Professional Engineers Authentication of 3D Models – Moving Away from 2D Drawings

5 February, 2020 | Blog

Jeff Pearson

JEFF PEARSON, P.Eng.

Mechanical Engineer

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Normand Thibault

NORMAND THIBAULT

Piping Expert

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In his Harvard Business Review article, The Discipline of Innovation, management guru Peter Drucker identifies seven sources of innovation. Drucker states that only one of these sources needs be present for an innovation to take off, and when it comes to 3D models authenticated for construction by an engineer, six of these sources are found.

  • Incongruities
  • Process needs
  • Industry and market changes
  • Demographic changes
  • Changes in perception
  • New knowledge

The only one of Drucker’s innovation sources that is not present in electronic data interchange is an “unexpected occurrence,” which can only happen after an innovation effort has failed.

In this blog article, we will discuss these six innovation sources and demonstrate how industrial construction firms would benefit from moving to authenticated 3D models.

The six sources of innovation and their relevance for constructors

Incongruities on construction projects arise when a step in the process is not consistent with the remainder of the work.

Large industrial construction projects are designed in 3D, reviewed by engineers with specialized software, and 2D cut sections are set up to represent the 3D model on paper for stamping. The paper drawings along with the model are then sent to the general contractor to be implemented. The general contractor passes the design on to the subcontractors so that they can prefabricate the components and carry out their construction work. Much of the prefabrication is done using semi-automated equipment where the designs must be transcribed from paper format back into a model for the machines to understand.

As for work happening on site, contractors use drones to measure land profiles, GPS on bulldozers for their civil work and laser scans to measure as-built work. This information is sent back to the engineer to account for any changes made during the project.

Carrying out each step of this process using only 3D models eliminates the cost of preparing 2D paper drawings and reduces redundancy when updating the 3D model and 2D paper drawings. This method also facilitates collaboration between engineers, general contractors and subcontractors, since there is a single master model containing all the project data and design.

Process needs describe an innovation to make an existing system work efficiently.

On a recent site visit, a client said that the main issue preventing a move to augmented reality tablets or augmented reality goggles to display models on site is that it is difficult to get design partners on board.

For an engineering firm, the lack of authenticated models is what makes it impossible to implement a constructible augmented reality. With these models, BBA can provide the software, equipment and CAD support to have augmented reality throughout the job.

Augmented reality for the construction site enables the use of tablets or augmented reality goggles to see the existing build overlaid with the 3D model. Combined with a laser scan (point cloud), constructors can see where pipes, beams or anything else in the model will be connecting to the existing equipment and easily identify any clashes that will happen before installing. This eliminates costly rework or the need to take site measurements by hand or mock up components to test for field fit. 

Industry and market changes are the evolutions of industry over time, and there is an opportunity to innovate by recognizing the coming change.

Project managers as well as lead designers and engineers need to be geographically close to the client, but the work can be done from anywhere in the world. Construction firms have an opportunity to complete projects faster to reduce working capital by getting designs completed by expertise centres throughout the world.

Using authenticated 3D models makes it easier for designers to collaborate remotely and ensures that the model they are designing from is accurate.

Demographic changes are an outside source of innovation that can be accurately predicted.

Workforce demographics are changing, with an ever-increasing number of technical professionals. Digital natives are taking over decision-maker roles in construction and operation firms.

With the modern computer-savvy workforce, everyone has the capacity to quickly learn how to work from 3D models instead of 2D drawings. This transition means that there are fewer technical people who intuitively understand 2D drawings, as they do not spend hours reviewing these drawings to see them in their mind’s eye.

Moreover, digital natives are now moving up to project managers and foremen/forewomen positions on construction projects.

Changes in perception have meant that what was once considered ahead of the curve is now perceived as lagging.

To many digital natives and early adopters from previous generations, the question is not why change to authenticated 3D models, but why have we not been building off 3D models for the past 10 years?

Construction firms either have changed or will soon be changing their thinking about embracing cost-saving technology. Doing so will result in extra profits, while not embracing this technology will effectively become money lost.

New knowledge innovations are the convergence of many different types of knowledge.

All of the parts for authenticated 3D models have been available for years, but a team with expertise in 3D modelling, CAD and engineering is needed to bring everything together.

Additionally, getting experience with authenticated 3D models now opens the door for augmented reality on the construction site. We are now able to implement augmented reality to the construction site where 3D models can be overlaid on the existing build and kept in place with gyros and reference points. Construction firms that are experienced in building from 3D models will be able to take advantage of the advancement on the learning curve and realize the benefits of this transformative technology.

In conclusion

Forward-thinking construction managers will see that this is where the construction industry is going, so the question is whether to launch a project in early 2020 with full 3D design and authentication to get familiar with the technology.

Depending on the type of deliverable, owners can expect savings of 20% to 40% in engineering fees by eliminating a large portion of deliverables creation. These savings are mainly the cost of producing, checking and issuing 2D drawings that are representations of 3D model content in 2D views, without benefit of all the imbedded data contained in the 3D models.

Authenticated 3D models are where we are now, and they open the door for electronic data interchange and augmented reality with 3D models. Electronic data interchange means extracting data for the 3D model directly into the fabrication equipment. Augmented reality, in the context of authenticated 3D models, means being on site and seeing the model overlaid on the site with either a tablet with its camera or projection glasses.

If you have any questions about how to integrate these new technologies, please contact our team of experts who will be able to help. See the upcoming BBA blog articles on electronic data interchange and augmented reality with 3D models.

This content is for general information purposes only. All rights reserved ©BBA

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