GPS Machine Control and Surveying

GPS Machine Control and Surveying

Incorporating GPS machine control into your earthmoving projects will help you in various ways. You can ensure you complete the work to the best of your ability by using machine control with 3D terrain models. Combine our services with your machines to make your business stand out for competency and dependability.

What Is GPS Machine Control?

GPS machine control involves the use of several instruments to give feedback to operators on grades and equipment positions. Some of the most common positioning sensors used to gather this information are:

  • Sonic tracers.
  • Rotating lasers.
  • Advanced GPS systems.
  • Total stations.

Creating a 3D model from predetermined positions gathered through GPS machine control increases accuracy. You can use equipment like dozers and excavators with the collected data to complete an action at exact coordinates.

Machine control technology works with the help of GPS and the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS). Earthmoving machines receive signals from these systems and compare them to the model of the proposed plans. This process allows the equipment to determine exactly where and how to grade the terrain.

You need a base station to ensure accuracy, however. Satellites are typically off in their measurements, making them unhelpful for precise work like earthmoving. The base station corrects these errors, allowing for a more accurate reading. A base station sends the reliable reading to a rover, developing a 3D map of the area and determining its location.

Who Uses GPS Machine Control?

Workers in any industry that deals with earthmoving equipment can benefit from GPS machine control. This technique is common in the following projects:

  • Parking lots
  • Roadways
  • Commercial projects
  • Athletic fields
  • Paving
  • Excavating
  • Piling

What Are the Benefits of GPS Machine Control?

Using GPS machine control to develop 3D models provides several benefits, including:

  • Efficiency.
  • Effective material use.
  • Lower operating expenses and labor costs.
  • Reduced surveyor expenses.
  • Excellent completed surfaces.

With GPS machine control, your team is more likely to do the job right the first time. Satellites that feed data to a machine take out all the standard work and make earthmoving jobs much easier than ever before.

Contact Take-off Professionals Today for 3D Modeling Services

Ensure your machines are working with an accurate 3D terrain model with the help of Take-off Professionals. Our team can optimize your data and make a map that works well for GPS machine control. You can access our platform to view the data and models and add any other files or notes.

At Take-off Professionals, we focus on creating reliable 3D models that you can use for earthmoving work. With over 20 years of experience, we how to get the job done. Our team develops around 1000 3D models every year.

We’re proud to offer detailed quotes and quick turnaround times. Our staff is available nationally with employees stationed in multiple time zones. Reap the benefits of using GPS machine control for your earthmoving projects. For more information about our 3D modeling services, please contact us online or call 623-323-8441 today.

4 Ways You Can Increase Productivity on the Construction Site

4 Ways You Can Increase Productivity on the Construction Site

The construction industry has suffered from a prolonged period of decline in productivity over the last few decades despite the consistent growth of the industry. Low productivity is the leading reason for going over budget or spending too much time on construction projects. Thankfully, construction businesses can improve their productivity through improved communication, planning, goal setting and technology. Learn how to increase your construction productivity with the following tips.

1. Improve Communication

Clear and consistent communication is the most crucial component of getting your construction projects finished on time. Your team should always have open lines of communication and the ability to reach each other quickly. Improve communication with the following strategies:

  • Create a communication chain of command: Establishing a concrete chain of command for communication allows queries to get answered as quickly as possible and ensures nobody on your team gets left behind. Create a communication chain of command that sets clear expectations for who should be contacted for each unique project you work on.
  • Adopt new technology: By integrating smartphones, tablets and laptops into your team, you can ensure everyone receives the information they need right as it gets sent out. New software such as cloud-based programs and scheduling software can help you use your time more efficiently and effectively.
  • Enforce clear and concise communications: Messages heavy on jargon and technicality can be hard to understand and rarely pass up the chain of command, making enforcing clear and concise language in your communication essential. Teach your team members to keep language short, sweet and accessible.
  • Keep communications professional: When writing to your team, stick to the facts and keep your communications free of emotions and office politics. If you want to simplify processes and boost construction productivity, don’t over elaborate on your points and make your objectives clear.

2. Planning Based on Data

Inaccurate planning forecasts are a source of a significant source of risk for construction companies. Intensive data gathering using the power of deep learning and artificial intelligence can identify dangers and patterns for your construction plans before they even begin. The following data and analytics tools can help you increase productivity on the job site:

Planning Based on Data

  • Predictive analytics: With predictive analytics, you can gain insight into project workflow and solutions to give your stakeholders more accurate expectations on when a project will be finished. Predictive data analytics allow you to reduce costs on projects and tackle potential problems before they get the chance to arise.
  • Risk analysis: Identifying, monitoring and responding to risks as they arise is critical to keeping your team safe and your time projections more accurate. You can use field-first technology to gain deeper insight into your risk management and analysis and keep your complex jobs going strong.
  • Equipment and asset tracking: By tracking your equipment and assets, you’ll eliminate the chance of wasting time on your construction site by ensuring the technology you need is where it should be 24/7. Certain asset tracking software even allows you to assign equipment to specific managers and teams.
  • GPS machine control modeling: GPS machine control modeling allows your surveyors to employ a variety of positioning sensors – including sonic tracers, rotating laser, total stations and advanced GPS systems – to improve work site operations. Many GPS machine control models integrate with machine control technology to ensure that equipment such as graders, bulldozers and excavators all move within the predetermined positions of the 3D model.
  • Point cloud modeling: With point cloud modeling, contractors can use 3D models for the layout planning and machine control phase of construction. Point cloud models are renowned for their speed and accuracy.

