Big Data Analytics

3D plant imaging and modeling

Sheila Kennedy says improve design visualization as well as plant maintenance and expansion tasks.

By Sheila Kennedy

3D facility and equipment modeling improves design visualization as well as plant maintenance and expansion tasks. The U.S. General Services Administration is requiring phased 3D, 4D, and building information modeling (BIM) adoption for major projects receiving design funding because of the benefits.

Integrated software and hardware

Integrated 3D scanners and software simplify the modeling process. Focus3D X 330 laser scanners from Faro Technologies support design, build, maintenance, retrofit, and expansion processes by capturing point cloud data of assets and facilities. With Faro’s Scene and WebShare software, building owners can process, publish, and collaborate on the 3D dataset information online, in real time, with a basic internet connection.

“With 3D documentation of facilities, you can minimize downtime and repair time. If a pipe breaks down, you know the location, type and length, so you can have it prefabricated off-site and feel confident that it will fit right,” says Jerry Hardy, Faro Focus 3D product manager.

With MPDS4 Plant Design and Factory Layout Software from CAD Schroer, changes to factory layouts, piping, process designs, or materials handling systems can be evaluated in both 2D and 3D formats, allowing owners and operators to conceptualize, visualize, and estimate the impact of new machinery and technology before implementation. A bill of materials can be automatically created to facilitate pricing.

“MPDS4 is a very open system that has the ability to handle multiple data formats,” says Bill Wilkins, technical manager at CAD Schroer. “It’s designed to be customized with a high-level customization tool, and it can handle large designs with ease. By comparison, if you try to build large designs like a plant and all of its components in a conventional CAD system, it can pretty quickly grind to a halt.”

Smart 3D from Intergraph allows engineers in different locations and disciplines to collaborate in near-real time. Multiple 3D formats are supported in a single hybrid model, and the rules engine enforces consistency, assures compliance to design standards, and automates repetitive tasks. Model Data Reuse allows objects to be copied while preserving relationships and the original design intent.

“Intergraph Smart 3D enables optimized designs while increasing quality, interoperability, productivity, and shortening project schedules,” says Ashley Ranguelov, Smart 3D program manager at Intergraph Process, Power & Marine. “Companies in the plant, offshore, shipbuilding, and metals and mining industries typically report a 30 percent improvement in overall engineering design productivity from using Smart 3D.”

Bentley’s Integrated Plant Lifecycle (IPL) solution enables information to be shared by multiple disciplines across all phases of the asset lifecycle. The suite of design, analysis, simulation, and information management software is designed for process plant engineering professionals and asset owners.

“Our technology is unique in its ability to effectively and efficiently manage information from a wide range of systems, including those of other vendors,” says Gordon McPhee, director of business development for industrial solutions at Bentley. “It accomplishes this by leveraging the ISO 15926 open industry standard while taking advantage of best-in-class change management functionality.”

Scanning and surveying services

3D laser scanning and surveying service providers can create architectural, structural, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and other 3D as-built information for BIM models. Darling Geomatics constructs standard CAD solid models from 3D laser (LiDAR) scan data, which can be exported into many CAD drafting formats. Metadata can be attached to the 3D objects, such as a specific valve size, manufacturer, and part number.

“The 3D infrastructure and structural data collection and models provide a single environment for facilities management, eliminating a significant amount of human error, increasing safety, and saving time and money,” says Mary Darling, CEO at Darling Geomatics. “The transition to 3D can start with the 3D scanning and modeling of simple assets when there is a need for precise measurements.”

Meridian 3D is a land surveying firm that provides 3D laser scanning, dimensional control surveying, and CAD modeling services. Using both time-of-flight and phase-based laser scanners, the company creates 3D surface models with an accuracy of +/- 2mm, which its clients use for 3D visualization, clash detection, and design development.

“3D laser scanning can provide incredible results, but only if rigorous professional survey grade methodology and quality practices are observed on every job,” says Kris Nixon, principal at Meridian 3D. “Meridian 3D distinguishes itself by providing scan data sets and resultant models with verified dimensional integrity.”

Read Sheila Kennedy's monthly column, Technology Toolbox.