AEC Tech News (#281)

18 Nov, 2010 By: Cadalyst Staff

Full-Scale Visualization: More Is More

Building stakeholders experience data full-size, speeding design decisions and saving money.

By Nancy Spurling Johnson

Users today value design visualization for its ability to make 3D CAD data appear life-like. But what if you could take that same data, immerse yourself in it, and walk though it life-size?

CAVE technology

That technology is not only available, it's accessible, affordable, and making inroads for AEC applications. Inside full-scale analysis simulators at Duke University and Iowa State University, translated 3D CAD data is projected onto the walls, ceiling, and floor of the room-sized units. Iowa State's six-sided CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment) displays the highest resolution available anywhere (100 million pixels), is powered by 24 projectors, and requires stereoscopic glasses for viewing and a joystick controller to navigate through the data.

CAVE technology isn't new; it's been around for more than 20 years. But now it is becoming more accessible to AEC, largely due to the efforts of David Fuller, president of FullCon Solutions. Fuller works as the liaison between the two universities that own the multimillion-dollar units and the clients who wish to rent them. FullCon markets the technology, manages scheduling and logistics, and prepares and converts the 3D CAD data files for full-size consumption. All the client needs to do is show up.

Fuller's AEC clients are primarily in commercial construction, and they work primarily with 3D data from SketchUp, Revit, and Rhino software. However, virtually any 3D data can be converted for simulator viewing. "We haven't been stumped yet," Fuller said, referring to his company's data-conversion track record. The exception is point cloud data, he said. "It must first be converted to polygons."

The Full Experience

Experiencing data at full size helps building designers, contractors, and owners feel confident and secure that their design is effective and attractive long before the project breaks ground. In fact, Fuller said, he finds the sweet spot for his service is helping clients during the schematic design process. "[The technology] brings valuable feedback to early stages of design, the least profitable and most indecisive stage for architects and owners," Fuller explained. The simulators help project stakeholders operate much more efficiently and save money because decisions come more easily and changes can be made before they become costly. Read more »

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Nancy Spurling Johnson is Cadalyst's editor in chief.

Simplifying Access to Laser-Scanning Data

IMAGINiT Technologies' Scan to BIM software speeds workflows by giving Revit users direct access to point clouds.

By Cyrena Respini-Irwin

Laser scanning has advanced by leaps and bounds during its relatively short history, increasing the accuracy and ease of a variety of measuring and modeling tasks. Whether you're creating digital terrain models, reverse-engineering car parts, or analyzing crime scenes, there's a laser-based technology that can help.

In architecture and construction, users have embraced laser scanning as a practical solution for collecting as-built data. There are often discrepancies between a building's blueprints and its current form, due either to changes during the original construction process or remodeling and expansion projects. For older buildings in particular, this information may have been lost — or never have existed in the first place.

"Scanning is a rapidly growing field," said Beau Turner, director of business development for IMAGINiT Technologies (a division of Rand Worldwide that merged with Avatech Solutions earlier this year). What's behind the surge in popularity? "A lot more projects are being retrofitted," Turner said, whether it's done to save money, preserve historic buildings, or achieve green design goals such as LEED certification. In the next 10 to 20 years, Turner noted, an estimated 60% of building projects will take place on existing structures.

According to Turner, companies are also attracted to the level of accuracy and the time savings they can achieve compared with traditional survey methods. "With laser scanning, you're looking at a millimeter of tolerance across an entire structure." Improvements in the capabilities of scanning technology are also spurring adoption: "Even a year ago, [the number of points collected for a project] measured in the millions; now it's in the high millions and billions of points." Read more »

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Cyrena Respini-Irwin is Cadalyst's senior editor.

Mark Your Calendar: AEC Events


Webinar: Better Front-End Planning for Capital Projects
November 30, 2010
11 a.m. ET
This complimentary FIATECH webinar will be presented by G. Edward Gibson, professor construction management and engineering in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment at Arizona State University, and Sandra MacGillivray of Coreworx. Read more »

National Institute of Building Sciences Annual Meeting
December 6–10, 2010
Washington D.C.
This event will be held in conjunction with the Ecobuild America Conference and will incorporate the buildingSMART alliance Conference, FEDCon '10, Advanced Materials Symposium, COBie Challenge, and the Institute's Awards Banquet. Read more »

2011 FIATECH Technology Conference and Showcase
April 18–20, 2011
Chandler, Arizona
The conference agenda will comprise three educational breakout tracks: People and Process, Productivity Improvement Tools, and Academic. Read more »

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on Are you hosting an event that you would like to include in our calendar? Submit details at least two weeks in advance to


What’s New at


CAD Manager's Toolbox: Shake Up Your Brain
Spend a little time on preparation, and you'll learn new technical information more quickly and easily. Read more »

Prove Your Worth!
Quantify your value as a CAD manager by calculating your own personal ROI. Read more »

How Can Apparel Companies Use 3D Software to Streamline Sample Development?
By replacing physical samples with digital models, clothing companies can save money, speed product development, and give buyers a better understanding of their products. Read more »

Avatech Tricks Tutorial: Scaling Images in Autodesk Inventor
You can use a 2D image as the basis of your next 3D model, but only if you know how to adjust the image to full scale. Read more »

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

Add comment

Note: Comments are moderated and will appear live after approval by the site moderator.

AutoCAD Tips!

Lynn Allen

In her easy-to-follow, friendly style, long-time Cadalyst contributing editor Lynn Allen guides you through a new feature or time-saving trick in every episode of her popular AutoCAD Video Tips. Subscribe to the free Cadalyst Video Picks newsletter, and we'll notify you every time a new video tip is published. All exclusively from Cadalyst!

Follow Lynn on TwitterFollow Lynn on Twitter

Do you use any augmented or virtual reality (AR or VR) technologies in your workflow?
Not yet, but we are planning to implement it.
No, but we think these technologies could hold value for us.
No; these technologies do not hold value for us.
Submit Vote

Download Cadalyst Magazine Special Edition