Topcon introduces two magnet software solutions

With MAGNET Explorer, infrastructure, buildings, utilities, and structural models can be combined together and analyzed in a single project model.

With MAGNET Explorer, infrastructure, buildings, utilities, and structural models can be combined together and analyzed in a single project model.

Topcon Positioning Group announced two software platforms designed to provide multidisciplinary model management and increased collaboration and integration — MAGNET Explorer and MAGNET Modeler.

MAGNET Explorer offers model management, simulation, and design analysis for construction projects where multiple design disciplines need to function as one. “With MAGNET Explorer, infrastructure, buildings, utilities, and structural models can be combined together and analyzed in one single project model,” said Jason Hallett, vice president of global product management. “All of the data is managed in design coordinates and units as required by professional design simulation and analysis. Modeling generated throughout construction phases can be simulated under real-world conditions, and analyzed for potentially expensive clashes.”

MAGNET Explorer also has connectivity with MAGNET Enterprise, enabling data sharing and collaboration with the complete suite of MAGNET solutions.

MAGNET Modeler is designed to produce blended models from a wide variety of sources, making traditionally time consuming tasks more automatic. “With MAGNET Modeler, it is both easy to import and transform data into 3D models using one tool that is integrated with your common design software,” Hallett said. “MAGNET Modeler integrates smoothly to tools such as Autodesk AutoCAD, Civil 3D, and Map3D. You can also import data in various standard formats such as open-data models (LandXML, IFC) and generic 3D models.”

Information provided by Topcon Positioning Group (

Pros and Cons of LiDAR

Light detection and ranging — LiDAR — can be used to accurately georeference terrain features. The narrow laser beam that LiDAR produces allows users to range and detect a large number of objects and provides a precise, high-resolution, 3D map of their surroundings. As a result, LiDAR has revolutionized the survey and mapping industries.

Nonetheless, photogrammetry is a mature science that is undergoing technological advances itself. The products derived from this mapping system are well received and the limitations are understood. Just as GPS has not made conventional terrestrial surveying obsolete, LiDAR will not completely replace photogrammetric mapping. However, in the last decade, LiDAR has largely displaced photogrammetry as the process for developing large-scale topographic maps because of its advantages.

LiDAR is characterized as an enabling technology and has allowed data to be collected that was difficult or impossible to obtain prior to its introduction. This is especially true in the forest industry and utility corridor arena, where it has been difficult and expensive to get elevation models using ground-based GPS, conventional survey, or photogrammetric techniques. For applications where a more precise digital elevation model (DEM) is required, such as surveying and civil engineering, LiDAR is able to provide much more information than can be acquired by virtually any other means, at least within economic reason. Subsequently, terrestrial scanning and aerial scanning have become two of LiDAR’s most important applications.

Terrestrial scanning creates 3D models of complex objects such as piping networks, roadways, archeological sites, buildings, and bridges. One of the advantages of terrestrial LiDAR is that objects can be measured remotely, making operations such as measuring roadways under traffic much safer. This data can be applied to road design and flood plain mapping. LiDAR also has many uses in aerial scanning, including measuring agricultural productivity; distinguishing faint archeological remains; measuring tree canopy heights; determining forest biomass values; advancing the science of geomorphology; measuring volcanic uplift, glacier decline, and snow pack; and providing data for topographic maps. When used properly, this data can provide the base information for developing land use plans for large residential, commercial, industrial, or mixed-use areas.

LiDAR is a versatile technology that is also used for atmospheric studies, bathymetric surveys, glacial ice investigations, and numerous other applications. This technology is a very cost-effective method of terrain data collection. It offers high precision and high point density data for digital terrain models (DTM). Moreover, it has been shown to accelerate the project schedule more than 30 percent because DTM data processing can begin almost immediately.

Theoretically, it is not restricted to daylight nor cloud cover like aerial photography. In coastal zones and forest areas, LiDAR is considered a superior data collection tool compared with conventional photogrammetric techniques where it is extremely difficult to locate terrain points in the imagery. LiDAR requires only one opening through a tree canopy to “see” the ground, whereas photogrammetry requires that the same ground point be visible from two exposure stations. This would cut down on the amount of area identified as “obscured terrain” on a contour map.

However, there are several disadvantages to LiDAR. While the data collection appears to be cost competitive, the upfront cost of equipment acquisition can be significant. This could be a hard sell because the technology, like that of computers, will probably experience a lot of change during the next several years. Therefore, amortization would have to be spread over a somewhat short period of time.

Another disadvantage is that in areas of dense canopy, LiDAR can sometimes have problems “seeing” the ground. Even with millions of laser pulses, it is not uncommon to find areas with few or no ground returns. In addition, while LiDAR is an active system that theoretically can be used 24 hours a day, it cannot be used above cloud cover or when fog, smoke, mist, rain, or snow storms are present. Furthermore, high winds and turbulence can cause problems with the inertial system.

