News / 7.16.18

Epstein Utilizing Laser Scanning to Produce Immersive Deliverables

Our BLK360, paired with our drone, allow us to offer 3D viewing experiences

The BLK360 Imaging Laser Scanner caused a sensation when unveiled at a training event in November 2016. When Leica, an international manufacturer of cameras and sport optic products, brought it out, the room of industry veterans reportedly gasped.

One reason is because the BLK360 does not look like any other 3D imaging laser scan system out there; it is strikingly lightweight and unusually small. In fact, it’s only 6.5” tall, 4” in diameter and 2.2 pounds. For those performing a quick mental comparison, the iPhone 7+ is 6.23” tall and 3.07” wide.

Despite the visual flair, the BLK360 gathers 360,000 points per second with selectable resolution settings. It has a range of 60 meters and scans with 4 mm accuracy.

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In addition to a LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensor, the BLK360 also includes infrared sensors for thermal imaging and 360° cameras. These cameras perform spherical imaging with HDR support and LED flash. The scanner performs a full 360° capture in three minutes.

And it’s totally wireless.

While the BLK360 seems to tick all the boxes – extra points for the mere fact that it looks like a mini R2D2 – is it living up to expectations? It would seem so, as it’s being utilized across various industries just two years after its introduction. With that said, the scanner was initially a solution focused heavily upon the AEC (Architecture, Engineering and Construction) arena.

Epstein is thrilled to have a BLK360 and to be able to offer it as an official product of design.

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“It’s extremely exciting. Using the scanner to capture information allows us to do our jobs faster and more accurately and efficiently,” said Hisham Odish, Epstein’s Global BIM Strategist. “This specific technology is going to change the way that all companies design.”

Epstein included.

We are currently providing initial designs for a new CO2 stunning facility for Routh Packing Co. located in Sandusky, Ohio. The facility did not previously have an up-to-date floorplan. Epstein used the BLK360 to produce drawings of the entire facility, allowing us to develop a deep understanding of the on-site conditions. The scan took about one hour, a process that would have otherwise required an architect or engineer to be onsite with a tape measure for multiple days, or even multiple trips, recording information onto hard copy plans.

“One of the biggest threats to any project is the schedule,” said our Project Engineer Bob Helmer, who has scanned four Epstein projects with the BLK360. “If you can eliminate any steps in a work flow it usually means you are doing something faster and, if you eliminate them for the right reasons, better.”

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Furthermore, scanning can be performed periodically throughout a project, therefore allowing construction managers to keep a record of true progress and tweak the schedule as necessary to ensure on-time delivery.

We created additional visual tools from the scans, such as mark-ups and computer-generated models. In new construction, sometimes it’s not apparent that the metal framer laid out a wall section incorrectly until the doors and cabinets don’t fit during an installation attempt. In a renovation, a current blueprint of the structure may not exist, leaving crews to tempt fate and start work without accurate measurements. 3D laser scanning technology helps eliminate guesswork and errors.

“We captured the Routh facility and its surrounding area exactly as it is using our drone and BLK360 – every dimension is accurate to less than 1/8” tolerance. As the project moves from design through planning to construction and operations, the scans have helped us make data-driven decisions, streamlining the entire process,” Hisham said.

Scanning has also improved collaboration. Everyone involved with this project – from our architects to our process engineers – can interact with the data in real time, with everyone seeing the same views of the project.

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Often times, multiple players are hired to work on the same project. For example, an architect, engineer and contractor – each from a different company – will be brought on board to work on the same renovation. Epstein, on the other hand, is pleased to be multi-disciplinary. With the capability of handling every component of a project from concept to completion, Epstein does not have to outsource.

“We can do everything in house; we’re all-inclusive, if you will,” Hisham said. “That’s what sets Epstein apart from other AEC firms.”

In addition to using the BLK360 as a design product, Epstein also offers scanning as an additional service. If a building doesn’t have existing floorplans, or a client would like to have an as-build 3D model of their facility, we can provide it. This type of immersive technology can be useful for a number of reasons. 3D data can not only confirm that new equipment or furniture will fit into a space, for instance, but it can also help in planning the installation. Contractors can use the 3D models in determining the best routes for moving and removing large items through a facility.

“When you open our scan models, you have a spatially accurate 3D representation of a project,” Hisham said. “You can go to any area in that building – you can be in it.”

Bob Helmer using the scanner at Sunmet Juice Company in California.

Professionals from across the architectural, engineering and construction disciplines have long understood the importance of visualization in planning and executing building projects. Specialized tools, such as the laser scanner, have emerged as important new components in the AEC toolbox. The type of precise information they provide is essential to developing designs and strategies to produce great results.

Similar to those industry professionals who gasped at the product’s unveiling, Epstein, along with our clients, are experiencing that similar “wow” feeling being able to use, and offer, the tool.