What are the most popular types of point cloud processing software? (2022)

Point clouds start off as datasets that are broadly incomprehensible for most practical purposes. Point cloud surveys generally result in dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of scans that need to be ‘registered’ and aligned in order to produce an end product. That composite data set then often needs to be visualised using 3D modelling software.

Some point cloud processing software is capable of processing raw point cloud data and then directly transforming it into 3D images or BIM (Building Information Modelling) schematics. Others are focused on registering raw data for subsequent use with specialised 3D modelling software. For many point cloud creators (surveyors, civil and structural engineers, etc.), picking point cloud processing software is the first proprietary decision they need to make. It is vital to look at the details of the available options.

For those also in the market for surveying equipment, it is important to buy software that will complement chosen hardware. For those looking to avoid dedicated scanner purchases, versatility and interoperability are important concerns. Although there are similarities across the available software, there are enough variations that it is important to look carefully at the options before making a decision. This is a guide to help surveyors, engineers and other point cloud creators get the most out of their software purchases.

Autodesk: ReCap, Revit and AutoCAD

Autodesk is the behemoth of point cloud processing and reality capture software. The company has an annual revenue of over $2 billion. Founded in 1982, the American firm burst into the market with AutoCAD, which remains its flagship computer-aided design (CAD) software.

Focused on delivering IT services to architecture, engineering and construction (AEC), Autodesk products are also used in manufacturing, media and entertainment. The company is one of the few players in this space that does not produce in-house hardware and is solely focused on hardware agnostic software systems.

Revit is Autodesk’s primary program for 3D models for BIM (Building Information Modelling), it allows users to manipulate whole buildings or assemblies within a project environment. This program is considered an industry leader when it comes to BIM dedicated software. However, it is incapable of NURBS modelling.

Recap is targeted at Autodesk's media clients, but offers powerful reality capture capabilities for 3D and 2D modelling that have found applications in a wide range of industries — particularly construction designs based on point cloud scans of existing structures.

What are the most popular types of point cloud processing software? (1)

Autodesk software has a reputation for high-standards, intuitive interfaces and efficient workflows — setting the industry standard for decades. They are optimised for use with proprietary file formats (RCS/RCP for ReCap and DXF/DWG for Revit ). However, as one of the most widely used software suites in the industry, interoperability issues are minimised and export to more common file formats is possible. The different programs within Autodesk’s suite complement each other with different specialised capabilities.

(Video) What is a Point Cloud?

Despite their many benefits, Autodesk programs are expensive. Autodesk also continues to tweak internal file formats, creating some interoperability issues between different versions of the software. Although ReCap and Revit can be used in a complementary way for construction projects, their basis in different proprietary file formats can cause complications. Each, however, is considered an industry leader in its own right.

Autodesk, ReCap:

Import: ASC, CL3, CLR, E57, FLS, FWS, ISPROJ, LAS, PCG, PTG, PTS, PTX, RDS, TXT, XYB, XYZ, ZFS, ZFPRJ, DXF, DWG

Export: RCS, RCP, PCG, PTS, E57, DXF, DWG

Autodesk, Revit:

Import: DNG, DWF, DWG, DXF, IFC, SAT, SKP

Export: DWG, DXF, DGN, ACIS SAT, ADSK, FBX, NWC, DWF, IFC

Bentley: Pointools

Bentley Systems has specialised in servicing architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) operations since its founding in 1984. The American software firm has a revenue of over $625 million, making it a large and dedicated player in point cloud processing and engineering IT services.

(Video) Hear what FDOT have to say about TopoDOT Point Cloud Processing Software

Bentley, like Autodesk, is focused solely on software production — opting to create versatile systems capable of interfacing with a number of hardware provisions. Bentley acquired Pointools Ltd in 2011, expanding their existing point cloud capabilities from their long-standing Descartes system.

Pointools offers a powerful and fast point cloud visualisation and editing platform. Pointools has retained a flexible design for years, offering its users a uniform yet customisable experience that has continued to deliver across system updates. Known for consistency, Pointools provides active saving and referencing capabilities within a range of tools that cover most drafting needs.

