Synchronised construction, from software to hardware

by | Nov 2, 2022

Steve Jackson, Technical Manager at Trimble, and Sam Hough, Business Manager at BuildingPoint UK & Ireland explore the role digital hardware can play in helping deliver projects safely, efficient and productively, alongside digital software

Synchronised construction 

Digital hardware can be the second piece of the jigsaw, taking the 3D model from the drawing office to the site. All too often, companies will invest time, money and resources in building a constructible, information-rich 3D model. And yet, when it comes to setting out and building the structure on site, this same data will be reduced into a mere A1 page 2D drawing or General Arrangement plan.

By combining digital software with hardware, teams can benefit from a more connected way of working, ensuring an effective flow and integration of data throughout the entire construction process. We all regularly witness the value of BIM at the detailing and fabrication stages, so why should this end when you reach site? You’ve already done the hard work by building the model, so why wouldn’t you use it?

Site surveys 

When it comes to setting out on site, it makes sense to use the same approved 3D model as you used for fabrication. With a single source of truth, connected workflow and the use of a total station, you can easily transfer the model and its data from software to hardware, and vice versa, with no loss of information or change in format.

Survey equipment, such as the Trimble X7 3D laser scanner, can also be invaluable at the earlier detailing stage. While we have thankfully moved past the days of a tape measure, piece of string and a sketchbook being the survey equipment used, having digital hardware that connects to your chosen BIM software can bring even more advancements.

Not only can teams generate a point cloud survey with millions of points, they can also feed this data directly into their model. Such pinpoint levels of accuracy can be critical when it comes to retrofit projects, where new elements are being installed in and around an existing structure.

Mixed reality 

Delve deeper into modern-day construction and you’ll find Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality technologies, with some amazing hardware available to bring the 3D model to life.

It’s no secret that 2D drawings and GA plans don’t show everything, making it easy for teams to miss out on the detail and simplify the model too much in order to make it fit into the 2D environment. Instead, by utilising total stations and Mixed Reality technology, project teams no longer need to lean on 2D drawings and informed ‘guesstimates’.

Now, you can actually see, measure and visualise the as-built structure on site. This can be critical when it comes to planning access and installation logistics, including positioning plant vehicles or cranes and visualising the space you have to build and manoeuvre within.

Quality control

Rework is a big concern and so spotting issues early on is vital. Here, digital hardware can be used as a means of Quality Control and Quality Assurance at the fabrication stage.

Whether it’s carrying out total station surveys or laser scans to bring the site context into the digital environment; utilising the automatic clash detection and parametric capabilities in intelligent modelling software; or using digital hardware for fabrication verification, there is much that project teams can do to minimise the likelihood of rework, with both software and hardware playing a part.

For example, by using Mixed Reality technology via a headset or tablet to view the 3D model overlaid on the fabricated component, fabricators can ensure that the measurements, concrete embeds, sheer plates and end connections are all correct. For the larger and more complex fabrications, teams can even bring total stations into the factory for additional verification, replacing the need for lengthy trial assemblies.

Moving forwards

“We’ve always done it this way” can be a dangerous attitude within the industry, with those reluctant to adapt in line with new technologies. While many businesses have modernised and accepted BIM software, by failing to complete the circle with the implementation of digital hardware, people are still not reaping the full rewards.

Implementing synchronised construction with both digital software and hardware – all connected by a central source of truth – can enable project teams to truly take control of their 3D model, with a streamlined, efficient and accurate process. While acquiring hardware can be a significant investment, it is an investment that will only continue to deliver, putting you in control.

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