You were part of the team who developed the first laser scanner for FARO, who were you developing it for? What was your reasoning behind it?
In the beginning, we developed the laser scanner for factory layout planners and architects. The first job we had was in a European car company where we were tasked to scan the existing factory environment to prepare for the installation of new machinery for new car models. Typically, in the car industry whenever something changes on the car the production line has to change too, but in many cases you cannot build a new factory just for a new car model, you have to use what is already there. The challenge was to capture the details of a production line to allow the engineers to design the changes and analyse which machinery can be re-used. For example, where can the existing robots be moved to make space for another robot? Does the conveyor system need to change with this modification, or maybe also, does the building structure need to change to make the new machinery fit? This was the beginning of laser scanning in Europe. The laser scanner was used by land surveyors a little bit earlier, but FARO products started off with architecture and factory design.
The laser scanner has gone through three generations and you have been there all along, what were the challenges to bring the laser scanner, as it is today, to the market?
We always wanted to improve our products incrementally. That means, instead of launching a completely new product to the market we always tried to improve the existing product first. Our first laser scanner was designed and produced by engineers in a single-item production style. The first step was to find a way that would allow for series production. We replaced single parts inside the scanner and put a new laser module inside which allowed us to use more advanced laser modulation methods resulting in better quality and accuracy in the data at much less noise.
First FARO Laser Scanner
In the next iteration step, the boards were changed. Instead of wires connecting all the electronics, we used so-called flex boards which are flexible printed circuit boards. It may sound small, but it created a much better stability and reliability of the system.
The next big step was when our laser scanner became much smaller. This was when the Focus Laser Scanner was born in 2010. We more or less had the same electronics concept, the same measurement principles, but just made everything smaller: the electronic boards, the mechanics and the housing. I think this was a big advancement for the whole industry as the volume of the laser scanner shrunk by the factor or 3 with a weight of only 5 kg. So suddenly our customers had a really compact, easy to carry system that could even be taken as hand luggage on board of a plane.
Next step then was the introduction of a new laser measurement system which increased measurement ranges. While the measurement range of the first Focus laser scanners was 120 m, the next generation was already capable of capturing data in a distance of up to 330m. The housing stayed the same but internally the measurement system and the optics were completely redone. Our latest Focus generation, the Focus S and M series is built on all the learning about measurement systems, mechanics, optics all brought in a completely new shape. At the same time, we also improved the manufacturing methods to increase production volumes and reduce production costs.
The market for laser scanners has evolved since you first released the laser scanner, tell us how different was it back then?
When we started, it was an early adopter market of technology affine customers always at the forefront of trying out latest technologies. Today we sell our laser scanners to construction companies for their day to day business which also means that the expectations of the product have changed completely. Early adopters are ok with product hick-ups or if they must search for parts of the solution themselves. But for construction companies, you must deliver a complete field to finish solution. This also meant that over the last years we were focusing much more on software solutions in the back end of the workflow than before.
At the beginning, without a specific target customer orientation, we worked along our credo of “only good points”, i.e. valid measurements with minimal noise and without measurement mistakes. As we are now targeting the construction industry, our aim is to deliver tools that go beyond point clouds. You can e.g. create CAD models inside AutoCAD or Autodesk Revit directly from the point cloud. With our BuildIT Construction software you can now do on-site quality control, i.e. at the construction site to verify walls are straight, the floor is flat, all the openings in the walls are in the correct position and so on.
What is the vision for FARO now especially for Construction BIM?
I think we now have a quite clear vision for the Construction BIM business. We want to support and drive the digitization of the construction industry. If you look at global statistics you will see that the construction industry is the second least digitized, just before agriculture. This is slowly changing however, and we want to drive and support this digitalization trend by providing according solutions along the construction and building life cycle. I think in this context it’s also important to deliver solutions which are what we call “traceable” so that we can always track and trace back when a change has been made and how accurately it was captured.
This is for example relevant with regards to compensation payments because something went wrong on the construction site. We want to make sure that our results are traceable in a way that we can always say what has been created or built based on which data and that the data has been captured on a specific date with a known accuracy. I think that’s a unique and holistic solution approach that will deliver real value to our customers. Like in a BIM model, our traceable construction concept focuses on having one consistent data model over the whole building cycle.
Is there something you are already working on for the future?
We always work on new products and improvements to current products to enhance the Traceable Construction Lifecycle based on the feedback we continuously collect from our customers. For example, we learnt from our customers that stationary laser scanners are good if you work indoors or within limited areas. However, if you have to capture very big construction sites or very big factories like chemical plants, stationary laser scanning from the ground provides a lot of detail and a lot of accuracy but it takes a very long time. We have just announced a partnership with STORMBEE, to now provide a flying solution with our laser scanner being out on a UAV. By flying over large areas our laser scanner can capture quite accurate data at a much higher pace than you could do from the ground. This is using existing technology, the scanner is the same, software is the same but adding a drone to get a completely new solution that provides more efficiency than we had before. In that mode, we try to complete our offering step by step along the whole construction lifecycle and along the needs of our customers.
The newest addition to the FARO Arm Portfolio has expanded its possibilities like never before. The portable 8th Axis allows the users such as car manufacturers to have greater efficiency when analysing car body panels or inspecting a body-in-white. Explore the whole FARO Arm Portfolio and its updates in this article:
MX3D is a startup from Amsterdam, three years ago they initiated an idea for a project. They ought to fully print a stainless steel bridge and now three years later this bridge will be connecting two river banks in the center of Amsterdam, the Oudezijds Achterburgwal. Explore their journey through the video below:
An exciting partnership between STORMBEE and FARO was presented recently. FARO is always looking for ways to improve their solutions. This time FARO noticed that scanning factories could be much more efficient if it combined an aerial scan. STORMBEE’s durable drones were an unmatched choice for 3D data capture for crash reconstruction, security pre-planning and military reconnaissance applications.