3. Set Realistic Goals

Having a realistic goal and planning for potential delays before they begin lets you stay ahead of schedule and ensure that your plans are achievable. It’s always best to set realistic expectations with your stakeholders rather than overpromise and underdeliver. Create more realistic goals with the following:

  • Build goals from the bottom up: Your employees on the ground of your construction site have a much better understanding of how long a project will take than your architect. Work with your managers at every level to build your goals from the bottom up and set accurate and realistic expectations.
  • Use both data and intuition: While data can start your project planning on the right foot, your intuition is crucial to creating realistic goals. Instinct is more than a hunch – it’s a culmination of your experience in the field.
  • Revise your goals as you go: Part of every successful plan is the acknowledgment that circumstances will change as you go. While you shouldn’t be too quick to revise your goals, you must review your construction goals continually and acknowledge precisely when and where you’re falling short. Make sure you review and revise your goals on at least a monthly and quarterly basis.

4. Have the Proper Technology

With the proper technology, you can ensure nothing falls through the cracks in your construction planning and execution. You can use the following tools to improve your productivity:

  • Preconstruction software: Preconstruction software enables your business to get your project started on the right foot by helping you with everything from finding contractors and sending bid invites to double-checking your architectural plans.
  • Field productivity software: With field productivity software, you can directly measure workflow on your job site and streamline information processes with cloud-based real-time software. Field productivity software helps you unify your team.
  • Project management software: Project management software ensures your teams are all working off of the same plans and getting updated about project developments along the way. When your team can get a holistic view of your project development, you’ll have the data and confidence to make better decisions.
  • Collaborative software: Collaborative software allows you to unify your team and keep up with construction plans and designs as they change in real-time.

Increase Your Productivity With the Take-off Professionals

At Take-off Professionals, we create data prep and 3D modeling software ideal for use with site work machine layouts and controls. Since our founding in 1988, we’ve been dedicated to supporting contractors with takeoff technology. Our innovative process helps you put quality data at your fingertips and gives you the accuracy and insight you need to be confident in your project. We offer the following services to help you boost productivity on the construction site:

Contact us online today to learn about the full line of takeoff offerings and which is right for you.

Increase Your Productivity With the Take-off Professionals

The Importance of Land Surveyors in Civil Engineering

The Importance of Land Surveyors in Civil Engineering

When civil engineers first plan to develop a property, they require land surveyors to provide accurate measurements and information about the land. As a result, land surveyors are critical to civil engineers who want to do their job properly. By working closely with land surveyors, civil engineers can increase their project’s safety, improve efficiency and ensure they comply with various standards.

Find out more about what land surveyors do and how these professionals assist civil engineering projects.

What Is a Land Surveyor?

What Is a Land Surveyor?

Whenever an individual or company purchases a property to develop it, land surveyors play an essential role. Land surveyors are responsible for mapping and measuring a property’s land to establish property boundaries. They also provide information about the property’s topography and existing buildings or improvements. Surveyors can give clients precise measurements and data about a property, and they’re regularly employed for construction, engineering and mapmaking projects.

Given land surveyors’ expertise in determining topographic heights, land sizes and land measurements, they regularly advise the work of other professionals. For example, they often guide the work of geologists, developers, town planners, architects and engineers. You can even see them in governmental roles, helping sewer, power and water authorities receive the information they need to do their jobs well.

You’ll typically find land surveyors conducting measurements at the beginning of a development or construction project. They make their measurements, map the land and give this information to architects, who use it to design their projects with the landscape in mind. Land surveyors also provide their measurements to engineers, who use the data to ensure any planned structures are safe.

How Do Land Surveying and Civil Engineering Work Together?

While public works, such as public education facilities or health care institutions, are some of the most common civil engineering projects, you can also find civil engineers helping organizations build bridges, pipelines and canals. Since civil engineering often requires structures and other infrastructure to be placed on top of the environment, land surveyors play an important role.

Infrastructure needs to be safe and fit the land it’s built on, so civil engineers need accurate land surveys before they begin their work. A land surveyor provides engineers the data they need to ensure their project doesn’t negatively affect protected environments. They also give engineers the measurements and information they require to ensure any structure they build will be safe. Land surveyors can even help engineers ensure their project has peak efficiency.

To support a civil engineering project, a surveyor will look for several land qualities. For example, they’ll often note the nature of the land, such as if it’s grassy, rocky, clear, forested, flat or uneven. They’ll also collect data about the angles and distance between critical points and measure relative elevations.

Information on natural features, such as rivers and hills, are other types of data included in land surveys for civil engineers. A land surveyor will also include data on human construction, such as power lines and roads. If a civil engineering project requires a map, land surveyors can produce it.

Once a project ends, civil engineers require an as-built survey from a land surveyor. This survey is meant to determine how accurate the initial survey’s data was after the project’s completion. The land surveyor will create a new survey designed to check that the earlier measurements match various details and positions of the final project. Civil engineers require surveyors to repeatedly survey a structure to ensure it’s safe and has the appropriate technical performance.

Why Is Land Surveying Important to Civil Engineering Projects?

One of the biggest reasons civil engineering projects need land surveyors is that they provide accurate data engineers can use in their proposals. Land surveyors are also important because they can conduct inspections in high-risk areas and help resolve legal disputes. Learn more about the importance of land surveyors and some of the essential ways they aid civil engineering projects:

Provide Accurate Data for a Proposal

1. Provide Accurate Data for a Proposal

As civil engineering organizations create proposals, they need accurate data. When a civil engineering organization submits its proposal, it often needs to gain public support — whether through lawmakers voting on the project or the public directly voting for it. If a project appears dangerous, it can sink, leading the public or lawmakers to vote against it.

Accurate data helps engineers create a proposal that shows the infrastructure will be as safe as possible. For example, a land surveyor might use a 3D simulation via drone survey to show how a structure will impact the environment. If the survey reveals a new road could lead to erosion in the surrounding area or impact water flow, civil engineers can adjust their proposal to account for these potential dangers.

