AEC Tech News (#295)

2 Jun, 2011 By: Cadalyst Staff

3D Scanning Is Flying High

Faster, more accurate, more affordable technologies are propelling reverse engineering and other applications to the forefront of design.

By Susan Smith

3D laser scanning continues to take the CAD world by storm with its ability to create a digital representation of an existing structure or product. Also referred to as reverse engineering, the process uses scanning hardware to collect millions of points in space that represent an object's surface. That collection of data, called a point cloud, can be translated using specialized software to prepare it for use in a CAD application, where it becomes the basis for design updates or retrofits.

According to Tom Charron, vice-president of global marketing for Rapidform, "The challenge is less about data collection than it is about how to make it useful for your needs. This is where reverse engineering comes in, and the latest methods involve making solid models that are parametric and history-based, so they're easily editable."

Rapidform reverse-engineered this Junkers JU 52, a German plane from the 1930s and WWII. The image above is composed of a screen capture of the resulting CAD model and an actual photograph of the plane. (Original photo from Wikimedia Commons/Rror)
Rapidform reverse-engineered this Junkers JU 52, a German plane from the 1930s and WWII. The image above is composed of a screen capture of the resulting CAD model and an actual photograph of the plane. (Original photo from Wikimedia Commons/Rror)

As technologies rapidly improve and become increasingly affordable, applications of 3D scanning are expanding for civil engineering, AEC, and manufacturing. Regardless of your industry, and whether you purchase your own hardware and software or hire a service bureau to do the work, now is the time to take a serious look at how 3D scanning could jump-start your design process.

Technology Advancements

Several developments have converged to accelerate 3D scanning adoption. Hardware and software are becoming more efficient, prices are dropping, and the process of converting point clouds to CAD data is getting easier.

Joe Croser, vice-president of products at Pointools, explained, "The speed the scanner can measure points enables users to capture more points in the same time — getting higher-quality and more accurate data. Or it enables them to do more scans within a time period, thereby enabling them to lower scanning costs from being on-site." Read more »

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Susan Smith has been working as an editor and writer in the technology industry for more than 16 years.

Paul Aubin


First Look Review: CadFaster|Collaborate for Autodesk Revit 2011

Also available for SolidWorks and coming soon for mobile use, new plug-in facilitates real-time, interactive model reviews.

By Patrick Davis

Over the years, the design process has changed with the introduction of new technologies, bringing about shorter design cycles, reduced fees, and demands for greater productivity. What hasn't changed is the need for distributed teams to collaborate with each other and their various project stakeholders. Sharing 3D files with non–CAD users has always been difficult. Technology can help, as long as the real-time collaboration tools replicate the power and experience of a face-to-face meeting.

Finland-based CadFaster, an industry newcomer, has introduced a design collaboration tool that enables various project participants to collaborate on 3D models. Regardless of a project's size, everyone can walk through, measure, create sections, and add comments. These capabilities aren't necessarily new or exciting. What CadFaster|Collaborate brings to the table is the ability to work interactively in real time, even when using a low-bandwidth Internet connection or (coming soon) an iPhone or iPad. Now, that is exciting.

CadFaster|Collaborate is available for Autodesk Revit 2011 for BIM (building information modeling) workflows and SolidWorks 2010 and 2011 for 3D product design, and should work with Revit 2012, according to CadFaster. The company reports that the program will be released for Bentley Architecture and Graphisoft ArchiCAD platforms next. For this First Look, I reviewed CadFaster|Collaborate for Autodesk Revit 2011. Read more »

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Cadalyst contributing editor Patrick Davis is a virtual design and construction manager for Atkins North America.


Mark Your Calendar: AEC Events


Revit Technology Conference (RTC) 2011, North America
June 23–25, 2011
Huntington Beach, California
Having run in Australia for the past 6 years, the Revit Technology Conference (RTC) will hold its inaugural event in North America in 2011. Read more »

Chicago BIMForum
July 19–21, 2011
Chicago, Illinois
This BIMForum will explore the theme, "When Does Design End and Construction Begin?" Read more »

August 7–11, 2011
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
SIGGRAPH 2011, the 38th International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, will feature technical and creative programs focusing on research, science, art, animation, music, gaming, interactivity, education, and the web. 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


I Am Drafter!
Assume any job title you want; just don't forget your roots in a vital and respectable craft. Read more »

On the Edge Solid Edge Tutorial: Place Components Efficiently in Solid Edge
Speed assembly design when you add existing models. Read more »

CAD Manager's Toolbox: Hunt Down Threats with Anti-Malware
Use Malwarebytes' tool in tandem with Spybot Search and Destroy to keep you users' machines safe. Read more »

Cadalyst's Ron LaFon Dies at Age 63
Contributing editor reviewed hundreds of hardware and software products in his 17 years with the publication. 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 social media — such as Facebook or Twitter updates, YouTube videos, or discussion forums — for work-related purposes?
Yes, I regularly use such resources for work-related purposes.
Yes, but on a limited or infrequent basis.
No, because my employer frowns upon or prohibits doing so.
No, because I don’t have the time or interest.
Submit Vote

Download Cadalyst Magazine Special Edition