Plant and Industrial

Laser Scanning and 3D Modeling For the Power Generation Industry

Economic constraints, competition and regulations within the Power industry have combined to increase the necessity and overall value of plant modifications and upgrades to existing assets. In the past, the use of outdated and incomplete information of physical plant assets has been a major source of added costs when executing modification and upgrade projects.

As most upgrade work is performed during increasingly short outages, it is imperative that plant and engineering management have complete and accurate existing condition documentation to plan necessary upgrade and maintenance projects. The combination of data capture with Laser Scanning and resultant 3D modeling has proven to be the safest and most cost effective methodology for creating existing condition documentation.

A Brief Look at the Industry and Technology

Laser scanning systems first became available in the United States in the mid 1990s. One of the original developers was Ben Kacyra, who sold his civil engineering firm in 1992 and started Cyra Technologies. Working from the need he saw as a civil engineer for the creation of extremely accurate as-built documentation, Kacyra recruited Jerry Dimsdale as his CTO, licensed a civilian version of a military laser from MIT, and timing sensors from the Los Alamos National Laboratory. They then proceeded to work out the challenging problems of capturing Point Cloud data in a manner that would translate to meaningful documentation. Before selling his scanning system to Leica Geosystems in 2001, Kacyra saw the creation of Point Cloud applications that would translate the data captured by laser scanning instruments into highly effective representations of as-built conditions. Oil refineries and chemical plant operators were two of the first industries to recognize the value of the technology and adopt laser scanning and 3D modeling workflows into their plant modification and upgrade project planning cycle.

Today, Laser Scanning and 3D modeling have achieved wide acceptance in the industrial, transportation, architectural fields as well as infrastructure and civil engineering. Instruments used in laser scanning have matured through several generations of improvements in accuracy and efficiency. Each new generation of software applications for generating scan data files, cad drawings and files and 3D models offers expanded features and a more lifelike look and feel. These improvements have helped reduce the cost and time necessary for data development.

Benefits of Laser Scanning and 3D Modeling to Plant Modifications
and Upgrades

The benefits of Laser Scanning and 3D modeling to plant projects have been presented at trade conferences and in technical publications. The major benefits are listed below.

Improved Cost Containment and Budgeting on Capital Projects

Laser Scanning Services and 3D modeling are more cost effective than manual measurement processes, which are error prone and require a greater length of time to complete. Additionally, because Laser Scanning and 3D modeling are significantly more accurate than manually created documentation there is less need (and less cost) for field fit-up. Field trips are also reduced as there is less need for field crews to return to correct inaccuracies. Better visibility of the areas and objects also improves operation and maintenance review.

Coordination of Team Information

One of the greatest obstacles in planning outage work may be the ability to share comprehensible information and communications between different project teams who may be sited in several geographic areas. Laser Scanning and 3D modeling existing condition documentation can be shared among a number of different project members or teams, regardless of geographic location and in different disciplines using electronic files, and where appropriate, web-based viewers and markup tools allowing immediate access to critical information.

Improved Scheduling

Project managers face a daunting task of completing maintenance and modification plans within the planned outage time. Each unplanned interference or unanticipated problem resulting from inaccurate existing condition documentation can result in extended outages, possibly costing the Plant Owner hundreds of thousands of dollars in replacement power purchase and lost opportunity. The accurate data and information made available with Laser Scanning and 3D modeling is the most important tool for accurate scheduling and on-time completion of plant projects.

Facility Life Cycle Management

Laser Scanning and 3D modeling, while cost effective, does require the expenditure of some planning funds. Unlike manual documentation, however, the models and data registration created with LS and 3D modeling are useful for the entire life cycle of the facility. Existing scans and models can be updated upon completion of projects so that they are on line and available for planning of future projects.

Quality Control Improvement

The necessity of rework on modification and upgrade projects is undeniable. But with the accurate documentation provided by Laser Scanning and 3D modeling, errors in material ordering, as-bid procurement firm specifications, design of piping and equipment can all be reduced. Reports from our clients indicate a significant reduction in rework on retrofit and plant modification projects.

Improved Safety

With increased accuracy of existing conditions there is reduced exposure to hazards on the plant site. In addition to the positive outcome of fewer plant accidents, there is the additional benefit of lower liability and workers compensation insurance rates. Also, because Laser Scanning requires fewer personnel on site collecting data, the insurance rates are again reduced.