With accurate data in their corner, engineers can prepare more detailed proposals. These detailed proposals help lawmakers who want the project to pass, as they can more easily showcase how safe the project will be in the future and how it will change the current environment. Since safety is a huge public concern, civil engineering firms may find it difficult to get public lawmakers on board with a project until they prove it doesn’t come with high risk.

2. Conduct Inspections for High-Risk Areas and Projects

When civil engineers need to work on high-risk projects, such as bridges, they often turn to land surveyors. Surveyors usually have the equipment required to safely assess a project site without putting staff in danger. For example, a land surveyor can use a drone to assess high-risk areas that people can’t easily or safely access. Using a drone is much safer and can deliver more detailed results, as it can navigate around complex terrain or structures and gain a bird’s-eye view of a property.

Since civil engineers play a major role in creating or repairing high-risk projects, such as dams, canals and bridges, they need highly accurate data to ensure they don’t put the public in danger. If a dam breaks or a bridge crumbles, it can lead to injury and death. A land surveyor can conduct a survey before and after a project to ensure civil engineers have the necessary data to build safe structures.

3. Help Resolve Legal Disputes Between Public and Private Property

Sometimes, civil engineering projects face disputes over private and public property. A private landowner may believe the project crosses over to their property, while the civil engineering firm may believe their project only goes over public land. When there’s a dispute about property lines, land surveyors can help to resolve it. Usually, a land surveyor will conduct a boundary survey to establish whose land the civil engineering company is developing their project on.

A land surveyor will often use a drone to conduct these boundary surveys, as they can establish property lines faster. With a bird’s-eye view of the property lines and the use of other surveying technology, they can quickly find where private land stops and public land starts. A land surveyor may also use LiDAR scanning and UAV technology to ensure their surveys are as accurate as possible.

By using advanced technology to complete their boundary survey, a land surveyor can quickly resolve legal problems and stop delays from occurring. These surveys can also increase public support in the project, as people will know the civil engineering project is only using public land.

When Do You Need a Land Surveyor?

When you plan to develop a piece of land, you’ll need a land surveyor. Since you’ll need to comply with your project’s end goal, building goals and local regulations, a land survey is an essential part of development. With a land survey, you’ll gain a better understanding of the site’s topography and dimensions, giving you critical data to ensure your project doesn’t run into compliance issues.

One of the most important times to use a land surveyor is when you’re planning to change the land’s use. In this case, you might need a planning permit. Part of attaining this permit involves receiving approval from a local government, where they’ll check overlays, land zoning, municipal strategic statements and permitted land uses. A land survey is often required to ensure your project meets the aforementioned permit requirements.

Land surveys are also necessary when a project has different zoning requirements on a site. For example, a piece of land may have various overlays on it, such as protections for vegetation, wildlife or heritage. You might find that land has different local provisions, such as plot ratios and building heights. With these various zoning and land requirements, land surveys are essential. These surveys give you data about topographic heights and land that is critical for addressing zoning requirements.

Another time you’ll need a land surveyor is when you’re working on a sloped site. Since a land surveyor can use specialized equipment to measure horizontal distance, they can assist civil engineers who might not have equipment capable of making these measurements. You can also rely on surveyors to measure vertical distance. These measurements are critical when your project requires you to excavate a pipeline or build a drain or road.

Essentially, any time you need to know exactly how a project will fit on a piece of land, a land survey is needed. Whether you’re constructing a new bridge or upgrading a road, land surveys allow you to know how your planned structures will fit with the land and ensure your project won’t cause safety issues.

Benefits of Land Surveying

Benefits of Land Surveying

Many civil engineering firms and organizations rely on the benefits of land surveyors to improve their projects with the following:

  • Increased boundary accuracy: One of the many land surveying benefits is helping civil engineers establish accurate boundaries for a piece of land. With the right property boundaries established, a civil engineering team can better plan out construction and development. Accurate boundaries also help teams avoid legal disputes with people who own land near their project, saving time and raising public satisfaction with a project.
  • Greater understanding of topography: Before civil engineers begin a project on a piece of property, they need to know its topographical details. A land survey ensures engineers have a better understanding of topography, such as determining if the land has any structural or soil issues or if it is prone to flooding. By gaining a greater understanding of a plot’s topography, the civil engineering team can determine if their project is feasible and safe before they begin development.
  • Better property division: When a civil engineering firm makes their proposals to local authorities, they need to ensure they’re not building on private property. A land survey gives them better property division by clearly showing where public property starts and ends.
  • Improved construction preparation: Before a civil engineer OKs construction, a land survey can give them various data about the plot. This land survey’s data can help civil engineers ensure any structures are placed in the ideal location and that any necessary preparation has been completed prior to construction. With this data, a civil engineer can provide their construction team more accurate plans and help them better prepare for construction.
  • More accurate value estimation: Land surveyors can also help civil engineers and other professionals determine how much a piece of property is worth. By having a detailed land survey, you can more accurately value a property based on its landscape, hardscape and location details.

Choose Take-off Professionals for Your 3D Data Needs

Choose Take-off Professionals for Your 3D Data Needs

At Take-off Professionals, we understand the need for accurate data from land surveyors for the success of any civil engineering project. After receiving data from surveyors, our experienced engineering team creates 3D data to assist with site work, machine control and layout. Alongside our engineers, we also employ surveyors and 3D techs to ensure any models we provide are extremely accurate and give you the information you require to ensure a project is safe and can be completed as efficiently as possible.

Take a moment to learn more about our data prep services today. If you have any questions, contact us or request a free quote.

Comparing Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing

Comparing Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing

If you work in civil engineering, construction, archaeology or any field where understanding physical layouts is critical, you can likely use data and mapping to greatly benefit your work. Two techniques in particular, photogrammetry and remote sensing, provide a wealth of valuable data to increase precision and accuracy in planning, analysis, construction and excavation.

What Is Remote Sensing?

