Posts Tagged laser

Get in the pool! Historic Santa YMCA Begins Its Journey to Return to the Community.

Pointknown tasked with creating a Revit model of an existing YMCA in Santa Ana CA utilized a variety of technologies to capture existing architecture on site. We used a FARO Focus, GeoSlam ZebRevo, Leica Distos and our own PKNail software. And grit, and coffee, and ladders.

Hi Jim, The model is fantastic… 1st Six Words Upon Delivery of our Santa Ana YMCA Revit Model

Troy Fosler – Koning Eizenberg

The historic YMCA located in the heart of Santa Ana abandoned over twenty years ago is set to go under a massive rehabilitation and afterwards be returned to the community.

The proposed renovation of a landmark YMCA built in 1924 will restore the building’s role as a central anchor in the community of Santa Ana. The project aspires to influence positive lifestyles through wellness & fitness programs designed for a variety of local stakeholders.

Having been involved in hundreds of renovation and reuse projects, it’s awesome to be part of one that can have such a huge impact on an entire community. Good on ya Santa Ana I’ll see you in the pool.


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3D Capture and Use : Not even at the Pong Level…..Yet


We are still at the bleeding edge of the 3D capture technology.  Even though LIDAR has been around since the early 60’s, commercialization of it remains small.   Its projected market for  2018 is $515 million.  What does that tell me?  That’s ridiculously low.  For perspective Facebook’s market cap is around $200b,  EA Sports, the game producer for ubiquitous gaming technology is around $12b. Those are single companies not an industry.  The total market for LIDAR, that is 3D capture of real objects is going to be $515M in 2018.  Something else needs to happen to bring 3D to the main stream, and what’s happening now is the introduction of light weight inexpensive 3D sensors from a who’s who of technology companies.  A partial list and by no means exhaustive.

And from the way back machine:

Pong, the granddaddy of all video games was arguably the first commercial/consumer success of the gamification of a piece of hardware and its enveloping logic,  in the case of pong it was TTL (Transistor – Transistor Logic ).   So what’s important to note here is the players now involved in the introduction.  Intel, Google, Microsoft, Apple……..  We have the introduction of the hardware and their SDK packs for developers. The next stage will be most interestin; .the software, the games, the apps, the big easy. The other  technology beyond these new sensors and LIDAR in most use;   photographs.  Right now I see in the market a lot of people taking pictures of statues or people, turning them into a 3D Digital object and then maybe printing them out on a 3D printer,  I don’t see that as a viable business model, personally I don’t want a 3D printed object of anyone I know and to me it borders on ventriloquist dummy creepiness.  However, we need to go through these stages to get to whatever breakthroughs and or commercial successes there will be in the future.

3D printing is moving rapidly, if not into the mainstream, into real uses.  The 3D printing market is estimated to be $16.2 billion in 2018 comapred to $2.5 billion in 2013.    That is 30x the expected LIDAR market.  Why?  Companies are printing machine parts (cars, airplanes, etc.) there is movement toward biological printing of food/meat and body parts.  So really the mass customization of things where before making one of anything could cost thousands of dollars.  I recall prototyping parts through CNC machining or SLA cost at a minimum hundreds of dollars and for bigger parts easily thousands and up.  At back to school night this year they had amakerbot set up in the High School lobby and would print out key chains with your initials for a $5 donation.  Holy What? Really?  How about 3D printing a partial titanium skull to help someone after the original was smashed in an accident.  But 5 bucks for a custom printed 3D object?

So what’s the next step in the 3D scanning world now that people can start getting them in their hands for hundreds of dollars, opposed the LIDAR systems that start around $50K.  You and your friends scan your house and drop it in as a map pack for Call of Duty.  3D virtual tours of the Louvre.  3D estimating of car damage…….I’m really not sure but I am sure there will be plenty of people working on it.  Making the capture and use of 3D easy, that will be the magic trick.  Why you might want to is a bigger question.  What do I need 3D data for?  For real estate?  Who is ever going to buy something without physically seeing it.  To quote a commercial broker when I was doing some biz dev, “I get them in the car and show it to them…” Remember the broker business is intensely personal so A) they want technology to help them not replace them and B) I am not sure having great 3D imagery is going to sell it.  Maybe as part of the tenant fit out allowance they get 3D Design services, or as part of the negotiation you show them what it could look like with their allowance…..I would be really interested in what people think about this subject beyond it’s cool.