Pointools is used widely within the civil engineering space. However, the number of options available in the layout can also be overwhelming to untrained users, particularly when it comes to modify tools such as trimming, extending, fillet and chamfer.

Import: POD, OBJ, SHP, DXF, DWG, ESRI, E57, ZFS, LAZ, LAS, FLS, FWS, XYZ, PTS, PTX, PTZ, TXT, LWO, CL3, BIN, RSP, 3DD

Export: POD, PTS, XYZ

Leica: Cyclone

Leica Geosystems brands itself as the premium provider of point cloud processing and survey equipment. They develop both hardware and software intended to take their customers on an in-house and intuitive journey from the field through to processed 3D models. Leica also operates several partnership programs. They are a privately held subsidiary of the Swedish firm Hexagon AB and have an annual revenue in excess of $800 million.

Most Leica hardware is designed to interface solely with Leica software, using proprietary file formats and encryption. Their point cloud processing software, however, has been developed with more open source aims — accommodating a wide range of input and export formats capable of interfacing with third-party technology.

Leica’s flagship point cloud processing software ‘Cyclone’ offers a diverse and fast operating system with auto alignment tools and user-friendly cloud-to-cloud registration abilities. Beyond processing, Cyclone offers linework capabilities that allow files to be imported directly to CAD software in a nearly finished capacity. Leica products, however, are expensive. Although Cyclone has 3D modelling capabilities, it is intended to be used in conjunction with dedicated modelling software.

(Video) Point Cloud Software PinPoint Overview - Scanner2GO 094

Import: XYZ, PTS, PTX, LAS, E57, ZFS, DP

Export: XYZ, PTS, PTX, E57, DXF, PCI/CWF, DBX, Land XML

Faro: Scene

Faro is a producer of both scanners and processing software. Founded in 1981, the American company has an annual revenue of over $360 million and is an industry leader in 3D measurements, imaging and realisation technology. Although a significant player in both the surveying and processing software markets, a large number of Faro’s customers are advanced machine manufacturers. Many of their scanners are focused on delivering precise models of objects, rather than surveying. Faro’s surveying scanners are considered a faster, smaller and cheaper alternative to Leica products, but at the cost of accuracy.

Faro’s processing software, Scene, is designed to interface with their own hardware and third-party scanners. It is capable of generating high-quality, full-colour data quickly for registration using artificial targets and cloud-to-cloud comparisons. Scene is purpose-built to interface with virtual reality (VR) technology and can connect with cloud services hosted by Faro — providing some 3D modelling capabilities and easy file sharing access. The software is fast and known for easy registration processes, but offers fewer features for cleanup than Autodesk and Leica products.

Import: XYZ, CVS, COR

Export: PTC, PTX, PST, XYZ, DXF, IGES, VRML, E57

Riegl: RiSCAN PRO

Riegl is better known for hardware than processing software. For high-end, long-range scanners, Riegl products are hard to beat. They dominate the airborne market, and are used heavily in the mining sector. However, Riegl also offers their own in-house software that interfaces natively with their hardware products.

RiSCAN Pro pairs with terrestrial laser scanners, delivering batch registration, 3D bundle adjustments and filtering tools. Data is streamed in real-time from the scanner to the software. RiSCAN is a great system for use with Riegl scanners, however has a smaller market presence when used with third-party hardware. RiSCAN offers basic visualization features, but fewer modelling capabilities than other popular point cloud processing software.

(Video) TBC and TRW: what's difference in point cloud processing?

Import: RXP, RDB, SDW, 3DD, CSV, LAS, DXF, VTP, OBJ, STL

Export: CVS, LAS, E57, POD, DXF, DM, OBJ, PTS, RQX

Trimble: RealWorks

Trimble is an American leader when it comes to both point cloud processing software and hardware production. Founded in 1978, they have an annual revenue stream nearing $3 billion. Trimble develops laser rangefinders, UAVs, inertial navigation systems and GNSS receivers. Their technology has a reputation for being fast, clean and consistent.

