Editor Note: The original article appears on the LiDAR News website. It is a feature on one of our customers, ScanX3D, who utilize a RIEGL VZ-400i terrestrial laser scanner for a multitude of surveying and building documentation jobs. Read more about the company and the projects they are working on below or at the LiDAR News website!

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TopoLift from Certainty 3D


To many people, selecting a name for their new business can be one of the most important decisions they can make. Company names are a key part of branding, which makes you wonder about some of the big names like Uber, Airbnb and Google; versus Autodesk, Intel and Facebook, for instance. The latter, by the way, was the nickname for the “Photo Address Book” which all students at Phillips Exeter, a prep school in Exeter, NH received when they arrived at school, as did Mark Zuckerberg who spent two years there before moving onto Harvard and well, I think you know the rest of the story.

It certainly seems that ScanX3D also chose an appropriate company name as they are quickly becoming a highly respected player in the 3D laser scanning marketplace. Based in Cromwell, Connecticut, the company has 18 employees who are focused on solving a wide range of customer problems that all have one thing in common: applying LiDAR technology to provide an efficient solution.

One of those employees is Ryker Nolan, LiDAR Manager who began working at ScanX3D in November of 2016. As one of the original members of the company, he was first introduced to laser scanning as part of his independent research project that included mapping glacial features on Mars involving the use of the Mars Orbiting Laser Altimeter – derived DEM. He holds a degree in Geology from Central Connecticut State University. Ryker contributed much of the information for this story.


ScanX3D has a powerful inventory of cameras, robotic total stations, GPS and the RIEGL VZ-400i terrestrial laser scanner. On the software side, they use both Bentley Systems’ PowerSurvey v8i and PowerDraft, as well as a number of Autodesk products including AutoCAD 2018, Revit, Civil3D, 3ds Max, Navisworks and Recap Pro as well as SketchUp.

To process the point cloud data, ScanX3D uses RiSCAN Pro and RiSOLVE. For feature extraction, they use TopoDot from Certainty 3D.

“We had a few TLS manufacturers come to our office for demonstrations and a sales pitch,” Ryker recalled. “As a newcomer to reality capture technology, all of the point clouds essentially looked the same to us. Ultimately, we went with RIEGL because of the VZ-400i’s performance, on-board automatic registration tools, ability to integrate a multitude of sensors and an excellent customer service staff. Also, the potential to convert to a mobile system if we desired.”

Ryker believes that any medium to large existing condition survey or building documentation job is best suited for the VZ-400i. ScanX3D surveyors will usually run control with the total station, locate utilities, gather ground information in high vegetation and tie into a property boundary if needed. The VZ-400i will capture everything else to save field time and ensure the highest quality deliverable. The majority of the surveying computations are conducted in the cloud.


The first project is a comprehensive rooftop survey of two public schools in Kings Park in Long Island, New York where existing conditions data was needed to insure a successful solar panel deployment by Solar City, a subsidiary of Tesla. “We used terrestrial LiDAR techniques to collect high definition point cloud data of the roof areas including drainage, vents, HVAC, ponding, and other prominent features,” Ryker explained. The VZ-400i captured over 500,000,000 individual laser measurements from 55 positions at various roof elevations.

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The second project involving the historic Blithewood Garden on Bard College’s campus in Annandale-On-Hudson, New York is a classic example of a walled Italianate garden (designed circa 1903). Blithewood Garden today remains breathtakingly beautiful, including its awe-inspiring backdrop of the Catskill Mountains and Hudson River.

Bard College identified the need to investigate the current state of structural stability of the garden area. ScanX3D was consulted to evaluate the structures and surrounding areas while preserving the condition of the historic site.

3D laser scanning services were performed using RIEGL’s VZ-400i and tied to existing campus survey coordinates within one typical work day (~8hrs).

“As can be seen, significant deflection was found in the north wall upon taking several sections through point cloud data and coloring by deviation from a plane,” Ryker noted. “A complete report of wall deflection for the structural engineer was generated while simultaneously capturing an accurate true color point cloud model of the garden.”

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The third project involved Saint Mary’s Hospital medical office building in Waterbury, CT. Ryker explained, “When there were no up-to-date blueprints, we were contracted to document two floors. We made special use of RIEGL’s new automatic registration 2.0 by quickly moving between setups utilizing the internal IMU. There was hardly any need to perform any post acquisition registering processes as the onboard computer was working in the field.”

This data was then quickly sliced to generate floor plans and put accurate spatial information in the client’s hands as soon as possible. Overall, ScanX3D took about 100 scans per floor in 1.5 days.

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Return on Investment

“Purchasing a terrestrial laser scanner is generally a larger investment than conventional surveying equipment. However, the reduction in field time and wide range of applications where we have made use of the technology have allowed us to compete at the forefront of a growing industry,” Ryker noted. “Our RIEGL scanner and software reliably get us from field to extraction without hassle. A responsive and knowledgeable customer service department is hands down the greatest resource in this line of work – RIEGL provides that. Laser scanning has not only enhanced our typical survey collection but has opened up new avenues for us to venture into.”

The Future

“If 3D technology can provide a solution for a project, then we will make it happen,” Ryker explained. “I see us incorporating additional hardware to boost our scanning productivity such as a stop and go system for vehicular use or upgrading to a mobile platform. I think incorporating proposed designs, web applications, and possibly VR will expand the general use of 3D technology even further.


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