Remote sensing involves identifying and measuring objects or events — for instance, weather events — without contacting them directly.

Remote sensing relies on detecting different wavelengths of light radiation. Objects may emit or reflect this radiation, and remote sensing can identify and process even small differences across an extensive array of wavelengths and spatial orientations. Professionals use these differences to identify objects and categorize them according to their type, material or location. They can also use them to measure slopes and distances.

What is remote sensing used for? Satellites have used remote sensing in meteorological operations for decades. Remote sensing first came into use because of the high number of color bands in satellite imagery. The technique used those color bands to collect 2D information for weather tracking and geographic information system (GIS) mapping, for instance. Today, many satellites in orbit still use remote sensing to gather a range of information from the Earth to evaluate weather and land cover and generate maps.

Remote sensing doesn’t have to work at such great distances, however. This method is also useful for gathering data for terrestrial projects, like surveying or earthworks construction. Remote sensing encompasses any observation and measurement methods that do not rely on direct contact with the object or landform in question.

What Is Photogrammetry?

Photogrammetry uses imaging rather than collecting light wavelength data. It involves determining the spatial properties and dimensions of objects captured in photographic pictures.

Albrecht Meydenbauer, a Prussian architect who made some of the first elevation drawings and topographic maps, first used the term in 1867. Today, an airplane, satellite, drone or even a close-range camera might record digital images for photogrammetric use.

Photogrammetry relies on a technique known as aerial triangulation to measure changes in position. This method involves taking aerial photographs from more than one location and using measurements from both places to pinpoint locations and distances more accurately. The various photographs provide different lines of sight or rays from the camera to specific points. The trigonometric intersection of these lines of sight can then produce accurate 3D coordinates for those points.

Modern photogrammetry also sometimes relies on laser scanning as a complement to traditional images. Light detection and ranging (LIDAR), for instance, which uses pulsed lasers to measure distances, often assists in photogrammetry performed from aircraft and satellites, as well as on the ground.

Photogrammetry breaks down into two main branches: metric and interpretive. Here’s more information on them:

  • Metric photogrammetry: This branch of the field involves taking exact measurements and frequently finds use in technical industries like engineering and surveying. Metric photogrammetry uses a metric camera to make precise computations and evaluate exact sizes, shapes and positions of objects or topographical features. It is also useful for determining coordinates and relative positions.
  • Interpretive photogrammetry: This branch of the field involves identifying general image features like sizes, shapes and patterns. It is useful for adding ancillary information to photographs rather than making direct calculations.

What is photogrammetry used for? Photogrammetry is exceptionally common in applications such as measuring landforms and terrain and developing topographic maps. Many industries, including fields as diverse as architecture, construction, engineering, forensics, forestry, geoscience, law and medicine, rely on the precise and accurate 3D data photogrammetry provides.

Comparison of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing

What are the main differences to consider regarding photogrammetry vs. remote sensing? Explore them below:

  • Data type: One of the main differences between photogrammetry and remote sensing lies in the kind of information collected. Remote sensing collects data in the form of light and color. By detecting different wavelengths of light radiation, it can generate maps. Instead of measuring wavelengths of radiation, on the other hand, photogrammetry uses imagery to measure coordinates in space.
  • Number of dimensions: These differences also mean remote sensing tends to work in two dimensions while photogrammetry tends to work in three dimensions. Remote sensing can create informative 2D maps, while photogrammetry is ideal for more complex 3D modeling.

Who Uses These Processes?

Below are a few applications that frequently use remote sensing and photogrammetry:

1. Emergency Management

In an emergency, professionals need reliable data to develop plans for stanching floodwaters or containing fires. Remote sensing can provide an accurate picture of topography and map the scale of the disaster. Photogrammetry enables teams to generate reliable 3D models for planning evacuation routes or containment approaches.

2. Environmental Impact Assessment

Environmental science often uses remote sensing to gain concrete data about how ecological changes have progressed. For instance, a team might use remote sensing to map the decrease in foliage in a particular area or track the recession of glaciers or the polar ice caps.

3. Earthworks Development

Building earthworks requires detailed information about the landscape and topography. Engineers use remote sensing and photogrammetry to collect necessary data for grading the land and constructing features like roads, bridges, dams, canals, utility layouts and distribution and drainage systems. A drone can fly over a job site, for example, to capture data and turn it into a point cloud for use in planning projects.

4. Mining Monitoring and Expansion

Mining companies need reliable methods for monitoring their existing mines and scouting for new sites. Remote sensing and photogrammetry enable companies to generate maps and 3D images for these purposes.

5. Archaeological Recreation

Archaeological teams often need detailed 3D models so they can examine sites without disturbing delicate artifacts. Taking thousands of still photos and compiling them through photogrammetry enables these teams to develop highly accurate and realistic 3D models. Photogrammetry is also often indispensable for the virtual reconstruction of cultural heritage sites.

6. Forensics Analysis

At a crime scene, it’s essential to disturb the evidence as little as possible. But law enforcement personnel still need ways to examine the scene. Photogrammetry offers an ideal solution — a drone can fly overhead to take photographs and develop reliable 3D models for use in the investigation, as well as for lawyers and insurance adjusters. In countries like Colombia and Guatemala, photogrammetry has also helped detect and document clandestine graves where commercial satellite imagery was insufficient.

7. Architectural Recording

When architects or restoration specialists must survey historical buildings, remote measurement helps them ensure the structures’ continued integrity. Photogrammetry allows these teams to develop 3D maps, typically generating elevation drawings at scales of 1:20, 1:50 and 1:100, without touching or damaging the architectural features.

Work With the Experts at Take-Off Professionals for Photogrammetry Services

To see the benefits of reliable 3D imaging in your next construction project, partner with TOPS.