RealWorks is Trimble’s flagship point cloud processing software, designed to flexibly register and analyse point clouds. It allows users to register, cleanup, model and develop finalised deliverables in a single program. RealWorks is expensive, but delivers a wide range of features, including 3D modelling capabilities. Each stage, however, has fewer options than purpose-built 3D modelling software, or BIM programs.

Trimble Edgewise is their BIM specific software, designed to be used in tandem with RealWorks. Trimble also produces a CAD only program called Trimble Business Center.

Import: XYZ, E57, LAS, LAZ, ZFS, RSP, FLS, DP, PTX, PTS

Export: E57, ASC, LAS 1.2, LAS 1.4, LAZ, POD, PTS, PTX, TZF, BSF, KMZ, DWGM DXF, DGN, FBX, OBJ

The Future of Point Cloud Processing and 3D Models

Technology always changes. One of the ongoing debates within the point cloud community is the need to package all processing and modelling components within the same program. Many new entrants into the market focus on a single aspect of point cloud creation, delivering improvements to either the processing or modelling. This type of focus allows for faster innovation and often better, yet singular, products.

(Video) PointCab Origins 4.0 Webinar - What's new in our point cloud processing software?

This is seen within the larger software producers as well. BIM specific modelling programs, for example, rarely come with processing capabilities — the dedication needed for BIM requires specialisation. The same logic holds true for processing and 3D modelling. For example, several new processing programs are taking advantage of machine learning and novel rotational vector techniques to accelerate the processing registration procedure by as much as 40%-90%.

Other startups are making new 3D modelling and CAD programs for use in conjunction with ‘processing only’ software — making intuitive changes to controls and export capabilities. This type of innovation is not possible when looking to rework the entire development process in one go. Point cloud developers that embrace this multi-stage process are often able to produce higher-quality output at speed, compiling the best of breed capabilities for each stage of the development journey.

What are the most popular types of point cloud processing software? (2)

FAQs

What is point cloud processing? ›

Point cloud processing is used in robot navigation and perception, depth estimation, stereo vision, visual registration, and in advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). Computer Vision Toolbox™ algorithms provide point cloud processing functionality for downsampling, denoising, and transforming point clouds.

Which type of technology is associated with point cloud technology? ›

Point clouds are most commonly generated using 3D laser scanners and LiDAR (light detection and ranging) technology and techniques. Here, each point represents a single laser scan measurement. These scans are then stitched together, creating a complete capture of a scene, using a process called 'registration'.

What are point clouds used for? ›

As the output of 3D scanning processes, point clouds are used for many purposes, including to create 3D CAD models for manufactured parts, for metrology and quality inspection, and for a multitude of visualization, animation, rendering and mass customization applications.

What type of file is a point cloud? ›

Common point cloud binary formats include FLS (Faro), PCD (point cloud library), and LAS. Several other regularly used file types are capable of both ASCII and binary formats. These include PLY, FBX. E57 store data in both binary and ASCII, pulling many of the benefits of both together in a single file type.

How do you create a point cloud? ›

To generate a point cloud with photogrammetry, you would cameras to capture the space from all angles, and then process those images with specialized software to reconstruct the space in 3D. If you plan to use drones to capture a point cloud of a building, chances are that you will use photogrammetry.

What is point cloud BIM? ›

Point Cloud to BIM is a 3D model created with laser scanning. Point cloud modeling is widely popular for its precision. As you can extract detailed elements of an object captured in physical space. This enables accurate modeling, clash coordination and quantity takeoff (QTO) or Bill of materials (BOQ).

What is the difference between LiDAR and point cloud? ›

LiDAR and point clouds

The one difference to remember that distinguishes photogrammetry from LiDAR is RGB. In other words: colour. Photogrammetric point clouds have an RGB value for each point, resulting in a colourised point cloud. On the other hand, when it comes to accuracy, LiDAR is hard to beat.

