulse to travel back from an object.
  • Phase-Based Laser Scanners: Light emitted by the laser scanner with varying lengths are compared, and the displacement is determined based on the phase shift.
  • Laser Triangulation Scanners: The scanner measures the distortion of the laser line caused by the object’s shape, allowing it to calculate distances.

Laser scanning - Pros and cons

Laser scanning offers the following advantages:

  • extremely fast and efficient collection of large volumes of data
  • high accuracy
  • ability to cover complex objects
  • possibility to re-use the same data in various projects and by various business partners
  • possibility to present the data in a few ways, such as point clouds, web-based data browsers
  • point clouds can be used in all reputable CAD software and systems of such industrial software leaders as AVEVA, Intergraph, Bentley, or Autodesk, to mention but a few
  • limited time spent on surveying on site
  • non-contact technology reducing the need for surveyors to physically access hazardous or hard-to-reach areas and enhancing safety

The disadvantages of laser scanning are:

  • sensitivity of scanners to some conditions such as low or high temperature
  • limited coverage of reflective surfaces
  • expensive equipment and software, which may result in the cost inefficiency of purchasing a scanner for small-scale projects

In summary, laser scanning offers remarkable efficiency, precision, and coverage, but the upfront investment can be a challenge for smaller-scale endeavors.

Applications Of Laser Scanning

3D laser scanning technology has a wide range of applications across various fields:

1. Industrial Applications:

  • New Investments: Laser scanning is used where a newly built facility needs to be fit in the existing environment or infrastructure.
  • Reverse Engineering: It helps recreate physical objects in digital form, useful for redesigning or improving existing facilities.
  • Assembly: Laser scanning assists in aligning components during assembly processes.
  • As-built Documentation: The technology is used where a plant lacks as-built documentation and the existing shape of the facility has to be captured for further activities such as design engineering, modernizations, etc.

2. Architectural and Civil Surveying:

  • Building Information Modeling (BIM): Laser scanning captures detailed data for creating accurate 3D models of buildings and infrastructure.
  • Heritage Preservation: It aids in documenting historical structures and archaeological sites.
  • Urban Topography: Laser scanning provides precise elevation data for urban planning and development.

3. Mining and Geology:

  • Volumetric Calculations: Laser scanning helps estimate stockpile volumes and monitor mining operations.
  • Slope Stability Analysis: It assesses the stability of rock faces and slopes in mining areas.

4. Forensics and Crime Scene Investigation:

  • Laser scanners assist in documenting crime scenes, capturing accurate spatial data for investigations.

5. Dentistry and Medical Applications:

  • Orthodontics: Laser scanning is used for creating digital dental impressions.
  • Prosthetics and Implants: Precise measurements aid in designing custom dental implants.

6. Mechanical Dimensional Inspection:

  • Laser scanning verifies the dimensions and tolerances of mechanical parts.

7. Architecture and Construction:

  • As-Built Documentation: Laser scanning records existing structures for renovation or remodeling projects.
  • Construction Progress Monitoring: It tracks construction progress by comparing scans over time.

8. Entertainment and Virtual Reality:

  • Laser scanning captures real-world environments for video games, movies, and virtual reality experiences.

9. Environmental Monitoring:

  • Forest Management: Laser scanning assesses tree heights, canopy density, and forest health.
  • Coastal Erosion Studies: It measures changes in coastal landscapes over time.
  • Slope Security: Laser scanning supports the process of monitoring the shape of the terrain to protect from falling rocks or avalanches.

10. Transportation and Infrastructure:

  • Railway and Highway Surveys: Laser scanning provides accurate data for track alignment and road design.
  • Bridge Inspection: It helps assess the condition of bridges and detect their structural defects.

Capnor Laser Scanning Services

Capnor specializes in laser scanning for the oil & gas, chemical, shipbuilding, power generation, pulp & paper and construction industries.

Our main clients of 3D laser scanning services are:

  • refineries
  • offshore platforms
  • chemical plants
  • shipowners
  • power plants
  • engineering companies
  • workshops and shipyards

We employ highly qualified personnel with years of experience backed by regular industry trainings such as BOSIET, EBS, HUET & CA-EBS, Fall Protection, and more. We also have a state-of-the-art equipment and software base. We have been ISO 9001:2015 certified for years, which attests to our attention to the quality of our projects. We carry out diverse projects all over the world.