Why should you work with experts for photogrammetry services? When you do, you’ll gain the peace of mind that comes from working with professionals who have years of experience in the industry. Photogrammetry is a complex process, so collaborating with seasoned pros minimizes errors and increases the chances of a successful project.

Working with the experts at Take-off Professionals also means partnering with teams that specialize only in data. We don’t provide software or hardware — instead, we focus all our attention on data and modeling. You’ll get the careful attention your project deserves while knowing we have the in-depth focus to tackle even the toughest challenges. We also have dedicated engineering and surveying teams who can provide tailored guidance for civil engineering.

Contact us today to learn more about how photogrammetry can enhance your work.

Depth Map Sequences vs. Point Clouds

Depth Map Sequences vs. Point Clouds

A 3D model lets a civil contractor or construction professional perform machine control and layout planning before and during construction. Depth map sequencing and point cloud modeling are two examples of 3D modeling often used in construction. Although the two methods have some things in common, they ultimately have different goals and purposes. A point cloud is usually a collection of data points that form a shape, while a depth map conveys information about the distance between two objects in space.

Learn more about the differences and similarities between point cloud modeling and depth map sequencing below.

What Is Point Cloud Modeling?

Point cloud modeling produces a set of small data points, which exist in three dimensions and on X, Y and Z coordinates. The data points represent a part of a surface in a defined area, such as the area of a construction site. When arranged together, the points produce a clearly identifiable structure.

The more data points in the point cloud, the more detailed the structure and image will be. You can compare the data points that make a point cloud to the pixels that make up a digital image. The more pixels there are in an image, the clearer the picture is.

Point Cloud Modeling Methods

Point Cloud Modeling Methods

Two methods can produce point cloud models — photogrammetry and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), also known as remote sensing.

Photogrammetry is a relatively old process of collecting information about objects and surfaces. When photogrammetry is part of point cloud modeling, a drone takes multiple images of a work or construction site at various angles. After the drone takes the photos, the images are collected together and processed. Processing the images stitches them together, creating an overlapping picture and allowing you to build a 3D model from them.

While photogrammetry uses images to help you produce a 3D model, LiDAR uses laser beams. Typically, a device that transmits a laser is attached to an aerial vehicle. The vehicle goes up into the air, directing laser beams back to the Earth. The laser beams bounce off the Earth’s surface, returning to the vehicle.

LiDAR measures how long it takes for the laser beams to travel from the surface back to the aerial vehicle. In some ways, it is similar to echolocation, except instead of using sound waves to measure distances, LiDAR uses light beams. The information collected by LiDAR can then be transformed into a 3D model. Once the images or information is collected, the process of transforming them into a 3D model is similar for both photogrammetry and LiDAR.

Often, LiDAR collects more useful information than photogrammetry, particularly if there is dense tree cover over the area being measured and modeled. A photo can’t push through branches and leaves to give an accurate measurement to the ground below. A light beam can travel through the spaces or openings in the tree cover, allowing you to see how far below the ground is.

One drawback of LiDAR is that it can be more sensitive to weather conditions than photogrammetry. It can also have difficulty collecting accurate information when the surface is reflective.

The two methods also vary drastically regarding price. If you are on a budget, one method of capturing information for point cloud modeling might be more appropriate for you than the other.

What Is Point Cloud Modeling Used For?

Point cloud modeling has several uses in construction and engineering projects. You might need to create a point cloud for the following:

  • Surveying: Point cloud modeling can quickly and cost-effectively produce representations of roads, bridges and other complex structures.
  • Earthworks projects: Earthworks projects, such as excavating to produce a new road or lay pipe, can also benefit from the use of drones or aerial vehicles and point cloud modeling. Point cloud modeling allows your company to keep tabs on a project without visiting the site in person. It can also help improve worker safety on-site.
  • 3D models: Point cloud modeling also allows for the construction of more accurate 3D models for a project. The data captured during point cloud modeling allows you to accurately identify and distinguish objects in the area so you can create a precise representation.

Benefits of Point Clouds

If you need to create a 3D model for an engineering or construction project, using point cloud modeling offers multiple benefits:

  • Accuracy: A point cloud model is an accurate representation of an object or area. Both photogrammetry and LiDAR allow you to capture enough information to produce a detailed, correct model of a particular area.
  • Ease of budgeting: Since the process of capturing information for point cloud modeling is so accurate, you can develop a budget for your project without too much concern about going over or spending more than you can afford. Point cloud modeling also minimizes the risk of mistakes, meaning you will spend less time and money on correcting errors. You will also save time on your project, which translates to cost savings.
  • Efficiency: Point cloud modeling is a much more efficient process of building a 3D model, especially when compared to the time and effort it would take to create 3D models by hand. Increased efficiency means your project gets off the ground and can be completed sooner rather than later.

What Are Depth Map Sequences?

A point cloud lets you see every data point used to create an image. A depth map gives you a view of the data points from a particular angle. Another way to look at a depth map is as a 2D image that has been manipulated to look like a 3D image. A depth map has information on the distance between objects in a picture. It’s often shown in grayscale.

After the creation of a depth map sequence, the grayscale image is usually merged with the initial photo. Combining the two creates a third picture that looks 3D.

How to Create a Depth Map Sequence

To create a depth map, you start with a 2D image. Since the goal is to turn a 2D image into a 3D one, the source image must have several layers. Ideally, the starting photo will have a background, middle ground and foreground. To produce the depth map, you’ll need a photo and an image-editing program, such as Photoshop.

Start by selecting areas of the foreground, using the magic wand or another selection tool to trace them. After tracing each section, create a layer. Once you’ve selected and created the layers for the foreground, select the part of the image that makes up the middle ground. After that, select the section of the photo that will be the background.

After selecting and creating the layers for your 3D image, grayscale each layer. The layers in the background should be a darker gray than the foreground layers, which should be the lightest gray. You might find it easier to work if you grayscale the image before you begin cutting out the layers.

