Interview with David Southam about laser scanning in construction
Let's take a look at what he had to say:
 1. How did David get into laser scanning technologies?
I left school at 16 and went straight into an Engineering Apprenticeship with a company called Superform Aluminium in Worcester who specialise in forming aluminium to create components for the Aerospace, Automotive and the Architectural industries. This was a mix between practical and study leading to an HNC in Manufacturing.
During my time at Superform I was working in the Quality Department which involved measuring components and checking them against the master CAD file, it was during this time, over 10 years ago, that I had my first encounter with a Laser Scanner.
We had a demonstration on the FARO Arm with a non-contact Laser Line Probe and I was literally blown away with the portability, speed, accuracy and could see that this type of technology was going to be the way forward and the 3D Laser Scanning market was going to explode in many areas.
I then approached FARO aged 24 to see if there were any opportunities to get more involved in this highly technical and fast paced industry.
I worked my way up from an Account Manager covering a small part of the UK to my current role as Regional Manager Europe North for BIM/CIM and Product Design and it has been an amazing 10 year journey.
 2. Has the BIM movement caused an increase Laser Scanning?
Laser Scanning has grown in popularity over the past few years for many reasons, the cost of ownership has come down, the units are lighter, faster and most importantly the main software providers now supply software that can use the data in an efficient way to create the deliverables.
BIM has had a massive impact on the use of Laser Scanning, the main reason is that people want more and more detail, we have also learnt that the more detail you have the more you can make informed decisions to improve safety and get things done correctly.
In the UK we have congested cities and to be able to build or renovate we need to know exactly what we have in or around a site. BIM is also making companies really look at costs, often Laser Scanning can be seen as a cost that may seem high for the initial outlay but it has been proven on many projects that the right information at the start can save time and money later in the project.
Many companies using BIM are multinational so you may not be able to pop to site to take a few dimensions or to check a certain area that you are designing. With the scan data, you are able to visit the area virtually while sat at your desk without inductions, health and safety issues and importantly lost time travelling.
We have seen a real rise in popularity of web based deliverables like FARO SCENE WebShare Cloud which allows you to access your scan data via a secure cloud platform and use your internet browser as the software interface, this really opens the information up to everyone and leads to better collaboration.
The scanners can then be used during the construction phase so that the project can be checked against the working Model and any issues highlighted and rectified before it disrupts project timelines and costs.
You could also capture ceiling voids and details during the first fix, these will be covered later with ceiling tiles and plaster board but you have a record of where the assets are exactly in the building.
Finally, once the construction is complete you can scan the entire area and produce a true As-Built record of the area, this negates the need for poorly marked up construction drawings and could be then used as a Facility Management tool in the future.
 4. FARO's handheld scanner for Construction?
We have the FARO Freestyle X which is great for Construction as it's simple and quick at capturing 3D data, if you arrive onsite and you have 3 pipes at different angles it could take some time to work out the details and dimensions.
With the Freestyle you can just point it at the area you wish to capture and move around the object, you are then collecting a Point Cloud which can be used in conjunction with your other scan data or moved into your CAD package.
We waste hours and hours taking pictures, making sketches on notepads and walking around building sites, most of the data we capture is not used by anyone else; Laser Scanning streamlines this and gives you all of the information in a fraction of the time.
 5. Can the 3D Point Clouds be sent straight to the 3D printer?
There are already ways of doing this directly from Point Clouds but it is far better to mesh the Point Cloud and create a surface. 3D printers produce much better results from solid data rather than point data.
 6. Laser Scanning using Helicopters and Drones?
Across the world, there are many companies doing scanning from Drones. Our FARO Focus unit has been used on many projects as it has a weight of 5.2 kg so is one of the lightest terrestrial scanners on the market.
 7. What advances in scanning technologies do you expect to see in the future?
The main developments in Scanning technology in recent years have come from the software's that we interface with.
The advancement of computing power and storage have really helped the major software companies use the amount of detail that we capture and allow users a smoother workflow.
The hardware side of scanners has not changed too much as they are light, fast, simple and the cost has come down significantly. FARO have recently introduced built in HDR imagery and also linking the scanner to other sensors like the Scan Localizer.
The Scan Localizer is currently available through FARO Labs Early Adopter Program and is specifically aimed at the indoor BIM market. The Scan Localizer mounts under the FARO Focus3D Laser Scanner and makes continuous 2D scans to provide detailed registration information, removing the need for reference targets. This speeds up the process and you leave the site with data registered and ready to use.
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