For something cool, check out the video posted for Mok3 above, Yonald and his cohorts had figured out a way in 2003 to take pictures and turn them into 3D environments., the world is still catching up.


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Android Everywhere: Toasters, Robots, and Lasers…The World

androidarmySure we want our phone to do everything, make payments, take pictures, unlock our house, turn on the oven….but if you think of all those appliances why don’t they just have a touch screen and create my own button, Jim’s Toast. And if they all can talk to each other, and then tell me when my toast is done.  Why have single use buttons at all, why should I go through fifteen menu options to defrost chicken in my microwave, shouldn’t there be an app for that?  Even better how about a ‘cook chicken’ app that knows what appliance it is running on and then just does the job of cooking the chicken, microwave, oven, toaster oven, crock pot, doesn’t care.

So why, presumably tackle this, on this blog.  In my day to day pitching software as well as services, I get asked in 98% of the meeting, does it run on an ipad, what is your ipad strategy.  It starts to sound like the scene when John Malkovich drops into his own brain in the movie “Being John Malkovich” but instead of the word “Malkovich” being spoken as every word, it’s ipad.  Listen I got an ipad, it’s great at content and information delivery but as much as I’d like to strap it on to a pair of robot legs and have it run the world, it can’t do everything, and in the AEC profession we still need a set of professional tools, but we can certainly learn from the UI experience of the ipad, and its apps, touch interface etc.  And if the iOS was available to stuff on every appliance I’d say iOS everywhere, but it’s not, and Apple long ago made the decision to control their ecosystem.  So Android.

Drilling this down into my day to day I use two hand held devices almost everyday, first it’s my phone, and secondly it’s a laser range finder.  The phone, while not yet making my toast, does an extraordinary amount of work.  My laser, essentially a brick that gives me a critical piece of data.  We have software running on a workstation that takes the data and does good things with it, but the laser itself, not so much.   However, put Android on the laser the User Experience I can give our clients increases exponentially, or at least geometrically.  Instead of looking at a set of single use buttons that we assign sub routines to, we can design an interface that is simplified, elegant, self explanatory.  The laser itself becomes the hand held with wifi, bluetooth.  You can serve information, query data, use it as a walkie talkie on a job sight, etc. granted your not taking it out on the town at night, but during the day this is it.  You put the apps on it that make sense.  Need to capture the volume of a room, assign it a room number and move on, boom done.  All on the hand held.  There is a start to this, with a laser you can strap on the iphone, so somebody is up and thinking, but I don’t have an iphone and the laser/strap on doesn’t have the features and commercial strength I need but on the face of it, great idea.

So Android Everywhere, appliances talking to appliances, cats with dogs, and with Bluetooth Smart Ready, your phone will unlock doors, tell you when your toast is done…just hope google doesn’t serve me an ad after my toast pops up, ‘Wouldn’t You Like Some Smuckers Jam on that Toast”



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5 Firms Converge on New Orleans to Document The Royal Sonesta

 “Jim your a go….” 2:40 PM, New Years Eve 2012.  Text from our client; Mark at Looney &  Associates  

Our work window was January 3rd through January 9 2013.  Travel arrangements and team needed to be assembled for flights in two days.  The only thread holding this together was PKNail Pro.

Team members included individuals from Langan Engineering, Turis, TrueScan3d, LandAir Surveying and my company Interioreview.  The Job: Survey and Document Floors 2-7 of the Royal Sonesta Hotel, 300 Bourbon Street.  Include structure, electrical objects (Duplex, Com Ports, Thermostats, Wall Lights, etc) and Fire Protection.  450+ Rooms, Common Spaces, Administrative Spaces, +200,000 SF.  1 Week.   From Blank Screen to Floorplans and RCP.

“This is innovative stuff…”, Greg Jensen, Langan Engineering

“…Boom, your done.” Brady O’Brien, Turis Systems

“This certainly opens the door for future teaming efforts, and we’ve already begun to push PK Nail on some of our interior projects – integrating it with scanning and traditional survey.” – Paul Fisher, VP Langan Engineering.

