Published: September 9, 2019

How Reality Capture Decreases Risk and Boosts Efficiency

 

As regulations become increasingly rigorous, insurance premiums rise, and media scrutiny intensifies, it’s more important than ever for plant owners to reduce safety risks, minimize on-site injuries, and protect production. 

Although life-threatening injuries are often the ones that make headlines, it is the 10,000+ minor injuries (sprains, strains, tears, etc.) each year that affect production and increase insurance rates. Many of these injuries and accidents are the result of poor process and equipment design. 

So, what’s the solution?

Safety risks and injuries can be avoided using the same methods we deploy to prevent component failure and equipment malfunction — by carefully examining the processes in place and mitigating risks. 

Using reality capture, we can simulate equipment operations, processes, and maintenance cycles in order to map out any scenarios and conditions that may increase risk in a facility. 

Imagine a management team being able to pinpoint potentially dangerous situations and vet new designs before fabricating a single component. Incredible, right?

The future is 3D, and AsBuilt is leading the charge. 

As technology has improved over the years, 3D laser scanning has become a practical choice for many projects in many industries. Reality capture allows engineers to record the as-built conditions of any environment through a series of scans. These scans, once stitched together, create a holistic picture of structures, equipment, and clearances. 3D scanning and modeling give us a “digital twin” of the space that can be analyzed or manipulated on a computer or tablet.

Let’s walk through the core functions of reality capture and its key benefits for engineers and manufacturers.

 

Creating Holistic Images of Structures & Equipment

Although digital 3D designs are commonplace when dealing with new equipment, the existing environment is often superimposed on traditional 2D diagrams that fail to take into account key aspects of the facility. In many cases, there are small details missed that can hinder the ability to move or install large components. Some of these details end up inserting more risk into the project.

Items such as cable runs and inspection hatches that aren’t fully accounted for while using 2D can be seamlessly realized in 3D. The 3D “digital twin” created by laser scanning and enhanced with 3D modeling allows engineers to simulate equipment, processes, and maintenance cycles accurately and visually. With this technology, project stakeholders can clearly identify areas to optimize efficiency and eliminate safety risks.

 

Collaboration and Simulation Drive Risk Reduction and Cost Savings

Collaboration yields success. We’ve seen the value of a team approach firsthand, having worked on dozens of projects alongside Southern Company and Duke Energy, consulting on the design and installation of new or upgraded equipment. Part of collaboration involves buy-in and active participation from all levels of plant operations and management. If leaders want projects to be successful, they need to bring in multiple perspectives in order to gain universal buy-in and establish a clear vision of the effects on plant operations.

3D simulation of a facility’s equipment operation and maintenance processes allows the entire stakeholder team to see and understand all the various aspects of the process. By combining animation and 3D models, we make it easier for everyone to quickly absorb the steps that need to be taken and each equipment’s design elements to determine potential issues or difficulties. 

 

Using 3D in Planning and Executing Retrofit Projects

By implementing 3D scanning during the demolition and installation phases, we’re able to monitor progress and phase completion in real time. Project managers now have the ability to catch mistakes before they compound into more costly issues.

AsBuilt has been involved in more than 500 retrofits, as well as the design and installation of completely new, custom components in power generation and manufacturing facilities. Through the process of scanning millions of cubic feet into trillions of data points, we’ve seen proof that 3D scanning and simulation have consistently provided valuable insight to stakeholders who want to optimize designs and minimize risk.

Reality capture is becoming standard for plant engineers. With 100% accurate representation of the environment before, during, and after project implementation, this technique allows accurate as-built drawings to be delivered both quickly and cost-effectively. 

 

What’s next for this technology? 

Taking it a step further, we’re seeing a natural progression toward using simulation for design and process optimization. When we look at long-term costs, being able to optimize operations and maintenance for new equipment design is just as important as optimizing the functionality of the equipment itself.

With 3D scanning, decision-makers now have better starting information at their fingertips before planning begins. Engineers can design equipment with every consideration in mind. Major stakeholders can see if maintenance on new equipment design could pose serious safety risks. Catching issues early means saving significant costs in downtime and rework later on.

If we can make scanning a part of every process review, upgrade, retrofit, or new equipment installation, we’ll always have the data needed to make the best decisions and engineer the best designs. 

Isn’t that what it’s all about?