3D mapping best practices

3D mapping means capturing and processing images and data to generate accurate, detailed, and realistic 3D models. 

3D tools are used  in various industries, enabling its user to visualize, analyze, and manipulate complex data sets with unparalleled precision.

Various techniques in 3D mapping, such as Lidar scanning, photogrammetry, and structured light scanning, are discussed, each offering unique advantages.

Best practices in 3D mapping:

In this article we explore 3D mapping technology, highlighting its role for those who work with underground infrastructure. We delve into the intricate process of 3D mapping, covering data acquisition, processing, and the addition of textures to create detailed and realistic 3D models.

  1. Diverse Capturing Techniques in 3D Mapping
  2. Georeferencing
  3. Utilisation and visualisation
3D mapping best practices 2024

How 3D mapping works?

3D mapping begins with data acquisition and processing. This crucial phase lays the foundation for creating a detailed 3D model of the target environment.

Once the model is generated, the next step involves the intricate process of texturing. With the addition of textures, the model gains depth and realism, ready to be analysed and visualised using specialised software. The nuances of this process may vary, adapting to the specific application and techniques utilised.

Groundhawk is a device for 3D mapping

1. Diverse Capturing Techniques in 3D Mapping

In the vast landscape of 3D mapping, several techniques play pivotal roles, each offering unique advantages.

  • Lidar Scanning: 

    Utilising laser beams, Lidar scanning measures distances to meticulously create a 3D model of the environment. This technique finds applications in urban planning, construction, and other fields requiring accurate and detailed environmental information.

  • Photogrammetry: 

    This technique harnesses photographs taken from different angles to construct a 3D model of an object or environment, providing a visual richness to the final representation.

  • Stereo Vision: 

    By utilising two cameras and comparing images from both, stereo vision creates a nuanced 3D model of an object or environment, enhancing depth perception.

3D mapping technologies offer a diverse toolkit to craft precise, realistic representations. The selection of a specific technique, or a combination thereof, hinges on factors such as the desired level of detail and the size and complexity of the object or environment being mapped.

Each technique brings its strengths and limitations to the table, allowing for a tailored approach to meet the unique requirements of diverse applications.

3D mapping in practice

2. Georeferencing

The second step to 3D mapping is to georeferenced the 3D scene into world coordinates. There are two main approaches to this:

  1. Continuous positioning of the sensor using GNSS (satellite positioning).

  2. Using ground control points, ie known points to which the relative captured 3D model can be fitted.
View from excavator

3. Utilization and visualisation

3D models can be visualized to the user as point clouds or mesh models. A point cloud is projecting points and turning the point cloud so the user can imagine a 3D scene.

A mesh is lines or surfaces generated between the points to generate a 3D structure that can be illuminated to generate a 3D scene. The 3D model is then typically used to derive data from such as dimensions, location of certain items in the scene etc.

For underground infrastructure the location of pipes and cables are typically what is the objective to map as well as point objects such as cabinets, poles etc. The end results might be 2D or 3D lines and Feature of Interest Points that are then recorded in GIS systems.

Groundhawk onsite

Benefits of 3D mapping in the context of cable mapping

1. Comprehensive Spatial Visualisation

Traditional cable mapping methods often fall short in capturing the spatial intricacies of underground networks. 3D mapping, however, elevates the game by offering a comprehensive spatial visualization.
Through detailed representations, it becomes possible to precisely locate cables in three-dimensional space, reducing the risk of errors and enhancing overall accuracy.

2. Trench Mapping for Cable Routes

3D trench mapping becomes a game-changer when dealing with cable routes. This technique allows for a detailed mapping of trenches, ensuring that the placement and trajectory of cables are accurately recorded.
By incorporating this into the cable mapping process, potential conflicts and interferences are identified early on, facilitating strategic planning and minimising the chances of disruptions during installation or maintenance.

3. Comprehensive As-Built Documentation

As-builts and as-built drawings play a crucial role in cable mapping, serving as the blueprint for accuracy.
Integrating as-built documentation software into the 3D mapping process ensures that every cable placement is meticulously recorded.
This comprehensive documentation becomes invaluable for future reference, maintenance, and potential expansions of the cable infrastructure.

4. Minimised risk of cable damage during installation or excavation

Challenges in cable mapping often arise due to the complex nature of the underground environment. 3D trench mapping becomes the solution, allowing for a detailed understanding of the subterranean landscape.
Identifying potential obstacles or conflicts with other infrastructure elements becomes more efficient, facilitating proactive problem-solving and minimizing the risk of cable damage during installation or excavation.

5. Enhanced Collaboration with Point Cloud Mapping

Collaboration is key in cable mapping projects. Point cloud mapping, a facet of 3D mapping, enables the sharing of highly detailed and accurate spatial data. This fosters enhanced collaboration among teams involved in cable installation, maintenance, and future planning.
The shared point cloud data becomes a centralized reference, ensuring that all stakeholders work with the same precise information.
Trench route 3d mapping

Conclusion on the benefits of 3D mapping

With the power of three dimensions, real-time updates, and advanced documentation techniques, 3D mapping elevates cable mapping to new heights of precision.
The global 3D market is on a trajectory of unprecedented growth, expected to reach $7.6 billion by 2025 from $3.8 billion in 2020. This surge is fueled by advancements in AI, ML technologies, 3D scanners, and sensors, opening vast opportunities across industries.