This project could not have happened without the participating firms willingness to deal with such a tight deployment deadline and with the excellent individuals that arrived in New Orleans.  It also could not have happened, and I do have a horse in this race, without PKNail Pro and Revit.  There was simply no other way to coordinate multiple personnel field surveying without both.  We were able to deploy resources as needed since everything was being surveyed and modeled in real time.  4th Floor, South Wing, Greg get on it.  Brian, 2nd Floor with Nico etc.  This also allowed us to create a punch list in real time.  Reflected Ceiling on 3rd Floor, etc. as all the files were compiled daily, if not more often into a central file.  Although the deliverable will eventually be in 2D Autocad, all the initial documentation will be in Revit, so even though it was not part of the scope, we will be able to deliver a typical section through the building with only a small post processing effort.

Lastly, thank you to the good folks at The Royal Sonesta, New Orleans for treating us so well.  They understand hospitality and have a great team.

More and more firms are relying on PKNail Pro for documenting buildings whether they need the final deliverable in Revit or 2D Autocad.  PKNail Pro can deliver.


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Current Technologies for Reality Capture : #Revit #BIM #AU2011

I was at the recent Autodesk University in Las Vegas and sat in the session for Reality Capture for Rapid Energy Modeling by Jess Miller who discussed the current technologies and work flows to document existing buildings digitally in Revit.  As it stands the 4 available today are:

  • Satellite Imagery
  • Laser Scanning
  • 123D Catch (aka Photofly)
  • PKNail Pro

All of these technologies with the exception of PKNail, yes I do have a horse in this race, require a user to extract geometry from one program and draft in another.  PKNail allows a user to survey and model directly in Revit.  However, the most important task is choosing the right tool for the job and usually this is driven by the scope of the project/deliverable, what the model is going to be used for, and conditions and access of the building.  First, let’s look briefly at the current technologies and how they work.

Satellite Imagery

this requires getting oblique images from a source such as bing maps or Pictometry, that then can then be scaled and traced over in Revit.  While it could be the least expensive of the methods it is generally a lot less accurate, requires something that allows you to scale the photos properly either on site measurements, existing plot plan, or CAD floor plan and any real details will not be included.  This might prove to be an okay method to extract geometry for energy modeling but the model would end there, you could not use it to move forward with an architectural model.  Additionally, it requires a sophisticated users knowledge of Revit through linking photos and extracting geometry.

Laser Scanning.

This is generally done as a service, that is you hire a company who has a laser scanner to create a pointcloud of the building you need.  Estimates range from $3-$5K per day to have someone scanning a building.  I know from experience that I have been quoted almost $60,000 to scan the exterior and interior of a single story industrial building and that did not include the Revit model we needed.  We would have to build that ourselves from the point cloud.   However, if you need an accurate 3D data set of an existing structure it is an excellent resource.  You will need to import the pointcloud into Revit and trace over it to create the geometry making it at least a 2 step process.  There are some technologies available such as Imaganit from Rand Technologies that will allow a user to extract some geometry to Revit but it is still a manual process.  I have seen excellent use of this technology is extensive exposed MEP projects, think boiler room or oil rig, or difficult and inaccessible geometry, such as the Capitol Dome.

123D Catch,

is a program that allows you take pictures of building, send them up into the cloud and have them stitched together and served back to you as a 3D Photo model that you can then scale and extract geometry from.    I have not had success using this product.  I want to be successful using this product because I think it would be awesome but the few times I have sent something up to the could I get back something that looks like I am looking through a kaleidoscope.  I highly recommend you take a look because as the technology progresses and computers get more powerful this will only get better.

PKNail Pro for Revit,

this is an add in to Revit that allows you to create real Revit objects, driven wirelessly from laser range finder (Disto D8) and from measurements in the field.  That is measure wall, press a button and the wall is created directly in Revit.  This is the only software that works within the actual BIM software so there is no need to translate or extract geometry.  PKNail Pro automates current workflows and data capture and allows a user to finish the model on site.  It excels at creating dimensionally correct 3D models of the both the interior and exterior.  However, if you need a lot of exterior detail you may want to pair it with another of the technologies to create gutter sweeps, cornice work, etc. if that is needed on the project.  PKNail also recognizes any Revit wall so you could another technology/method to create the exterior and use PKNail Pro to capture all the interior fit outs.

