Never underestimate the power of a good point cloud. Those that are still trying to understand the value of 3D modeling, and everything associated with BIM (building information modeling), may not be ready for another “need to know” piece of the puzzle, but a point cloud could be something that helps accelerate the adoption of BIM.

Let’s first look at the role of laser scanning as it relates to BIM. More and more, the use of laser scanners is helping engineers and other AEC professionals document existing conditions by being able to capture digital points of a structure.

A point cloud refers to a set of vertices in a 3D coordinate system, which are created by 3D scanners. Scanners measure many different surface points of an object and output the data as a point cloud as the data file. The main idea of a point cloud is to model less as you no longer need to model points of context related to what you are trying to model. In other words, users can spend less time modeling for context and more time modeling the actual structure.

However one important thing to note is the fact the scan is not intelligent and that it simply shows where existing conditions are. While the scan will reduce existing condition modeling efforts it will not be able to tell if you if it’s a pipe or if it’s a wall, for example.

“The importance of good point-cloud software for laser scanning and mobile mapping operations should not be underestimated,” says Steve Ball, group chairman, Measurement Devices Limited (MDL),, Aberdeen, Scotland.

MDL, which makes laser measurement technology and positioning and navigation systems, has entered into an agreement with Pointools Ltd.,, London, England, to deliver high performance point-cloud software with each of its new 3D laser scanners.

He continues, “All stakeholders whether technical or nontechnical will benefit from cost-effective user-friendly point-cloud processing and collaboration software to qualify, quantify, and assess the effectiveness of the field survey data. And in Pointools, we have found an organization that can address our customers’ varied needs.”

According to Pointools, its stand-alone applications, CAD software plug-ins, and a third-party development platform for point-cloud processing and visualization can all enable point-cloud model reuse across a broad range of platforms without the need for translation.

The announcement was made at the laser scanning conference SPAR 2011, held last week in Houston, Texas. While this is merely one announcement, it is easy to see how such a concept will continue to resonate with the construction industry as more and more AEC professionals explore the different aspects of BIM.

Companies like Bentley Systems,, Exton, Pa., and Autodesk,, San Rafael, Calif., are among those companies that are helping drive education on the value of point clouds in the world of BIM.

IMAGINiT Technologies,, Framingham, Mass., recently released Scan to BIM 2012 for the Autodesk Revit 2012 platform. The product supports the new point-cloud engine Autodesk Revit 2012 and features the ability to create Revit geometry from the point cloud and analyze any differences between the user’s model and the point cloud.

As more disciplines within the AEC world continue to push farther into the realm of BIM it may be time to get your head in the point cloud.