Once you’ve produced the grayscale image, you’ll merge it with the original picture in the photo editing tool. The overlap of the two images produces a photo that looks 3D.

What Are Depth Maps Used For?

One use of a depth map sequence is to create 3D advertising images. Another use is for producing 3D models for engineering and construction projects. Compared to a flat image, a depth map lets you see what is around or behind objects in a picture, providing you with a more accurate presentation of the area.

Point Cloud Modeling vs. Depth Map Sequences: Similarities and Differences

The primary feature that point cloud modeling and depth map sequences share is both use images to transform data into 3D models. The two methods give you a way to view information.

One of the differences between depth maps and point cloud modeling is the image’s viewpoint. A point cloud lets you see every point. A depth map only gives you a view of the points visible from a particular angle.

Another way to look at the differences between a depth map and a point cloud is to consider the image’s dimensions. Cartesian coordinates include an X-axis and Y-axis, which intersect each other perpendicularly. X and Y axes are all that is needed for 2D images.

When an image is 3D, there’s also a Z-axis, which intersects the X and Y axes and runs vertically. X and Y are horizontal. With a point cloud, you can see the image from all three axes. In contrast, a depth map only gives you the information found on the Z-axis.

Work With a Data Modeling Expert

Work With a Data Modeling Expert

Your project’s success depends on what you do with your data. The team of experienced engineers at Take-off Professionals (TOPS) can transform your data into a working 3D model. All you need to do is send us your plans and the CAD files and we’ll take care of the rest. To learn more about our services and the benefits of working with data modeling experts, get in touch with us today.

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The Evolution of Modeling in Construction

The Evolution of Modeling in Construction

The Evolution of Modeling in Construction

Building information modeling (BIM) has established itself as a useful process for architects and construction teams over the past two decades, as it allows users to create intelligent 3D models that include every detail of a building. This process also enables you to document management, coordination and simulation throughout your project’s life cycle, which includes planning, designing, construction, operation and maintenance.

Below, you’ll learn more about the evolution of BIM, one of the most important chapters in the history of construction. This story is a complex narrative that involved the U.S., Western Europe and a set of Soviet countries competing with each other to develop a flawless architectural solution to replace 2D workflows.

History of Modeling in Construction

BIM was a concept long before the technology was advanced enough to make it a reality. Notable early events in the history of modeling include the following.

Engelbart’s Vision

The conceptual foundations of BIM technology date back to the 1960s, when computing was still in its infancy.

In the paper Augmenting Human Intellect, engineer and inventor Douglas C. Engelbart provided his vision of the future. He stated that architects could begin designing a structure just by entering a series of data and specifications — for example, a 5-inch slab floor, 8-inch concrete wall and so on. As they began designing the structure, they could look at the model and adjust the parameters.

Solid Modeling Programs

In the 1970s and 1980s, solid modeling programs emerged. The two primary methods these programs used to display and record shape information were:

  • Constructive solid geometry (CSG): CSG uses numerous simple shapes that can either be solids or voids. The shapes can combine and intersect, subtract or combine, resulting in what appears to be more complex forms.
  • Boundary representation (BREP): Boundary representation, defines objects using their spatial boundaries by detailing the edges, points and surfaces of a volume.

Charles Eastman and the Building Description System

In the 1970s, architect and computer scientist Charles Eastman designed a project called the Building Description System (BDS). This program featured a graphical user interface, perspective and orthographic views and a database you could use to retrieve elements and add them to your model. These elements could be sorted into categories such as supplier and material type.

Eastman said this system would lower the cost of design through its efficiencies in analysis and drafting. However, most architects at the time could not use the software, and it is not even known if any projects were made using the program. However, BDS was notable because it identified some of the biggest issues architectural design would tackle over the next five decades.

Evolution of Modeling Technologies

3D modeling in construction saw major advancements in the 1980s with new features like temporal phasing and graphical analysis. Technologies like this made it easier for professionals to model construction equipment in their building projects.

Temporal Phasing

In the early 1980s, several systems developed in the U.K. gained traction and were used for construction projects. One notable system was RUCAPS, the first program to feature temporal phasing. It was useful in the phased construction of Terminal 3 of London’s Heathrow Airport.

In 1988, the Center of Integrated Facility Engineering was developed at Stanford, which was a major landmark in the evolution of BIM. It led to the development of 4D models with time attributes for building.

Simulations and Graphical Analysis

In 1993, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab started developing the Building Design Advisor, which would perform simulations using an object model of a structure and its context. This software was among the first to integrate simulations and graphical analysis to provide information regarding the project’s performance. It could do this given alternative conditions concerning the project’s geometry, orientation, building systems and material properties.

Soviet Contributions

While all these developments were happening in the U.S., two prominent programmers from the Soviet Block would end up defining BIM as we know it today. Leonid Raiz and Gábor Bojár founded the two groundbreaking programs ArchiCAD and Revit.

ArchiCAD is notable for being the first BIM software available on personal computers. Revit, which was developed as an improvement on ArchiCAD, could handle more complicated architectural projects.

Revit

Revit revolutionized the world of BIM by using a visual programming environment to create parametric families and allow for a time attribute to be added to components. This allows a “fourth dimension” of time to be associated with your building model, enabling contractors to make building schedules based on these BIM models and simulating the construction process.

The Freedom Tower in Manhattan was one of the first projects to utilize Revit for design and construction schedules. It was built in a series of separate but connected BIM models that were tied to schedules, providing real-time material quantities and cost estimations.

What Is the Future of Modeling?

Although the concepts and technologies behind BIM are almost 30 years old, we have only begun to realize all the potential benefits of this growing industry. In the years and decades to come, possible advancements include the following concepts.