What it boils down to is what is needed based on the scope of the project and your budget.  Choose the right tool for the job and don’t limit yourself, because who wants to use a hammer when you need a screw driver, or use a jackhammer when you need to hang a picture.  I’ll work on my metaphors, you work on capturing reality.


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PKNail : Hand Held Laser Direct to Revit Building Surveying Software Let’s you Fly.

Flying Squirrel at Yosemite

November 16, 2011 – Boston, MA

7,000 Square Feet of Mixed Medical Office Space, Single Floor, 4 Hours.  All Surveyed in Revit.  All Revit Objects. In 3D.  All Doors and Windows sized in 3 Dimensions.  Exterior and Interior Fit Outs.  Considering the shell had to be done. other floors would go faster, 20,000 SF a day per person not uncommon, Office Space within the same shell, even faster.  Build, Document in Real Time using a hand held laser, driving Revit through the laser key pad as long as your laptop is close by no need to stop.  Measure, build, boom…done.

PKNail was designed by field professionals for anyone who has ever had to document a building, to put a tool in your bag that helps you be successful in what you do.  Do things quicker, do them better, produce for your clients, produce for yourself.

PointKnown will be at Autodesk University in Las Vegas to launch PKNail for Revit, compatible with both Revit 2011 and Revit 2012 and then at EcoBuild in Washington DC the week after.

You can catch Jess Miller’s session at AU where she will present her own findings for PKNail for Reality Capture.

And why the flying squirrel?  Well, look at him. He’s sitting on the precipice and he’s going to jump, and when he does he’s going to fly.



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Leica 3D Disto : Capture 3D Points for As Builts and Layouts : BIM

I cannot pronounce much more than it exists as I have not had my hands on one, and the video included below seems to use it mostly for layouts, not for data capture.  NAFTA Leica_3D_Disto_Word-Flyer1.0 .  However, when Pointclouds seem excessive from a data and price perspective, and one needs to determine points on inaccessible or complex geometry, this could be the aspirin (does anyone take aspirin anymore) to that headache, or for that matter doing complex ceiling systems or even reflected ceiling.

So what’s on board besides the laser?  Camera with 8x Zoom so you can see far off points and DXF input and output and while there is some more stuff that seems to be the most important and data transfer to anything else is via USB stick.  Why not include bluetooth as almost every laptop, netbook and the new iPad comes with it and seems a glaring omission.    How about if it came with an ‘app’ for iPad and Android instead that could drive instead of its own proprietary piece of hardware.

I wonder if you can move it around in the same room because most rooms I know of are not completely open with shots available to every point you needs, and how you would coordinate points for integrated output?  There is some software available called ‘Room Scan’ but have not seen enough of it to know.

MSRP is set at $7995 so up to surveyors, etc to think if it is worth the price tag.

Leica 3D Disto Intro Video


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Laser to Revit : Laser to BIM : New Tools to Capture the Built Environment

With PointKnown’s introduction of PKNail and PPLT (Point to Point Laser Technology) utilizing a Leica Disto and Rand Technologies recent press release announcing the ability to manipulate and manage laser scan, point cloud data within Revit the opportunity and tools to capture existing conditions continues to grow.  Combine that with the growing need to capture existing conditions for energy modeling and retrofits and you can see an industry emerging, not just using it for special circumstances but start capturing existing structures in 3D/BIM for uses that range from space planning, facility management, energy audits and beyond.

While it has been reported and analyzed that some of the biggest frustrations, time sinks and expenditures is that lack of interoperability between software, and redundant efforts between disciplines, that is creating the same thing, many times for each discipline the advent of BIM authoring tools like Revit, and ways to combine and work with them can help firms and individuals reduce rework and create more opportunities for their design and construction work; looks like a win all around.  And with these technologies firms can start on existing structures in BIM and Revit and have all the benefits.


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PointKnown Nails It. Rapid Models Autodesk AEC HQ in Waltham: Pilot moves on.

