Site measurement is a crucial aspect of any design process, but with a high value material like architectural glass, accuracy is even more essential. So what is digital site measurement and why is it better than traditional processes?

What is digital site measuring?

Digital measuring is a term which incorporates a number of different technologies all designed to create an accurate site measurement calculation using computer tools rather than analogue measuring equipment.

Digital site measuring typically occurs at the very beginning of the design process. It enables highly accurate capturing of existing structure information which helps ensure the glass that is designed and manufactured will fit exactly. Digital site measuring technology is also often used to inform 3D CAD modeling so that complex architectural glass structures can be precisely designed.

There are a few key types of digital measuring techniques used for architectural glass implementation. These are:

1. Laser Scanning

A laser scanner is a device which emits controlled laser beams which capture the size and shape of surrounding objects and the distance to those objects from the scanner. When placed in a building environment, laser scanners create a virtual 3D map made up of millions of points where the laser beams have come into contact with a solid object. This map or ‘point cloud’ data is then transferred to ‘mesh’ data which can be interpreted by CAD design tools and used for 3D modeling. Depending on the size of the area being scanned, measurements have an accuracy of +/-2mm or less and can accurately capture huge amounts of information from complex environments in a very short period. Multiple scans can be taken and combined to cover large areas, ensuring an entire environment is captured and recorded. The laser scanner has the added advantage of taking coloured photos at the time of scanning which is mapped onto the point cloud data for added realism.

2. Digitizing

A digitizer is a hand-held probe that registers points in 3D space and uses them to plot out a profile. Depending on the size of the structure being measured, a digitizer has an almost equivalent level of accuracy to a laser scanner.

Digitizers are often used because the information captured can be streamlined to include only what the operator wants to measure, rather than having to scan the entire area. This means that file sizes can be smaller and significantly more manageable than with laser scanners. However in order to effectively measure objects, the probe must make physical contact with the objects being measured. This means that everything needs to be within reach of the probes operator, which can be limiting for larger or tall spaces. Like the laser scanner, the digitizer can be relocated and multiple measures be combined to create one overall measure.

What are the alternatives to digital measuring?

There are many conventional alternatives for measuring sites. These include:

  • Hand cut templates
  • Tape measurements, using various additional tools such as a Plumb-Bob.
  • Hand sketches

These traditional methods, combined with numerous other tools, must come together and be referenced once the site measure is complete. The inconsistency of many of these techniques can often lead to errors and a lack of accuracy.

Depending on the size of the project, using these site measurement techniques can also be time consuming, both in the taking of measurements and later processing them. The use of templates in particular is cumbersome and they can be costly to transport, especially if the site to be measured is located a significant distance away from glass manufacture.

The benefits of digital site measurement for architectural glass design

The advent of more sophisticated digital technologies has allowed for the creation of tailored measuring tools which can be used to great effect for glass manufacture. So what are the main benefits they provide over conventional methods?

  1. The accuracy of information being captured: As we’ve already seen, laser scanners have an accuracy of +/-2mm and digitizers can match this level of accuracy. This sort of accuracy is difficult to achieve manually.
  2. The speed in which information is captured: Depending of the size of the measure, thorough laser scanning and digitizing can be completed in minutes. This is in comparison to potentially hours or even days of labour to get reasonably accurate manual measurements using traditional methods.
  3. Easy information transfer: Once captured, digital information is saved as file which can then be transferred instantly via email or similar online channels. This significantly speeds up the processing of data.
  4. Easy information storage: Digital files are also simple and cost-effective to store, and can be reliably located in the future if necessary.
  5. Holistic information: Digital measurements create a whole picture of the site in one measurement. This reduces the time consuming process of combining different pieces of information together in order to document a structure being measured.
  6. Inspect data for anomalies: In the case of laser scanning, data can be inspected for other anomalies within the site environment that may affect the design.
  7. Easily portable: Both digitizers and laser scanners, are small and easily moved from site to site. This eliminates the need to transport cumbersome templates.

Glasshape’s Digital Site Measuring technology

Glasshape has invested in state of the art design and site measuring services to create the highest quality glass products for our clients. Along with our range of technology we also provide expert engineers and CAD operators skilled in utilising digital measuring and the data it provides to get the best results. Our people and our processes, combined with over three decades of industry knowledge, allow us to provide premium turnkey glass solutions for any design desire.

If you’re looking for a high quality digital site measuring service for your glass project, get in touch with Glasshape today.

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