What is intensity in point cloud? ›

Intensity is a measure, collected for every point, of the return strength of the laser pulse that generated the point. It is based, in part, on the reflectivity of the object struck by the laser pulse. Reflectivity is a function of the wavelength used, which is most commonly in the near infrared.

What is point cloud Python? ›

Ingest, process, and Visualize 3D Point Cloud Data in Python

A point cloud is a set of data points in space. The points may represent a 3D shape or object. Each point position has its set of Cartesian coordinates (X, Y, Z).

How do I use point cloud in AutoCAD? ›

How to import a Point Cloud into AutoCAD
  1. In AutoCAD, under Insert>Attach.
  2. Choose the .rcs file.
  3. Keep to these settings. Uncheck insertion point and scale.
  4. Done. 🙂 ...
  5. Repeat Step 1. Insert>Attach.
  6. Ensure you've chosen a DWG.
  7. Uncheck scale and insertion point. This ensures your file is at Origin to Origin.
  8. Done. 🙂
20 Mar 2021

How is a LiDAR point cloud produced? ›

A LiDAR point cloud dataset is created when an area is scanned using light detection and ranging.

Which methods can produce high accuracy and dense data point clouds? ›

To provide the best results for the point cloud, an accurate distance measurement (laser) and the external orientation parameters of a platform are needed.

How do I open a point cloud file? ›

Insert a Point Cloud File
  1. Open the Revit project.
  2. Click Insert tab Link panel (Point Cloud).
  3. Specify the file or files to link, as follows: For Look in, navigate to the location of the file(s). ...
  4. For Positioning, select: ...
  5. Click Open. ...
  6. For raw format files, you are prompted to index the data:
20 Jul 2022

How do I check my data on point cloud? ›

Once the reader feature type has been added to the canvas, click on it to open the popup menu. On the popup menu, click on the View Source Data button to open Visual Preview. In Visual Preview, you can drag a box over the entire point cloud to view the parameters in the Feature Information window.

What are 3D point clouds and 3D models? ›

A 3D point cloud is converted into a 3D mesh in a modeling software, and the resulting model can be used in CAD (Computer Aided Design) or BIM (Building Information Modeling) software. A point cloud is often converted as 3D elements because of the size of a point cloud file.

What is 3D point cloud annotation? ›

3D point cloud annotation allows you to visualize an object for more detailed detection and classification in order to get the dimension exactly correct.

What is point cloud in Matlab? ›

A point cloud is a collection of data points in 3D space, where each point represents the X-, Y-, and Z-coordinates of a location on a real-world object's surface, and the points collectively map the entire surface. Point clouds are commonly produced by lidar scanners, stereo cameras, and time-of-flight cameras.

What is Revit Point cloud? ›

A Point cloud is a set of data points in some coordinate system defined by X, Y and Z values that represent the surface of an object. Point Cloud is the data type resulting from a 3D laser scanner used to measure dimensions of space in 3D.

What is Scan to BIM Revit? ›

Scan to BIM is the process, which uses 3D laser scanning technology to capture the as-built environment. The resulting Survey data called Point cloud is imported into Autodesk Revit. The main advantage of Scan to BIM is its ability to analyze the differences between point cloud and model geometry by creating native.

What does LiDAR stand for? ›

Lidar, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth.

Is point cloud a LiDAR? ›

Point Cloud: commonly the product of a LiDAR system, it is a collection of points useful for storing large amounts of data. Each point in the point cloud can hold information, called components, which contains a value that describes the point.

Which is better LiDAR or photogrammetry? ›

If you're surveying land with dense vegetation where light pulses can still penetrate between branches and leaves, lidar yields high vertical accuracy. This is a significant advantage over photogrammetry, as photogrammetric surveying will only produce high vertical accuracy when there is sparse vegetation on site.

