Busted! 5 myths about working with point cloud data

I hear a lot of myths when talking to people about working with point cloud data. Most of the time they come from people that have never used point cloud data at all or have only used it once. While nearly all are understandable, most are not true. So here are some myths busted for your enjoyment.1) Point cloud files are HUGE and unmanageable.

While the typical point cloud file from a terrestrial laser scanner is quite large in comparison to a word document, it is possible to get the file sizes down to very manageable sizes depending on what has been scanned and your requirements. Most of the software that works with point clouds has been optimised to work with the large files and as a result they are typically no worse to work with than any other large 3D model. In fact I have worked with some large 3D models that are FAR worse than working with large scan data sets.

2) You need a super computer to work with them.

While a fast computer helps while dealing with any kind of drafting and design work, this is really not true. We have had a medium size point cloud file working on an 8 year old, very low spec laptop before without issues. It is all about what you need and how the data is delivered to you. It can sometimes take a few goes to get the best results for your specific computer, but your scan service provider should work with you to achieve that.

3) You need expensive or special software to work with them.

If you are already working in drafting and design, in 99% of cases you are already working with software that will handle point cloud data. You may need to update the software to the latest version, but most major software companies incorporate point cloud data use natively already. Just talk to your service provider about getting the scan data in a format you can use. In the case that you don’t have software that works natively with point cloud data, it is possible to get some free viewers that will allow you to manipulate the data so you can view, take screen shots and take measurements.

4) Point clouds require a lot of training to get used to working with them.

While there is a small learning curve, it is quite sharp and not that painful. When we supply point cloud data to our clients we usually spend a few hours, to a day maximum, with them to show them the ropes and in most cases there isn’t even a requirement for a follow up phone call. Admittedly if you were left to your own devices to work it out it could take some time, but if you are in need of assistance in working with your scan data, give us a call and we can talk about organising a day training for you or your staff.

5) They are expensive to get done.

While the cost of a scanning might seem high at first, 99.99% of new users of scan data see that they couldn’t possibly get the same results for 3 or 4 times the time and money if they were to do the job the “old fashioned way” of site measuring and modelling. In most cases we are told we are too cheap for what we deliver and we are yet to find a client that is unhappy with the prices we charge.

So I hope that dispels some of the myths about working with scan data for you. If you have any questions or other myths you have heard about working with scan data, please feel free to ask in the comments below or get in touch to discuss working out your point cloud problems.

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