3D laser scanning is an efficient measurement tool for the refining industry. It is ideal for the 3D measurement of complex industrial complexes and facilities.
To conduct CAD technical 3D laser scans is a demanding task. The key for a successful and cost efficient implementation is based on a clear definition of the requirements, the required results that have to be met, and the right choice of methods and tools. The information content of the point cloud allows for a detailed depiction of the complexes and facilities down to installations such as valves and fittings. The amount of detail defines the effort needed. The time ratio between measurement and modeling of the scan can be between 1 to 4 and 1 to 15. Often much simpler results are satisfactory to obtain the information the planner needs for the task. Some users are actually taking the desired information directly from the point cloud. For them the demanding modeling is not necessary. In other cases additional data needs to be obtained. 3D laser scanning only gives a picture of the geometrical ratios (as build documentation) without any intelligent reasoning. The demand for intelligent models is increasing and it will stay the standard for a long time.
For implementation one has to use the right software solutions. Most of the commonly used CAD systems are not made for handling point clouds. Thus there are two different types of solutions in this area of industry as well. For several commercial CAD systems there are plugins available to import of and for the work with point clouds. An example is LMI (Laser Modelling Interface) for the software PDMS (Plant Design Mangement System).
Alternatively one can use external software to establish a 3D model. Modules for modeling of industrial plants are already included with the software solutions offered by the hardware manufacturers. There is also third party software that offers modeling tools independent of the manufacturer. It is not expected that one solution will be dominating the market. There are too many CAD solutions in the refining industry that are used successfully in practice.
Both variants seem to be establishing themselves on the market. One is the transfer of the point cloud via a plugin into a design CAD program. The planner can directly use his tools and libraries. The end-user will have to purchase the plugin.
The other variant is having a service provider doing the measurements and modeling. The provider will then use packages of either the hardware manufacturer or 3D modeling software packages. In this case it is of important that the handing over of the data is well defined so that the planner is obtaining data that his system can handle.