Ever since the use of BIM (building information modeling) burst onto the scene in the AEC (architecture, engineering, construction) industry, the idea of being able to take a virtual model to the field and interact with it in an efficient manner has been highly sought after. However, it wasn’t until the advent of more capable devices could such a concept really begin to takeoff.

Then came devices like tablets and smartphones. These devices have presented the perfect blend of connectivity and portability to allow great things to happen with regard to BIM. We are beginning to see more and more applications designed that allow construction professionals to intelligently interact with a 3D model in the field, without the heavy investment in the technology.

One of the latest is a product called BIM Anywhere, www.bimanywhere.com. The product allows users to download DWF files from their email or even a service like Dropbox and then use interactive functions such as “pinch, zoom, and swipe” capabilities in order to navigate the BIM file. In addition, the app allows for different viewpoints of the model, flythrough of 3D models, and the ability to instantly load large models with MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) trades.

This app is relatively new to the scene, but carries with it great promise of being able to deliver BIM down to the jobsite level courtesy of an iPad. Given the rate at which more contractors are embracing such devices for management type functionality on the jobsite, this could be a very interesting and timely app.

Another interesting app to consider is Autodesk 123D from Autodesk, www.autodesk.com, San Rafael, Calif. The app allows users to quickly give a modeling feel to any pictures on the jobsite. At its base, the app offers a free solid modeling tool for moving from 3D model to 3D print, and can automatically convert a typical set of photos into a full 3D model.

Naturally such a product is not as robust as a parametric modeling technology, but it can provide a quick and simple way to turn an ordinary set of pictures into a 3D model.

As the capabilities of technology continue to progress, it is good to see tools such as these provide a simple way for users to test out the 3D modeling waters without the heavy investment in software. Naturally such apps could provide a stepping stone to bigger and better things in the long run, but for a starting point they certainly are worth considering.