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                                                           Volume 1, Issue 10                    November 17, 2008
Editor-in-Chief, H. Edward Goldberg
Copy Editor, Judith Goldberg

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This month’s newsletter covers an area of the AEC industry dealing with middle range digital scanning to digitally document buildings. Also featured is Constructech Magazine and its Technology Day conference.

  • Direct Dimensions Inc is, in my opinion,  the most innovative engineering company involved with digital scanning of buildings. Here you will learn how AEC digital scans can be converted into BIM models.
  • Constructech Magazine deals with digital technology for Contractors and building owners.


3D Digital Scanning reaches out to the AEC/O Industry

Direct Dimensions, Inc., the leading experts in close-range 3D scanning in the USA, is a Baltimore based company specializing in the conversion of complex three-dimensional data into 3D computer models. DDI owes its success to a winning combination of outside-the-box thinking, vision and entrepreneurial initiative on the part of its founder and president Michael Raphael.

About Michael Raphael and Direct Dimensions
Raphael, a Virginia Tech Engineering Science and Mechanics graduate, and holder of a Masters Degree in Engineering Administration from George Washington University, began his career in the aerospace industry. In 1989, while working for Martin Marietta (now Lockheed Martin) as a liaison engineer—the problem solver between the parts designer and the manufacturer, he “accidently” discovered the revolutionary new technology that would form the basis of his future endeavors. Martin’s president had gotten a medical “range of motion” test utilizing a mechanical articulated arm, complete with a shoulder, elbow and wrist, which could locate any point in space and digitize the data. News of the device filtered through the company grapevine. Raphael, intrigued by its potential application for industrial purposes, contacted the arm’s manufacturer, FARO Technologies, and entered into a development relationship with that company. Martin became the first customer to use the resulting surface scanning technology for reverse engineering and inspection of components for its airplanes.

Developing Direct Dimensions, Inc.

Raphael left Martin to found Direct Dimensions, Inc. in 1995. Today, DDI utilizes sophisticated technology, such as on-site digitizers and close-, mid-, and long-range laser scanners to measure objects in three-dimensional space in order to solve complex modeling and manufacturing problems. Some of its scanners are capable of recording as many as 190,000 points per second to tolerances that are accurate within thousandths of an inch. The scanned data creates a 3D digital form called a “point cloud,” which is visible on a computer screen and can be studied and manipulated. "Our 3D imaging technology allows us to document complex objects down to the last intricate detail," explains Raphael. "In addition to saving time in the design process, we enable innovators to capture, model, and modify complex physical shapes, such as organic forms, that would otherwise be impossible to design even with today's advanced CAD systems." The point clouds are processed into digital models by DDI’s engineers using a variety of software. Depending on the final goal, the digital models can be used as visual animations, design-intent CAD models, or even models for physical replication at any scale.

The use of 3D scanning is prevalent in the medical field, in the manufacture of prostheses, in the development of all types of manufactured components and industrial and consumer products, in forensics, in automobile and ship building, in the military and aerospace industry, and is useful in a variety of applications in the movie industry. The scale of scanned objects runs the full gamut from the minute to the monumental. No matter the size of the original, as Raphael is fond of repeating, the image is always 19 inches on the computer screen.
While DDI is not the only player in the field of 3D digital scanning, it is a pioneer in this technology and, according to Mr. Raphael, his firm has the most in-depth experience and broadest range. He stressed his love of challenging assignments that stretch the capabilities of his staff and equipment.

Direct Dimensions’ AEC utilization of 3D Scanning
Raphael and DDI are now integrating this technology into the AEC industry. Viable applications include as-built field measurement, terrain mapping, documentation and replication of architectural details such as moldings, cornices, windows and domes for historic preservation purposes, and prototyping for mass production of architectural components. Building on its experience in short range and medium range distance scanning on experimental airplanes for the US Air Force, and utilizing off-the-shelf equipment such as the Surphaser and FARO LS, DDI is making the process of digitally recording buildings both fast and economical. For example, when, during restoration, the interior plaster was stripped from the walls of the 18th century Maryland State House in Annapolis, DDI created a digital archive showing all the masonry details before they were re-covered.  Back in 2001 following 9/11, DDI was asked by the National Park Service to scan the façade of the Lincoln Memorial, as well as Lincoln’s statue. On this project, DDI partnered with a company that had an early CYRA long range scanner designed for architectural purposes. The archiving of important monuments and buildings has become an area of major interest to the US government.