What is LiDAR point intensity? ›

LiDAR intensity is recorded as the return strength of a laser beam. In the Geo-MMS LiDAR systems, it is a bi-product, provided as an integer number between 1-256. This number varies with the composition of the surface object reflecting the laser beam.

What is LiDAR how is process achieved? ›

LiDAR is an acronym for Light Detection and Ranging. In LiDAR, laser light is sent from a source (transmitter) and reflected from objects in the scene. The reflected light is detected by the system receiver and the time of flight (TOF) is used to develop a distance map of the objects in the scene.

Does LiDAR work on reflective surfaces? ›

Retro-reflective surfaces return a very high percentage of radiated energy to the receiver due to their reflective properties. Light hitting a retro-reflective surface will return to the receiver without much signal loss so retro-reflective surfaces are typically very good targets for the LIDAR-Lite.

Is Cloud compare free? ›

CloudCompare is a Free software. Free as in "Free speech", not as in "free beer".

How do you visualize a ply file in Python? ›

The . PLY file contains ONLY vertex and NOT faces.
...
I recommend the following steps:
  1. Convert . ply to . pcd (ascii) : pcl_ply2pcd input. ply output. pcd -format 0.
  2. Use pypcd which is a python module for reading and writing . pcd files.
  3. Pypcd returns a numpy ndarray which can be used perfectly with matplotlib.
21 Jun 2018

What is point cloud data in CAD? ›

A point cloud is a large collection of points acquired by 3D laser scanners or other technologies to create 3D representations of existing structures. Point cloud files support the design process by providing real-world context where you can recreate the referenced objects or insert additional models.

How do you make a point cloud tab in AutoCAD? ›

Solution:
  1. From the Ribbon, on the Insert tab, click on Attach and select the file type corresponding with Point Clouds (*. rcp; *. rcs) or All Files.
  2. Enter the command ATTACH or POINTCLOUDATTACH.
8 Jul 2021

How do I cut a point cloud in AutoCAD? ›

Remove Cropped Areas
  1. Select a point cloud with cropped areas.
  2. Do one of the following: To remove the last cropped area, click Point Cloud tab Cropping panel Uncrop Last. Find. To remove all cropped areas, click Point Cloud tab Cropping panel Uncrop All. Find.
29 Mar 2020

What type of data is LiDAR? ›

Light detection and ranging (lidar) data are collected from aircraft using sensors that detect the reflections of a pulsed laser beam.

How are point clouds stored? ›

They are collections of individual points plotted in 3D space. Each point contains several measurements, including its coordinates along the X, Y, and Z-axes, and sometimes additional data such as a color value, which is stored in RGB format, and luminance value, which determines how bright the point is.

How is LiDAR data used? ›

Lidar is commonly used to make high-resolution maps, with applications in surveying, geodesy, geomatics, archaeology, geography, geology, geomorphology, seismology, forestry, atmospheric physics, laser guidance, airborne laser swath mapping (ALSM), and laser altimetry.

How do I render a point cloud in blender? ›

Render Point Clouds in Blender with Cycles (.ply) - YouTube

How do you link a point cloud in Revit? ›

Insert a Point Cloud File
  1. Open the Revit project.
  2. Click Insert tab Link panel (Point Cloud).
  3. Specify the file or files to link, as follows: For Look in, navigate to the location of the file(s). ...
  4. For Positioning, select: ...
  5. Click Open.
18 Aug 2022

How do I pin a point cloud in Revit? ›

To do this click on the “Manage” button at the top of the screen where you will find the “Snaps” function on the top left side of the screen. Click on it and you will have a pop-up window coming up where you will have the “Snap to Point Clouds” function with a tick box next to it.

How do you reload a point cloud in Revit? ›

How to Reload Point Clouds in Revit. Go to the Insert or Manage tab and choose "Manage Links". Select the "Point Cloud" tab. Select a point cloud in the list and choose "Reload From" on the lower left and select .

What is a point cloud in laser scanning? ›

The point cloud is the output of the 3D scanning process, it is the set of data points in the scanned space. Taken together, they represent the site scanned, containing every visible detail there is to be known. Data acquisition of such point clouds are obtained from LIDAR (Light Detection & Ranging) scanners.