Did you know the Focus Laser Scanner can scan in the dark? This video shows how fast you can document massive areas with the power of FARO and STORMBEE combined, even at night.
“The STORMBEE drone with our FARO Laser Scanners is a testament to the scanner’s ability to reach areas where most can’t and provide great results.”
Global Director of Public Safety-Forensics, FARO Technologies
You can capture highly-accurate 3D images by air of large, complex environments that could be time-consuming and dangerous to scan on land, such as crash scenes, buildings and train infrastructure. Aerial scanning allows you to improve safety by not having to set foot in precarious areas, to save time on wide-area scanning missions and to open crime and crash scenes faster.
Without control points, the FARO-STORMBEE solution is much faster to set up than other LiDAR drones. STORMBEE S series UAV flies up to 100 m. (328 ft.) high. Also, users can be confident with the drone’s integrated redundancy that even if a propeller or battery fails, the UAV still flies. To complement the drone’s ease-of-use, its BEEFLEX software suite is so easy to use you can be trained in one hour. BEEFLEX data can also be exported directly into FARO SCENE or FARO Zone 3D software for further analysis or to combine aerial scans with terrestrial scans.
Not only is the Focus perfect for covering lots of ground via air attached to a STORMBEE drone or via land mounted on a vehicle, it also scans in smaller, hard-to-document areas, like inside a dumpster.
You have been in the company for 17 years, how has FARO changed in your eyes?
I think there have been a lot of changes going on in FARO. The most significant change however was two years ago when we changed our complete business model from a product to a customer solution-oriented company. Instead of a product focussed approach we created business units which focus on dedicated customer markets to better serve the needs of each customer group. I am working now for the Construction BIM business unit which focusses on all reality capturing and reality modelling applications for the construction industry.
What do you think were the challenges that FARO overcame during these years?
There were e.g. technical challenges. Our laser scanners produce massive amounts of data, which are difficult to process. When looking 17 years back, the first 64-bit computers had been launched to the market which were in theory finally capable of handling large data sets, but the software was not ready yet, so computers weren’t powerful enough to handle the large data.
That has changed a lot over time. Computers that used to be high-power machines in e.g. universities are available to the broad market now and these developments really helped us to further develop our laser scanners However, laser scanning technology was also a challenge for our customers because they were used to working with traditional methods like a tape measure or plumb lines. So we had to convince our customers not only of the benefits of our products, but also of completely rethinking their measurement methodology.
The construction industry is starting to become more digitized and this is creating new demands for us. BIM as a digital representation of the physical and functional characteristics of a building during its lifecycle and a shared knowledge resource for information is becoming increasingly important and we can support our customers in getting fit for BIM.
How did you decide which improvements to make when you were developing later generation laser scanners?
I think all of this, in general, comes from two directions: on the one side and most importantly from customer demands and needs. On the other side, there are also on-going technology improvements. Our developers continuously analyse current technology trends to develop new solutions or increase performance. Taking both sides into consideration this forms the basis of developing the next generation device.
First Laser Scanner
Steve Jobs once said:”If you had asked the people how the next phone would look like we would have never had an iPhone” and today nobody uses anything else but smartphones. Henry Ford as another example said:” If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” So this is to explain that customer requirements need to be understood while still making use of the latest technology advancements.
How did you find out who your customers were? Has that changed over time?
In the beginning, we were in an early adopter market, as laser scanner technology didn’t really exist. There were some universities working with it and some super expensive tools from surveying companies, but laser scanning was not existing in the broad market. Bernd and Reinhard Becker, the founders of iQvolution, which later became part of FARO, understood that this technology could be used in a much broader field of application. Over time we segmented the market and are now focussing on the needs of the construction industry with our Traceable ConstructionTM portfolio.
Watch out for a second part of the interview!
The BIM Industry is preparing for digital accountability. Read an article about traceable construction for designers, contractors, project managers and cost consultants of the future. Supported by a versatile BuildIT Construction software, BIM professionals will be able to continuously compare real-world conditions against CAD model.
Watch a video from Vizrt that perfectly explains how Augmented Reality can be used in broadcasting.
A FARO laser scanner was used to capture a warehouse in 3D and implement it in a virtual studio.
From manufacturers that were the first to print a 3D WAAMpeller, RAMLAB’s vision is to produce repair parts on demand. And it doesn‘t stop with marine applications…
A crucial part of manufacturing rotary motion parts is detecting deformations that occur during the welding process. Laser scanning allows measuring even on shiny surfaces from a distance to compare those measurements to design intent in Autodesk’s 3D measurement and metrology software, PowerInspect. FARO ScanArm enabled RAMLAB to inspect and verify a 3D printed AM propeller. Read the full story:
A new industry standard to prevent rework and additional costs, the TracerSI Laser Projector is a perfect tool to project templates that assemblers can use to align the components efficiently and accurately. The hands free, feature-based alignment increases throughput with one of its kind solution that guides through the entire assembly process.
Zeus Engineering is a Scottish sub-contract precision machining company. For them, the ability to easily generate inspection reports and to clearly document that appropriate checks are performed prior to delivering machined parts to customers has been a key element for final Software selection.
As they became more familiar with the FARO technology, Zeus Engineering quickly realized that it could be used for multiple applications. As an example, the FaroArm and the FARO CAM2 Software are now used to perform in process checks, before final processing. This is very important since raw components can be very expensive, so identifying any errors upstream can dramatically reduce costs.