Improved Efficiency with CloudWorx for SOLIDWORKS
Matt Furches, a Senior Mechanical Designer with engineering firm, Technical Associates in Albany, Georgia, joins us to discuss how CloudWorx for SOLIDWORKS has improved their efficiency. Responsible for data capture in the field and producing drawings for clients in the office, Matt's expertise in reality capture is broad.
Technical Associates has been around for over two decades and has grown into a mid-sized engineering firm specialising in industrial engineering. With a focus on scanning and modelling manufacturing sites, Technical Associates are often called in when a customer is looking to add a new production line or move a piece of equipment. These projects vary in scale from modelling an entire facility, a production line section, or the area where a new piece of machinery will be placed. Companies Proctor and Gamble and Georgia Pacific are amongst their clientele.
Projects come in throughout the year and typically begin by venturing into the plant to scan an area of interest. Often, this means working around the facility's production schedule. To prevent shutting down production, scanning will occur when a machine is scheduled to be down.
Due to its speed and ease of use, the guys at Technical Associates favour the Leica RTC360 3D Laser Scanner. Matt explained, "what was a two-day job can be done before lunch."
Using Leica Cyclone REGISTER 360 to process data, Technical Associates also save time in the office. "It's painless," Matt says of their office processing. Thanks to VIS technology, their projects are nearly complete when they arrive back in the office. A little filtering and cleaning, and they are ready to move on. Technical Associates always create a UCS in Cyclone REGISTER 360 to square up the project to the workspace and sometimes to place the project on facility coordinates. Their last step is to publish an LGS file. This LGS becomes the basis of their SOLIDWORKS as-built.
Because of its native point cloud support, Technical Associates worked mostly with Inventor for many years. They didn't have a good option for getting reality capture data into the program, so they slogged through creating their as-builts entirely by hand. In 2020, they invested in CloudWorx for SOLIDWORKS, giving them an option that significantly improved their efficiency, a welcomed change for the modellers at Technical Associates.
SOLIDWORKS is now the preferred choice for most Technical Associates modellers. Matt feels that SOLIDWORKS is less complicated than Inventor—"they do largely the same thing, but it's an easier path to get there with SOLIDWORKS," he says, "a lot less steps." Efficiency is the name of the game.
CloudWorx has been a game changer, allowing them to use the scanned points to create functional geometry. Their deliverable is usually an idealised as-built delivered as 2D drawings or a 3D model; however, they sometimes deliver scenes in VR.
Once they load in their LGS file, the first step is to further clean the data by using clip boxes to home in on the area of interest.
Then they roughly model the scene—enough for it to be clearly represented on a 2D drawing. Matt is excited about the new Floor Planner tool, which can help him get to a workable plan more quickly by automatically extracting linework from a slice. This could bring further efficiency to his workflow, letting him focus on the more labour-intensive modelling of piping and machinery rather than the building site.
From there, Matt will dive into modelling platforms, beams, and pipes. He uses the pipe and steel fitters to quickly identify the size and gauge of the part. The CloudWorx fitters, he says, are a big asset, letting him quickly check sizes before using the SOLIDWORKS catalogue to create a perfectly square, idealised drawing. No longer is he measuring each member to try and figure out what size steel to place—the guesswork is taken out of the equation entirely.
He also uses the fitters to do rough clash checking. He will model the pipes and steel exactly as they exist on-site—in all of their imperfection—and test fit new pipe runs or equipment models to ensure that the new parts won't interfere with existing systems. Matt loves having this functionality in SOLIDWORKS. The latest release offers more stability and tools they can see adding to their workflow, like the Floor Planner and support for opening multiple LGS files in a single project.
"We are really pleased with it," Matt says. "We've waited years for this."
CloudWorx for SOLIDWORKS received a major update in 2022 with new features including:
- Floor Plan creation tool
- Clash Manager
- Support for TruSpace
- Quick Slice and Line Fitters
- Object Fitting Previews
- Steel Beam Connections
CloudWorx for SOLIDWORKS is the only plugin for SOLIDWORKS that lets users work directly with site-scale laser scan data inside of SOLIDWORKS. Users can now model objects as parts and create assemblies from their scan data, saving valuable time and resources and improving their accuracy.