Image Courtesy of LFM Software
One feature touted by LFM is a real-time, smooth 3D view of raw point-cloud data that eases the visual selection of scanned assets.

Automating the laborious process of manually tagging building infrastructure assets within laser-point cloud data is a Holy Grail ideal that promises to save time and money. A recently updated suite of software eases that manual workflow and allows hardware and software platforms from various vendors to work in conjunction.

"We go straight from the laser-scan data to intelligent 3D design," says Gary Farrow, vice president of 3D data-capture business management, LFM Software, AVEVA Group, Cambridge, U.K.

With LFM Modeller, users can view point-cloud data in a 3D environment the company dubs Bubble View.

"The Bubble View is pretty slick-looking," says Kevin Grover, a laser-scan specialist and chief of geomatics practice at Stantec Geomatics Ltd., Edmonton, Canada. Bubble View is designed to ease the process of picking through point clouds by visually smoothing out surfaces. When users click on scanned objects in Bubble View, the software will suggest a list of probable labels.

"It's semiautomatic," says Farrow. If the software were to be run fully automatically, the quality-assurance cleanup process would take longer than manually guiding the software through, he adds.

"The other nice thing about the LFM package is it's neutral," says Grover. By "neutral" he means LFM software accepts scan data captured from different hardware devices. It also can output files that work for Bentley, Autodesk, Intergraph, AVEVA and other CAD software.

Farrow says accommodating so many platforms is a challenging and expensive programming process. "It's a big investment," he says. But versatility is one of LFM's biggest selling points. Farrow says the versatility allows customers to use the system that's best for them. For example, Farrow says he sees scanners being used in many non-traditional ways, such as mounting "a scanner on a wearable Steadicam vest with a jib arm and walking while scanning." LFM makes it easier to work with this scan data, too.

LFM's recent update further expands its versatility, allowing point-cloud data to be taken into Revit and into an online viewer called LFM Server. "The server is good for sharing and streaming the point-cloud data from desktops," says Stantec's Grover. The lightweight LFM Server also can be used to enter Bubble View and tag assets within a browser. Grover says it is an alternative to using processor-heavy 3D modeling software to view and tag assets.