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February 16, 2015
Industry TrendsShipbuilding


 We have been capturing our ships using laser scanning and photogrammetry for a very long time in our industry and this trend is accelerating. In fact, it is hard to find anyone who is not leveraging reality capture in some fashion. An even greater change is the fact that this work is increasingly being done in-house rather than by 3rd parties.

Outsourcing the work to 3rd parties made sense when laser scanners were costly and required highly skilled personnel to scan and post-process information. However, with the significant reduction in cost of laser scanners and the improved capability of tools within the ShipConstructor environment, there is starting to be a shift in what clients are doing today.

Just recently I spent some time with a client who has been using ShipConstructor for several years. They explained to me that they had recently invested in their own laser scanner to be able to provide this service and include it in their offering. This client is well known for their very high quality work. By having their own laser scanner coupled with ShipConstructor (which leverages the tools and features within the Autodesk Platform) they are now better able to fulfill their mandate of providing “Excellence in every detail.”

This transition from using 3rd party laser scanning companies to investing in their own laser scanner is becoming more and more common.

What has fueled this transition?

There have been several drivers which have aided this transition in my opinion:

A. Increased Industry Expectations: Shipyards and design agencies clients are demanding higher quality results in less time. These clients may not be asking for laser scanning specifically; however, they are asking to have 100% accuracy during construction and installation. Any error in the model will result in delays on the waterfront and these delays can have a significant cost for the owner. Including laser scanning as part of your workflow will:

  1. Reduce costly design changes
  2. Reduce or eliminate construction rework
  3. Reduce field work
  4. Eliminate multiple visits to “re-measure” the ship
  5. Reduce ship check effort by using less personnel and fewer trips
  6. Reduce the amount of design time by using accurate reference geometry
  7. Verify the As-Built to the As-Designed
  8. Obtain measurements which are difficult or unsafe to attain
  9. Support many, many more capabilities

 I know there are some who view the above items only as benefits for a repair and retrofit project but that is incorrect. Most of these benefits translate to new construction as well. I have seen yards use laser scanning to verify fabrication and construction of their vessel. This can be either by scanning a shell plate to ensure it is shaped correctly or by scanning a block to verify that the as-built is the same as the as-design. There is just as much benefit to using laser scanning in new construction as there is in repair and retrofit projects.

B. Affordable Laser Scanner hardware: The cost of a good laser scanner has dropped to a level where the Return On Investment (ROI) is just a few projects. The cost of the laser scanner probably is much lower than the annual cost of paper in most shipyards or design agencies 😉 . The affordable price of the laser scanners is probably one of the key drivers as to why more companies are investing in them.

C. Powerful software which does not require “experts”: Laser scanning is a hot ticket item in almost every industry. This has resulted in many software companies in the CAD/CAM sector to invest highly in handling and managing laser scanning data. Autodesk has been one of these companies which has improved their point cloud capabilities throughout their platform and made it accessible for the common user. ShipConstructor (and you) have benefited very nicely from this effort from Autodesk as it can now handle point clouds with billions of points.

The workflow to scan an object, process the scan and make the data consumable by ShipConstructor has never been easier.  

Closing Remarks

Laser scanning and photogrammetry are actually very old reality capture technologies. In the last ten years there has been an increase in the number of projects which have used point clouds in some fashion. However, it has just been recently in the last few years where companies have been investing in their own laser scanning solution which includes the hardware and software.

This decision to invest in their own solution allows them to improve the quality of their product and also reduces the amount of time it takes to make it.

You as a ShipConstructor user already have the tools available to manage and handle point cloud data. However, it is up to you to choose to use it.

The improvements to the tools to handle laser scanned data will continue to improve and it will not be long before the laser scanning data will accurately generate the 3D CAD model for you. Reality capture bridges the gap between reality and the digital world and as time goes on, the gap will continue to decrease.

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