So some individuals at Autodesk got to see our ‘handcrafted’ videos available at our PKLabs YouTube Channel and got in touch.  Ani Deodhar, a Program Manager in their Sustainability Group, explained to me he had a mandate to come up with the best work flows across all of their product lines in order to energy model existing buildings.  They have been working on geometry extraction in the labs and anyone who has seen the Photofly demos can attest, this looks very promising.  However, our goal with PKNail was always to capture dimensionally correct space and do so with a minimum of software knowledge so PKNail can be leveraged across an organization rather than with a specialized few.  I am not knocking any process just pointing out that if you want to move a pallet, for example, it would be nice you could just do it rather than find the guy or gal with the forklift license and then ask them to move it, and then hopefully you get it right the first time.   Maybe not the best metaphor but you get it, the more people that can do something, the more of whatever ‘it’ is you can do.

On site at Autodesk Waltham and using PKNail we were able to survey, measure, build  in real time the shell of the building in Revit in less than 3 hours.  Then depending on what level of detail, and features you want in the deliverable you may want to spend sometime in the office.  However, when we left we knew we had all the key dimensions and information and the model itself was built.  This was done at a level needed for energy modeling and we only modeled from the exterior but PKNail allows you to create interior layouts, floor by floor as needed as well.  It was then ported through Revit CEA to create an energy analysis of the building.

When creating PKNail we wanted to make things easier on ourselves. The product grew organically from our architectural surveying business. When you’ve repeated the same task enough times, or if you missed a crucial step or measurement that would require you to back to the field, etc. you think there must be a better way. Just like when you make the jump from 2D to 3D you thought, there must be a better way to communicate with my clients, coordinate views, coordinate disciplines, and here it is. Revit is increasingly becoming that better way. Use it however you want, it’s a tool, you can use it communicate visually with your clients if that’s what you need it for or use it to coordinate construction; your choice but it helps. PKNail allows you to quickly and accurately capture existing buildings digitally, either just the exterior for energy modeling or to start your as-built documentation.

On a recent conference call to discuss our pilot with Autodesk, one of the attendees said something like this:

“So you simplified the GUI to automate the tasks you need when surveying and allowed for the wireless capture of data to minimize key stroking”

Well, I don’t know if I would say it exactly like that, but yeah, that’s what we did, and I added that we created a workflow and process that squeezes the surveying knowledge of our organization into the software so people can be a success right out of the box. We wanted to take something simple, point and shoot distance meters, very simple and marry it with something that can be infinitely complex, 3D BIM authoring tools as in Revit, and in turn try to make that simple. Measure a wall/build a wall, window, levels, etc.  We call this PPLT (Point to Point Laser Technology). So until we got robots doing this stuff we can never take away the human element from what we do, and so, let’s make just make it easier, faster, better, much like the $6 million dollar man.


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Revit As Built : Field BIM Technology : Build Digitally As You Measure : #BIM #Revit

It’s been a haul and it starts with a quote from Irwin Jungreis one of the founders of Revit who I spoke to early in the process, ‘we never intended Revit to have an API,’ he said with a smile. ” It was supposed to be so good it would never need 3rd Party applications.”  “WHAT?!” you say.  I believe Irwin at the point understood the original hubris of that statement but then again I spoke to him after they sold out to Autodesk.  “So what” we thought and we continued to forge ahead with an  API that had as much horsepower as my old Puch moped.  Thank you Autodesk for your continued efforts in beefing up the API but it has been a bear.

PointKnown is getting closer to releasing the commercial version of PKNail;  it’s building surveying software.  PKNail was programmed behind 7 years of building surveying experience.   Our intention was to:

  • Automate many of the rote tasks when creating existing conditions surveys of a building
  • Create repeatable work flows
  • Increase speed and accuracy by linking measurements directly into Revit

We understand surveying can be the bane of some people’s existence and it is a necessary evil to almost all projects, that is having accurate information to start the project.  While we never considered it a bane or evil but when we would put on  lunch and learns and dog and pony shows we usually got one of two reactions.  One, where have you been my whole life I hate surveying or two, will you sell us the software because we do all our own measuring.  We get it.  And building in real time, in the field makes thing easier and building inside a familiar platform, and one that you will be designing or working in anyway makes you more productive right out of the box.  I look forward to your feedback, comments we’re here to work with you.  And to summarize my last statement in the video, ‘We’re much better at designing surveying  software than making videos,’ but even comments on our production and lack of directing talents are welcome.  Thanks for reading.  – jim


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