Jurassic Park Redux and the Mainstreaming of 3D Scanning

That 3D scanning is now mainstream is becoming more obvious every day. In this issue we feature “Lidar-made Dinosaurs,” a fascinating tale of how paleontologists are using lidar to bring dinosaurs back to life, figuratively speaking of course. By scanning the skeletons of these prehistoric creatures they can create 3D digital models and digitally flesh out the creatures’ bodies for further study. This helps scientists better understand dinosaurs’ locomotion and behavior.

At the Faro conference in Orlando in February, Vince Rossi of the Smithsonian Institution described how 3D scanning was being used to capture artifacts for virtual display. The museum can display only 2% of the collection, so virtual display allows greater access to their 137-million objects. Another application Rossi spoke of was using 3D scanning not only to capture images but also to reproduce replicas of artifacts through 3D printing.

The explosion of 3D printing was the subject of another presentation at the conference and could be of interest to surveyors looking to maximize use of their scanners. Imagine starting a side business scanning products for manufacturers to reverse engineer and/or 3D print products! Prices for 3D printers are tumbling so much that it may allow enterprising geospatial companies to capture some of that market, as well.

Speaking of scanning and locomotion, we have “The Power of Mobile Scanning,” detailing how mobile scanning is making infrastructure data collection safer, faster, and more efficient. Of note is the company’s use of automated feature extraction to help process the point clouds and get the required data in record time.

Efficiency is also the theme of  “Smallest State, Biggest Payback,” a dollars-and-sense article portraying how a Rhode Island site development/construction firm is using a robotic total station to maximize its productivity and pay back its investment with just a few projects.
In 2011, the USGS reported more than 2,420 earthquakes of magnitude 5.0 or larger worldwide. “When the Earth Quakes” illustrates the vital role GNSS is playing in the study of plate tectonics and how it is being used to plan, mitigate, and respond to earthquakes. While predicting earthquakes to any great degree of accuracy is not yet a reality, the article discusses some promising applications for GNSS that are moving towards that goal.

In my last column I promised to keep you abreast of energy news, a market that is expanding rapidly and is already providing significant work for land surveyors. Although the federal administration has said “no” (for now) to the northern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline, it has approved a major, southern portion (TransCanada) that runs from Cushing, Oklahoma to Texas. Interestingly, former President Bill Clinton has recently expressed his support for the Keystone XL project in what many see as a political “trial balloon” designed to test the waters for the administration. This could be a signal that the project will eventually be approved.

Finally, a few words on what many surveyors have a keen eye on: housing. In my last column I indicated that many people believe this is the year that residential construction will come back. Add to this ever-growing list Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, who said that if practical he’d buy up “millions” of single-family homes. Add to that normal population growth and immigration factors, and we can see that housing may well start to grow this year. Fingers crossed!


About the Author

  • Jeff Salmon, Editor
    Jeff Salmon, Editor
    Jeff Salmon is the new editor for Professional Surveyor Magazine. For nearly 15 years he has been involved with the geospatial and surveying industries. He has worked as an instrument operator, a manager for a surveying firm, a land-use project manager and end-user of land surveying services, and a writer and editor on geospatial subjects. He started in 2005 as the Business Angle columnist, then served as the web editor and then editor for our popular Pangaea newsletter, which he still produces.

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