What is LiDAR data processing? ›

LiDAR technology enables the data capture on field by lighting the target using pulsed laser. As LiDAR also provides elevation data, it finds applications in several industries.

What is point cloud BIM? ›

Point Cloud to BIM is a 3D model created with laser scanning. Point cloud modeling is widely popular for its precision. As you can extract detailed elements of an object captured in physical space. This enables accurate modeling, clash coordination and quantity takeoff (QTO) or Bill of materials (BOQ).

How do I use point cloud in AutoCAD? ›

How to import a Point Cloud into AutoCAD
  1. In AutoCAD, under Insert>Attach.
  2. Choose the .rcs file.
  3. Keep to these settings. Uncheck insertion point and scale.
  4. Done. 🙂 ...
  5. Repeat Step 1. Insert>Attach.
  6. Ensure you've chosen a DWG.
  7. Uncheck scale and insertion point. This ensures your file is at Origin to Origin.
  8. Done. 🙂
20 Mar 2021

Is LiDAR a point cloud? ›

Point clouds are sets of points that describe an object or surface. To create a point cloud, laser scanning technology like LiDAR can be used. Each point contains an ample amount of data that can be integrated with other data sources or used to create 3D models.

What is point cloud LiDAR data? ›

Point cloud data is the term used to refer to the data points collected for a given geographical area, terrain, building or space. A LiDAR point cloud dataset is created when an area is scanned using light detection and ranging.

What is 3D point cloud? ›

A Point Cloud is a 3D visualization made up of thousands or even millions of georeferenced points. Point clouds provide high-resolution data without the distortion sometimes present in 3D mesh models and are commonly used in industry-standard software.

How many types of LiDAR are there? ›

Two types of lidar are topographic and bathymetric. Topographic lidar typically uses a near-infrared laser to map the land, while bathymetric lidar uses water-penetrating green light to also measure seafloor and riverbed elevations.

How is LiDAR data stored? ›

Lidar data is stored in one or more LAS or LAZ (compressed form of the LAS) files—the industry-standard binary format for storing lidar data. Lidar data files can be quite large, containing billions of 3D points. These massive data files can affect the processing speed and responsiveness of software that loads it.

How does LiDAR transmit data? ›

Lidar is an active optical sensor that transmits laser beams toward a target while moving through specific survey routes. The reflection of the laser from the target is detected and analyzed by receivers in the lidar sensor.

What is Revit point cloud? ›

A Point cloud is a set of data points in some coordinate system defined by X, Y and Z values that represent the surface of an object. Point Cloud is the data type resulting from a 3D laser scanner used to measure dimensions of space in 3D.

What is Scan to BIM Revit? ›

Scan to BIM is the process, which uses 3D laser scanning technology to capture the as-built environment. The resulting Survey data called Point cloud is imported into Autodesk Revit. The main advantage of Scan to BIM is its ability to analyze the differences between point cloud and model geometry by creating native.

What is point cloud data in CAD? ›

A point cloud is a large collection of points acquired by 3D laser scanners or other technologies to create 3D representations of existing structures. Point cloud files support the design process by providing real-world context where you can recreate the referenced objects or insert additional models.

How do I open a point cloud file? ›

Insert a Point Cloud File
  1. Open the Revit project.
  2. Click Insert tab Link panel (Point Cloud).
  3. Specify the file or files to link, as follows: For Look in, navigate to the location of the file(s). ...
  4. For Positioning, select: ...
  5. Click Open. ...
  6. For raw format files, you are prompted to index the data:
20 Jul 2022

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2. Point Cloud Processing Using Autodesk Infrastructure Solutions
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4. Point Cloud processing with VisionLiDAR
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5. Mark Wiebe: Sequoia: Point Cloud Processing and Meshing
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6. Point Cloud Processing with LiDAR Tools of WhiteboxTools in QGIS
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