Indovance, a CAD and drafting outsourcing service provider, is seeing LiDAR technology being used more frequently by its surveying customers. The company converts the digital data to 2D or 3D CAD, which is used to create drawings for new construction or extensions of prior work. In Indovance’s experience, LiDAR is without question the most accurate and precise 3D mapping technology available. Additionally, as drones continue to evolve, they are a major factor influencing the use of LiDAR technology and its ability to get digital pictures of huge remote areas that were previously unattainable. CAD experts at Indovance expect to continue working with LiDAR data even more in the coming years as the technology continues to develop.

Contributed by Sandesh Joshi, president and co-founder of Indovance Inc., a CAD and drafting outsourcing service. Prior to founding Indovance, Joshi worked at SolidWorks Corporation as a senior R&D member.

Bentley Systems releases new ContextCapture offerings

A Bentley technician captures a reality mesh using the ContextCapture mobile application. Image: courtesy of Bentley Systems

Bentley Systems, Incorporated’s ContextCapture offerings for reality modeling now include cloud processing services, a mobile app, and photo planning for Bentley’s applications. ContextShare extends Bentley’s ProjectWise connected data environment to securely manage, share, and stream reality meshes, and their input sources, across project teams and applications. Navigator Web is a new web application that streams large reality meshes to desktop or mobile devices.

For infrastructure project delivery, reality modeling captures the context of infrastructure projects through photos and/or scans, creating engineering-ready reality meshes for design modeling, analytical modeling, and construction modeling. During asset performance, as-operated reality meshes can serve to geo-coordinate the alignment of these digital engineering models with inputs from connected internet of things (IoT) technologies.

Hybrid processing in ContextCapture enables creation of engineering-ready reality meshes that incorporate the best of both worlds — the versatility and convenience of high-resolution photography, supplemented, where needed, by additional accuracy from laser scanning. New photo planning capabilities in Bentley’s applications enable users to prescribe optimal camera positions and flight paths for UAVs to achieve the required levels of accuracy, in particular, for critical inspection points.

The new ContextCapture mobile app brings reality capture to every member of a project delivery or asset management team. Combined with the new ContextCapture cloud processing service, this delivers 3D reality meshes back to the mobile device, and to office-based professionals, immediately after a set of photos has been taken. The new Navigator Web application makes immersive reality modeling accessible through any browser, with progressive levels of detail.

ContextCapture enables reality modeling to scale from city models to site models to component nameplates. Users can now take advantage of cloud services’ inherent parallel computing to speed processing of reality meshes. Scalable mesh technology enables multi-resolution inputs through the new (.3sm) format.

The new ProjectWise ContextShare service securely streams reality meshes and their inputs, making it possible to instantly and persistently share full-scale engineering-ready datasets across a distributed team, whether in the field or in the office. ProjectWise ContextShare is offered through a visa subscription, with charges only for actual use.

Information provided by Bentley Systems (

Autodesk enhances advance steel and steel connections for Revit

Autodesk Advance Steel 2018 provides easier access to customized fabrication data information. Image: courtesy of Autodesk

Since acquiring Advance Steel in 2013, Autodesk has worked toward better support for BIM-centric workflows for structural steel design and detailing. For instance, the company has been working to strengthen the interoperability between Autodesk Revit design software and Autodesk Advance Steel software. Advance Steel 2018, released in April, offers seamless consumption of Level of Development (LOD) 350 Revit models.

The LOD Specification is a reference that enables practitioners to specify and articulate with a high level of clarity the content and reliability of BIMs at various stages in the design and construction process. For LOD350, the model element is graphically represented within the model as a specific system, object, or assembly in terms of quantity, size, shape, orientation, and interfaces with other building systems. Non-graphic information may also be attached to the model element.

Autodesk said the improved operability means that engineers can deliver more accurate designs and bills of materials to the detailer and fabricator. And for the detailer, it means they can more quickly respond to design changes while delivering the files needed to drive steel fabrication. This interoperability will help steel detailers and fabricators take full advantage of the steel design model.

The Autodesk Steel Connections for Revit 2018 release includes several major updates, including more than 130 parametric steel connections. These connections may be transferred to the Revit model to help improve design coordination between engineers and fabricators. The update also has custom-made framing Revit families for custom sections and the ability to transfer code check for customized parameters.

Advance Steel 2018 includes several enhancements designed to improve usability. For instance, it has been fully integrated into the AutoCAD platform so users will now have one simple installation and one licensing mechanism for their software. In addition, settings from one version of Advance Steel to the next can now be transferred with one interface.

Advance Steel 2018 also includes updates that allow users to better control documentation and customized model information. These new features include:

model views combined with cameras to simplify creation of general arrangement drawings;

customized model information in DWG to communicate designs more effectively; and

callouts to help users save time on drawing creation.

Information provided by Autodesk (