Using Reality Capture Scans as a Starting Point for CAD Design: The Why and the How

January 30, 2024

Laser Scanning (Reality Capture) technology is a proven method for capturing information about as-built conditions. It’s also a great place to start a 3D solid model in your CAD software. Whether you have a point cloud that has been generated from a terrestrial scanner or through photogrammetry shot with a drone, you can use that data to quickly create CAD models that will deliver value. 

Why Leverage Reality Capture Data for CAD Projects?

 Manufacturers can utilize reality capture data to support CAD projects in a variety of ways. Here are a few examples:

•    Develop a new design using existing conditions for context.  Scanning a facility allows CAD designers to work within the envelope of the original space. For instance, a company may want to update the HVAC ductwork in its manufacturing facility. The team could scan the current ducting, import the point cloud into AutoCAD, Revit, or Inventor, and then use that as the basis for designing the new ventilation equipment. 

•    Capture to inform spatial analyses.  A manufacturer may want to build a new machine that will replace an existing piece of equipment. The team could scan the old machine, drop the point cloud into the CAD system, and model on top of it with new components. By utilizing Reality Capture and incorporating it into the new design, the team can feel more confident that the new machinery will fit on the manufacturing floor. 

•    Create a skeletal design or 3D sketch. Using a reality capture scan as the basis of a CAD design is an efficient way to generate a model. After importing the point cloud into Inventor or AutoCAD, you can trace different elements. In a short period of time, it’s possible to easily convert a structural model based on the original point cloud into something new. 

•    Utilize a hybrid design. This allows the designer to see a CAD model in the context of a point cloud. Navisworks is the best tool for hybrid designs. It enables users to analyze reality capture scan data alongside CAD model data and perform clearance analysis with clash detection tools. 

Best Practices for Working with Reality Capture in the CAD Environment
As you begin to integrate reality capture data into your CAD designs, it can be helpful to keep a few best practices in mind.

The first is to ensure that the coordinate systems in the point cloud and CAD system match. Before bringing reality capture data into Inventor or AutoCAD, it’s a good idea to import the point cloud into Autodesk ReCap. In ReCap, you can set the origin of the point cloud and align it with the CAD workspace.

And the second is using a clean point cloud. Cleaning up the point cloud should be performed before sending it to the CAD system, as this step enhances the performance of the point cloud within Autodesk software and eliminates any extraneous information that might lead to misinterpretation or misuse. 

If you need additional guidance to give your team a head start on using reality capture with CAD, feel free to contact us here at IMAGINiT. Our experts can help with determining what scanning hardware and software best fits your needs, proof-of-concept projects, customized training, and more. 

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