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  • Writer's pictureVirve Juhola

From physical to digital and vice versa – the future of construction is here

Updated: Feb 24, 2020

Supporting its mission to change how the world works, Trimble utilizes its own technology and software solutions to plan and build the new Finland offices. Product manager Ian Warner recently visited Finland to demonstrate the implementation of emerging technologies, including mixed reality, robotic total stations, laser scanning, accurate BIM, and many others.

Trimble’s Field Technologies Group’s product manager Ian Warner is a construction technology advocate who has worked with architects, engineers, contractors, building and project owners, and educational institutions across the world. He is helping the industry improve the design-build-operate lifecycle by showing how new technological solutions can benefit the entire process. Trimble offers unique building, civil and geospatial workflow solutions which will for sure serve the next generation of AECO professionals but which are ready to utilize today for those willing to take the leap.

Trimble offers unique building, civil and geospatial workflow solutions which will for sure serve the next generation of AECO professionals but which are ready to utilize today for those willing to take the leap.

When Ian was in Espoo, we talked about how the constructible building information model meets the built environment and what physical to digital and vice versa means in practice.

“The digital transformation has indeed begun,” Warner says. “On the design side, up-to-date software technology offers an online documentation platform for all the different stakeholders in a construction project to share in the cloud. Being able to consume one shared database makes it easy to reference the models of the various design disciplines and combine all the relevant design information into one model so that no choices are made in isolation.”

Sharing and combining the models is a major benefit in terms of time, cost, safety and security

It takes hundreds to thousands of man-hours to put together all the building information models needed for the new office building, and saving, combining and sharing them through the Trimble Connect service is a major benefit in terms of time, cost, safety and security.

“New technology allows recording modifications and obtaining approvals and verifications for changes made in the field real-time by utilizing the data in the building information model,” Warner says.

On site, we can use robotic total stations with GNSS and GPS options, rapid positioning tools and rugged-use tablets with Trimble Field Link software to ensure models get built as planned. Laser scanning can be done on site by using the new Trimble X7 scanning system with Trimble Field Link as well. Trimble also has the TX6 and TX8 laser scanners where the data is transferred to, for example, Trimble RealWorks software for final analysis and design. The connection between Trimble laser scanners and Tekla Structures allows working with point clouds with high efficiency and accuracy. The point cloud provides a visual overlay prior to or during construction for quality control and assurance when using prefabricated units, for example. To complete the circle, we offer compatible solutions for labor, material and equipment tracking on site.”

Empowering the frontline worker with mixed reality

During his stay in Finland, Warner consulted Geotrim, the Finnish reseller of Trimble’s surveying equipment, such as the X7 laser scanners, and the provider of surveying consultancy and services on the Trimble office construction site in Espoo. Warner also demonstrated Trimble’s latest development in hardware, the hard-hat-integrated Trimble XR10 with Microsoft HoloLens 2, a combo manufactured and sold exclusively by Trimble.

“We want to empower the frontline worker with mixed reality,” Warner says. “That is why Trimble is investing heavily on both the software and hardware fronts. The Trimble XR10 with HoloLens 2 was announced in February of 2019 with Microsoft at the Mobile World Congress. It integrates Microsoft’s components from HoloLens 2 into a hard-hat aimed at safety-controlled environments, such as construction and manufacturing. The XR10 has all of the same technical benefits as the HoloLens 2 but is powered to go wherever the worker goes.” Using Trimble Connect for Hololens, workers can reference the latest models directly into their hardhats to help with quality control, prefabrication, sequencing, inspections and everyday tasks.

Making construction cool again with all new gadgets

“There is still some resistance to taking BIM to the field, but now with the new software, it’s so easy and automatic and possible to learn quickly without specific training. We are making construction cool again with all the new gadgets, while taking constructability -- the highest level of detail including all the nuts and bolts -- to the construction site and the workshop floor. Regarding documentation before, during or after construction, with a couple of clicks instead of lots of typing, an image from a laser scan is worth a thousand pictures, and the documentation is valid and usable in different phases of the project,” Warner says.

“This is a big deal in large projects, and could carry life and death importance in projects such as hospitals. If we can hand over an accurate as-built to the hospital maintenance staff, they can make more informed decisions before cutting into or shutting down critical life safety systems. These millimeter accurate as-builts can greatly affect the performance and future profitability for any project.”

“The implementation of the latest technology requires basic understanding from the contractors, however, who may think it’s expensive to have people trained to use the devices and programs. My argument is, they can’t afford not to join the progress in order to stay in business. The competition will surpass them and steal the best workers, and the youth being so used to technology these days, teaching people to use laser scanners only takes a couple of hours, not to mention that today all age groups are able to use smartphones. There are tens of thousands of total stations already in use across the world and thousands of laser scanners in use in the US,” Warner points out. So contractors should jump into the technology world before getting left behind.

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