Author - Timothy Long (tcl@flywheel3d.com)

Almost 25 years ago, I worked for a gentleman who made the following statement to me while going over some field sketches of existing conditions, “One day we will place a little black box in the center of a room and it will take all the measurements for us.” I have never forgotten these words, yet I never realized that this premonition would happen in my life time. Twenty-five years later, we are pretty much there, although instead of a black box, we use a scanner much like your typical tripod surveying transit. And now I am the one promoting this idea to others.

Scanning has become an integral part of today’s work flows for AEC industry leaders. It has made the task of collecting data easier, faster, and therefore more economical. The big draw back for most companies to utilize this new technology has been the cost to implement it, since as with all new technology, it has come with a large initial price tag. It is important for firms to remember that just like with all new technology, the price will decrease as the usage increases.  Luckily, this shift is happening right now.

Back in November at #AU2016, Leica unveiled their new scanner, the #BLK360.

The little black box my teacher described 25 years ago is now a reality, and it is amazing. The Leica BLK360 is so small that it can fit in a back pack and weighs only 2.2 lbs. It stands at .54 ft. tall and is .32 ft. in diameter. It collects 360,000 laser scan points per second, takes less than 3 minutes to do a full dome scan in standard resolution and 150 MP spherical image generation, and has a range of 60 meters (or about 200 ft.) with an accuracy of 4 mm.

What makes this so amazing is that not only is it small and easy to use, but is priced so almost any business can now afford to utilize entry level laser scanning. The typical price for a quality scanner these days is in the realm of $50,000 to $150,000, but the BLK-360 is set to start at around $16,000. The Leica BLK-360 will become available in March of 2017 and you can pre-order now.

With such an affordable laser scanning option, I believe that the BLK-360 can also prove to be an asset on the architecture side (for example an architect who is doing a renovation to a building, they can have all the existing condition in minutes compared to the conventional way which could take days of measurements and drafting). I am also curious to see what comes of this new affordable technology in the civil-survey and site construction arena; range is a concern for large projects. Also, will the BLK-360 prove as durable and accurate as promoted? Here at Flywheel, we’re determined to put this technology to the test, in the real world, and integrate it into our in-house toolset and workflow.

While there are numerous advantages to using the Leica BLK-360 as a surveying asset, there is one potential drawback: purchasing the software necessary to use the device. Currently, the BLK-360 only works with Autodesk ReCap Pro 360 on an IPad Pro, so users are forced to subscribe to these tools. Even with this potential drawback, the Leica BLK-360 is an amazing piece of technology that is going to improve AEC workflows.

What is next? It can only get better from here. As science and technology continue to evolve, concepts that once seemed impossible are quickly becoming our reality. (At this rate, we may be saying “Beam me up, Scotty” for real.) So, let’s all get out into the field and have some fun. With newly affordable scanners, we can all participate in the reality capture phenomenon.