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In a recent large historical renovation project in Baltimore City for developers, Streuver Brother, Eccles and Rouse, DDI digitized a 300 ft high open interior space, part of an old mill complex. Because the project was slated for renovation, not restoration, in order to preserve the historical credits the developer was required to completely document the existing building. DDI was able to measure the interior space and to output accurate 2D AutoCAD drawings.  In addition, because existing structures, particularly those that are decades old, have non-conforming dimensions, accurate documentation allows renovation and restoration contractors to manufacture many building components off-site with the assurance that they will fit during construction. This degree of accuracy has also been of extreme value to the oil and gas industry, because pre-fabricated components and replacement parts that are transported hundreds of miles to offshore rigs must fit perfectly.
Creating the BIM model from a 3D point cloud scan.
How does one go from a 3D scan to a BIM model? Contrary to a popular misconception, the conversion from a 3D scan to a BIM model is not automatic. According to Raphael, DDI has developed a specialized, proprietary workflow, using a series of software, in order to economically convert scanned data into architectural objects. First, the 3D point cloud must be “cleaned” to eliminate extraneous information. Next, for Autodesk Revit, the point cloud must be converted into a format such as ACIS, 3D DWG, or SketchUp. The case ACIS (.sat) 3D DWG, or SketchUp model is imported into Revit’s massing module, where intelligent walls, floors and roofs, can be automatically created by touching the faces of the ACIS model. Other components such as doors, window, etc must then be manually placed into the intelligent model. Vectorworks 2009 can import SketchUp models and automatically change their faces to Walls, Floors, and Roofs. (see below)


Finally, high resolution detail such as cornices, trim, statues are placed in the project, but cannot be sectioned or culled for information such as area or count.

DDI, GSA and the BIM
DDI is currently bidding on 3D scanning BIM projects for the General Services Administration. Raphael describes the GSA as “catching up, just knocking at the door in 2008”. In 2003 (GSA), through its Public Buildings Service (PBS) Office of Chief Architect (OCA), established the National 3D-4D-BIM Program. OCA has led over 30 projects in its capital program, and is assessing and supporting three dimensional (3D), four-dimensional (4D), and Building Information Modeling (BIM) applications in over 35 ongoing projects across the nation. The power of visualization, coordination, simulation, and optimization from 3D, 4D, and BIM computer technologies allow GSA to more effectively meet customer, design, construction, and program requirements. GSA is committed to a strategic and incremental adoption of 3D, 4D, and BIM technologies.

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Direct Dimensions’ Products and Services
DDI’s services include laser scanning, digitizing, reverse engineering, digital modeling, inspection/analysis, replication, visualization, and training. A variety of equipment, including scanners ranging from $10K-$120K, digitizers, software, etc is available on their website. Also available: a portfolio of projects that includes art and architecture. Check them out: .

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Constructech Technology Day
I was privileged to have recently attended the Technology Day conference sponsored by Specialty Publications, publishers of Constructech Magazine. Hosted in the Chicago area, the event brought together builders, contractors, and solution providers to identify the most crucial topics in the construction space through networking, education, and demonstrations. Approximately two hundred of the leading construction experts in digital technology were in attendance for this one day event which included automated estimating from the BIM as well as Integrated Practice. John Moebes, head of design for “Crate & Barrel” explained how they utilize Revit and the BIM for their stores. Take a look at the latest issue of Constructech magazine. This is an information keeper.

About Specialty Publishing Co.,
Specialty Publishing Co., of Carol Stream, Ill., is a multifaceted media company that addresses critical business issues vital to executives, business decision-makers and operations managers. Constructech Magazine is a construction-technology publication covering both the commercial and residential arenas. Looking at information technology, building control automation, and automated home technology through the eyes of the builder, contractor, and corporate owner, Constructech Magazine is focused on providing the construction industry with tools to increase productivity and profitability. The publication evaluates information technology tools, automated home technology options, and building control automation from the perspective of the construction professional.

 About Ed:

I am a well known analyst in the AEC Industry, having been a journalist and lecturer in this arena for the past 12 years.  In my primary occupation as an Architect, I use the cutting edge digital technology about which I write, for the design and construction of buildings. I have been a Licensed Architect for 30 years, and have designed and/or built dozens of commercial, multifamily, and rehab projects. I also headed the CAD and Multimedia Department at Carroll Community College and the Industrial Design Department at Towson University. For many years I wrote the AEC column in CADALYST magazine. I authored seven books, in as many years, on AutoCAD Architecture (formally Architectural Desktop), for publisher Prentice Hall. My new Revit Architecture 2009 book is on sale now.

I continue to attend key industry events and keep abreast of the newest developments. If you see me at an event, please come over and chat with me; I like people, and would enjoy meeting you. You can recognize me by my trademark hat – black in winter, and white in summer.
 Please take a look at my Web Site:


© 2007 H. Edward Goldberg AIA, NCARB, Ed’s Independent Voice. All rights reserved

Ed will be leading a discussion on the History, Present and Future of the BIM (Building Information Model) at Autodesk University December 3, 2008, at 8:00 am in Casanova 603 at the Venetian hotel, Las Vegas Nevada.

Presented by
H. Edward Goldberg AIA, NCARB,
HEGRA Architects &
Ed’s Independent Voice

Ed Goldberg’s new Revit 2009 book is now available.

For information go to
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