Project Quantum

The purpose of Project Quantum by Autodesk is to make BIM work in the cloud. As of now, applications are designed with one type of user in mind and have their own data formats. Autodesk wants to make some of its applications work together in a common data environment. This concept was demonstrated by opening up four applications on a single screen, with one of these platforms being Revit.

Each time a change was made using Revit, the change would appear in the other three applications. This data isn’t being translated to be compatible with other applications — it is instead transmitted to the other platforms via Quantum.

Live Sensors

With live BIM, we can make 3D models of buildings, bridges and roads using real-time sensors. We then combine the 3D model with environmental and physical data, resulting in the model changing color and shape based on these data. These live sensors can alert you of a problem before something actually goes wrong. By doing this, you can get a more comprehensive idea of how a structure behaves.

Work With a Data Modeling Expert

At Take-off Professionals, we create 3D data for layout and machine control. We also offer earthwork takeoffs with material quantities and dirt, cut and fill maps and mass haul analysis for roads and sites. Our cutting-edge process allows you to easily access high-quality data, providing you with the confidence to complete a project successfully. You can reach out to us for more information on working with us for an upcoming project by calling 623-323-8441, emailing us at info@takeoffpros.com or filling out our contact form.

3D Modeling for a Cul-De-Sac

3D Modeling for a Cul-De-Sac

American suburbia is practically synonymous with cookie-cutter houses, carefully manicured lawns and winding roads. Another staple of these types of neighborhoods is the cul-de-sac. These road designs have been used in suburban planning for the better part of the last century, increasing in use alongside American car-ownership. While cul-de-sacs are necessary in residential planning, however, they pose significant challenges for those involved in the planning. In particular, designing a 3d model cul-de-sac can be difficult due to the unique geometry involved. For this reason, we’ll cover the basics of cul-de-sacs in city planning, how to draw a cul-de-sac in AutoCAD and how Take-Off Professionals can help simplify the process.

What Is a Cul-De-Sac?

The cul-de-sac has been a common feature of the American suburb since the mid-20th century. This French term translates to “bottom of the sack,” and is used to refer to a dead-end street where the only outlet is the entrance. These suburban road designs are a direct result of the American motor age, purposefully created to allow for more spacious property facades while simultaneously encouraging slower car movements.

Cul-de-sacs were first used in 1928 in New Jersey, but gained popularity in the 1950s as car ownership boomed. The design gained further popularity as engineering studies on residential street safety encouraged more discontinuous street systems like cul-de-sacs. These studies found that such designs reduced the number of motor vehicle accidents compared to grid-based designs, and generally encouraged safer driving practices. Both features proved to be highly desirable for the more family-centered residential neighborhoods.

How Are Cul-De-Sacs Designed?

While it is simple to describe a cul-de-sac as a dead-end street, there is much more that goes into the design. Cul-de-sacs vary in road length but are typically designed with wider-than-normal road widths to allow cars to park along the sides while still allowing residents to enter and exit. These roads may be even wider if driveways are placed along the roadway. The defining feature of the cul-de-sac, however, is the wide, circular termination. This termination is where most of the residential driveways are placed. Cul-de-sac terminations are typically 100 feet or more in diameter, which allows cars to easily maneuver in and out of driveways and service and emergency vehicles to turn around.

Cul-De-Sacs in Neighborhood Planning

Homebuyers desire cul-de-sac-based communities for their safer streets, neighborly environments and lower crime rates since criminals tend to avoid confusing street patterns that make for more difficult getaways. While these features make cul-de-sacs more desirable for residents, planners favor them as well. Here are a few reasons why:

 

  • Reduced infrastructure costs: Cul-de-sac patterns require significantly less road and utility construction compared to grid patterns. Grid patterns require up to 50% more road construction and 25% more water and sewer line construction.
  • Improved topographical adaptation: While grid patterns blanket entire regions with invasive infrastructure, discontinuous cul-de-sac patterns can be designed to work around areas that may be more topographically challenging or ecologically important.
  • Decreased standards: Because they do not carry through-traffic, city regulations often do not apply in the same way to cul-de-sac-based neighborhoods as they do to grid patterns. As such, planners have less to worry about with regards to street widths, curbs and sidewalks.

 

These planning advantages make cul-de-sacs beneficial for home-buyers and a useful tool for neighborhood planners as well. For this reason, knowing how to design a cul-de-sac in 3D is a necessity for any construction design professional.

How Are Cul-De-Sacs Modeled?

Cul-de-sacs can be modeled with any AutoCAD software just like any other type of road. Using the data collected from a detailed topographical survey, planners can create a general plan for the roadways and cul-de-sacs. From there, professionals can then combine these plans into a detailed 3d model using AutoCAD software. Models should feature the cul-de-sac road, as well as any lots surrounding the cul-de-sac.

Cul-de-sacs can be modeled in several ways, but four primary features determine the overall shape and size of the cul-de-sac:

 

  • Centerline curve: The centerline of a cul-de-sac is the centerline of the street leading to the termination. This centerline can be curved or straight, dictating the overall shape of the cul-de-sac road. The centerline curve is typically determined by the topography of the area and should be placed in a way that allows plenty of room between the road and any topographical features that will not be altered during construction.
  • Terminal radius: The radius of the circular terminal is the distance from the center of the terminal to each side, and determines the overall size of the cul-de-sac’s terminal. For cul-de-sacs, this radius is a minimum of 50 feet, which results in a terminal that is 100 feet wide to allow plenty of room for emergency vehicles. The radius may be wider, especially if the cul-de-sac features a center island.
  • Termination placement: The termination of the cul-de-sac is designed to be a circular shape, but this circular feature may be placed in various ways. A symmetrical cul-de-sac is designed with the circular feature placed straight on the end of the centerline, resulting in the traditional match-head shape of a cul-de-sac. Alternatively, a cul-de-sac can be designed with the circular feature offset up to 90 degrees from the end of the centerline, resulting in a terminal that curves to one side.
  • Return curves: Placing a circular shape on the end of a rectangular road will result in sharp edges at the meeting points between the two shapes, which is undesirable for road construction. For this reason, the transition from the circular cul-de-sac terminal to the road is graded using return curves.

