COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - and Bentley was on hand at SPAR, the annual gathering for the 3D scanning industry, to remind attendees that its applications that have been helping with 3D scanning and point clouds for years.
It as at SPAR Europe late in 2011 that Bentley announced it had bought PointTools for its Vortex point cloud engine. The idea was to make point clouds more usable -- which was not the case previously given the massive amount of data and file sizes of infrastructure scans.
"A point cloud file can be 50 to 60 billion points," says Ron Gant, head of marketing for Bentley's civil engineering line. "We've integrated PointTools into all Bentley applications now and can handle very large datasets."
Kurt Rasmussen, AE for Bentley, shows customer point cloud processing with Descartes.
Still, what good is a point cloud if you can't make any sense out of it? 3D laser scans produce x, y, z data that used to be displayed as white points on the screen. Get into the middle of that and it can look like outer space amidst the stars. And you are lost. It has been helpful that most scans nowadays use a camera in conjunction with the laser to capture a color value for each point. With the addition of color, the scan starts approaching what the eye would see and the universe starts looking a lot more orderly.
But you still have points.
What CAD users need are objects. The pipe that was scanned with a laser is represented as a million points. You can't move the pipe by picking it and dragging it. You can't use it for interference checking. Enter Bentley's Descartes, which can use the points to make CAD geometry.
It's not magic. Don't expect Descartes to sort out the point cloud on its own. A skilled human operator still needs to be in the process.
Kurt Rasmussen, application engineer for Bentley, who shows me Descartes, prefers a step by step approach. He guides Descartes through a colorized point cloud model of the inside of a process plant, letting the software create a pipe here, a column there. A useful CAD model emerges piece by piece. Descartes appears quite adept at interpreting close-together points and determining them to be standard structural shapes. Its efficiency is obvious. But Daniel is there to when the points don't tell the real story. For example, when the laser doesn't record a surface from which it is reflected, or where fireproofing material throws off the shape of an I-beam. A chain link fence might confuse the software -- but not Kurt.
For more information, see Bentley Descartes product page: http://www.bentley.com/en-US/Products/Bentley+Descartes/