An Introduction to Point Cloud Data

These days, within the AEC industry, and within many other industries too, cloud is a buzzword that I hear fairly often. In my circles the word most often refers to computing or storing data in a cloud.

The cloud is off-site and decentralized, so as not to rely on any one single computer. The off-site location is accessed through an internet connection.

There is however another context in which the word cloud is used. That other context is in point cloud data. Today I’ll discuss point cloud data. Sorry if you were looking for another cloud computing or cloud storage article!!

Getting the Idea of Point Cloud Data

I work in the Architectural and Structural niches of the AEC industry. Within this industry, often times projects revolve around rehabilitating existing buildings. It is common to require existing conditions drawings of a building that is slated for rehabilitation work.

Highly detailed existing conditions drawings can be created by means of 3D laser scanning. Creating such drawings by means of 3D laser scanning is a two-step process, and the first step of the process includes creating point cloud data.

As an example, imagine you wanted to rehab a extremely ornate facade of a high-rise building, and no old plans of the facade existed. Therefore you would have to create existing conditions drawings of the facade from scratch. Creating such drawings of the facade could be done by first performing an on-site 3D laser scan of the building facade, and then by secondly processing the scan data.

Therefore, if you were to perform a 3d laser scan of this facade, the laser scan would capture what is called point cloud data. This is the first step I mentioned above.

After the point cloud data has been collected by means of the scan, the data would next need to be processed. The data processing is when the point cloud data is turned into vector format CAD drawings. This is the second step I mentioned above.

The concept of point cloud data processing is simple. It’s just a matter of connecting the individual data points. Doing so requires software to handle the many many data points.

A Resource

Autodesk, the maker of AutoCAD and other software, have had an interest in point cloud data Feature Extraction and Shape Extraction. The Autodesk blog post titled “Point Cloud Feature Extraction for Revit is what you should try” is a good resource to learn more about point cloud data. If you work in the AEC industry and would like to learn more about point cloud data, then I recommend checking this Autodesk post out.


I hope this brief example and resource serve as a good introduction to point cloud data, if this is a new topic to you!!


About Brian M. Curran

I'm Brian M. Curran and I run a drafting services business in NYC. My aim is to create quality drawings, and to be entrusted with important projects. For some project on-site videos, please visit my Google profile.
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