 

The above features are essential to know and consider while modeling for cul-de-sac neighborhoods and will come into play during the design process discussed below.

How to Design a Cul-De-Sac

Designing a 3D model cul-de-sac in AutoCAD is the most important step before initiating construction, as it creates a detailed plan to work from that can help streamline construction and minimize costly mistakes. However, cul-de-sacs are more difficult to design than normal roadways. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this model is by starting with a square and rounding off the corners to create a circle. This is a step-by-step guide for how to create a cul-de-sac with a rounded terminal using this method:

 

  1. Draw the road: First, create the road section of the cul-de-sac. In AutoCAD, this will appear as parallel lines with no clear termination. Be sure to place the road in a way that goes around topographical features that will remain in the final construction.
  2. Terminate the road: Draw a straight centerline across the end of the road where the circular terminal will be placed. Keep in mind that the terminal will extend past this endpoint by the termination radius, so allow enough room for the radius extending past this point. Make sure that the length of this centerline matches the diameter of the cul-de-sac, and place it according to the type of cul-de-sac you want to make. If creating a symmetrical cul-de-sac, place the middle of this centerline at the end of the road’s centerline. If creating an asymmetrical cul-de-sac, offset the new centerline as desired.
  3. Create the terminal base: Using the centerline drawn in the previous step, create a square section of road with a width that matches the diameter of the desired terminal. This should result in a square section of road that approximates the shape and size of the final terminal. At this point, double-check the placement of the road square to make sure that the terminal placement is correct. Symmetrical cul-de-sacs should be placed so that all sides of the terminal are equidistant from the centerline endpoint for the main road, while asymmetrical cul-de-sacs should be offset to one side.
  4. Create the junction: At this point, the AutoCAD software will detect a junction and should prompt you to create the return curves for the terminal. Enter the desired radius for these return curves — these should be fairly small, but keep in mind that the smaller the radius, the sharper the curve.
  5. Round out the terminal: At this point, you are ready to change the shape of the terminal to a circle. Use the road tools and select the section of road you have created. Depending on the software you are using, you should have the option to either change the shape all at once or to select each corner and set a radius for a curve. Make the changes according to what your software allows.
  6. Adjust terminal placement and junctions: From here, you can change the details of the terminal to match your desired plan. This may include moving the terminal from a symmetrical to an asymmetrical placement or vice versa. You can also change the radii of the junctions to create more gradual return curves.
  7. Add grading: Once the overall shape of the cul-de-sac is complete, you can combine this design with a topographical map or manually change the vertical leveling of the model to match the topography of the construction project.

The above guide represents a basic method for modeling cul-de-sacs in AutoCAD that practically any construction planning professional can use, with some adjustments depending on the specific software. But we have yet to address an important question about modeling for cul-de-sacs — why is it so important to model cul-de-sacs accurately?

 

Why Model Cul-De-Sacs?

Construction sites used to rely solely on surveyor stakes, heavy-duty equipment and quality operators, but 3D modeling has brought about significant changes in the way residential areas are constructed. 3D models create more accurate layouts that precisely show what is needed for a construction project and can identify potential problems before equipment breaks ground. This careful planning minimizes project costs significantly by reducing errors and maximizing labor efficiency. This is especially important for residential cul-de-sac construction, which is highly affected by construction costs and is significantly inconvenienced by lengthy construction periods.

On top of the cost benefits of implementing 3D models in traditional construction, 3D modeling can be used in implementing 3D model machine control. If you’re not familiar with this concept, machine control uses positioning sensors on equipment to give machine operators real-time feedback during construction. These sensors tell operators how to position buckets and blades as well as target grades, which minimizes error and maximizes construction site efficiencies. When implemented correctly with quality 3D modeling, machine control can help achieve the following:

 

  • Increased machine efficiency: By providing detailed feedback and instructions, machine control helps operators maximize machine efficiency and productivity.
  • Decreased operating expenses: Because the equipment is used more efficiently, construction projects require less fuel and maintenance to achieve the same results.
  • Minimized materials costs: 3D modeling allows for improved visualization of material usage, meaning that raw materials are used more effectively.
  • Reduced surveying costs: Using 3D models and sensors, the equipment provides feedback about grades to operators, reducing the need for ongoing grade checking.
  • Lowered labor costs: With more effective sensors, workers get real-time feedback that makes them more efficient, reducing the amount of labor needed for each project.
  • Minimized errors: Real-time feedback allows workers to see their progress as they go and catches errors early, reducing the need for reworking areas.

The key to achieving these benefits for cul-de-sac projects, however, is using complete and accurate 3D models. This is why construction companies are increasingly choosing 3D machine control modeling services to help with their neighborhood construction projects. If you’re looking for quality modeling for cul-de-sac projects, Take-Off Professionals can help.

 

Work With a Data Modeling Expert

At TOPS, our specialty is preparing 3D models for construction sites of all types. With over two decades of experience providing 3D models for the construction industry and a talented team of engineers and technical staff, we have what it takes to transform your data into what you need to achieve your goals. We produce approximately 1,000 machine control models a year, and our clients can attest to our accurate, timely and detail-focused service. Best of all, TOPS has engineers working in all major U.S. time zones, providing timely service across the nation.

In addition to our high-quality service and staff, TOPS provides a unique platform for our clients to upload all their project files, notes and related documents. With this secure and user-friendly program, our clients can communicate with us effectively while still being able to focus on their core business. It’s all part of our dedication to a hassle-free client experience.

Contact TOPS today to learn more about the benefits of our services and how we can help with your next residential construction project.

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