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Point Cloud Modeling – Point Cloud Formats and Benefits in Construction?


Point Cloud Modeling has emerged as a vital tool in the age of digitization and technological advancement to enable surveyors and engineers with efficient, precise and easy solutions. Point cloud files are a robust way to collect and manage spatial data for 3D modeling. What is Point Cloud Modeling? How does Point cloud to 3D Modeling benefits in Construction?

What is Point Cloud Modeling?

A point cloud is a set of multiple small data or focus points in space, with each point having its own set of X, Y, and Z coordinates and depicting a 3D shape or structure. Just like a pixel in an image the denser your point cloud is, the more precise and detailed is your 3D model.

Point Cloud are typically created with using Photogrammetry and Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR)

1. Photogrammetry

  • Photogrammetry is a typical method for generating point clouds. This technique of surveying an area with a Done or UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) called Drone Mapping. A drone operator navigates the UAV to take multiple images of a construction site or landscape from various angles.  
  • These images are then sutured and layered with the help of computer software to create a 3D mesh and produce a complete 3D model within a CAD or BIM program. The method of registering and filling in the gaps between the data or focus points and creating a mesh is known as surface reconstruction. It’s crucial to capture as many data points and images as feasible to produce fewer spaces to reconstruct.

2. LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging)

  • LIDAR (Light detection and ranging) also known as Laser scanning or 3D scanning is a specific remote sensing technique which uses light in the form of laser to measure distances. LIDAR is applied to scan an area or landscape to register and record data points to create a point cloud. 
  • The laser scanners can shoot up to 50,000 to 150,000 pulses per second to give precise and detailed view of the mapped area. 

Point Cloud Formats for 3D Models

Point clouds are utilized for various purposes, including to produce 3D CAD models for fabricated parts, for metrology and quality inspection, and several visualization, animation, rendering, and mass customization applications. Creating a 3D model totally depends on the complexity of the building/facility or landscape design and its characteristics.

Ongoing Remodeling and Renovations in the building further adds to the complications. However, implementing robust 3D Point Cloud technology with laser scanners and 3D modeling software ensure expert solutions where each and every aspect of the landscape is recognized and differentiated from the subsequent.

You can create a model by rendering the data points into a 3D mesh which combines and coordinates these points and sets the frame work for exporting the point cloud files that can be then imported to a CAD or BIM system.

Point Cloud File can be categorized into two types

  1. ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange)
  2. Binary

The ASCII file types is rooted in binary (as all computer languages are) but conveys information using text. Compared to Binary files, ASCII files have an ease on integration with commonly used text editors and applications including Microsoft tools like MS Excel, MS Word etc.

However, when the data is communicated using text, the file size increases, and it takes more time to translate. Binary file on the other hand have better file interpretation speed but they shouldn’t be converted to ASCII as this can cause a loss of data. Hence the best practice is to maintain Binary files as backup.

Point Cloud File Formats

1. XYZ

Non-Standardized set of files based on Cartesian (X, Y, Z) coordinates. ZYZ is a standard ASCII file representation designed for importing and exporting geometries. Although XYZ is widely compatible with other applications, the lack of uniformity and specifications make it a bit flawed.

2. OBJ

OBJ file format has both ASCII and Binary variants. An easily manageable data format that represents 3D geometry, Color, Normals and Composition. OBJ format is extensively used for 3D graphics applications.

3. E57

E57 is a vendor-neutral file format that uses ASCII and Binary file types to collect data for point cloud storage. Convenient, compact, fast to interpret, and large storage of data makes it widely popular and used. E57 format represent Normals, Colors and Scalar field intensity.

4. LAS

The LAS (LASER) format is a Binary file format designed for the interchange and archiving of LIDAR point cloud data. 3D point coordinates are represented within the point data records by 32-bit integers, to which a scaling and offset defined in the public header must be applied in order to obtain the actual coordinates. The most common and standard format compatible with most programs. 

5. PLY

PLY or Polygon File Format. This format capable of representing Color, Transparency, Surface Normals, Composition, Coordinates and Data Confidence values. There are two versions of this file, in ASCII and Binary which can contain data from both the point cloud and the 3D mesh.

6. PTX

PTX is an ASCII based interchange format for point cloud data. It utilizes the concept of separate scans, each with points defined in their own coordinate system and a “Registration” of all of those point clouds into a single coordinate system. The point data for each cloud is stored in its original coordinate system and a matrix of transforms for each point cloud are provided as header information. Common format for storing point cloud data, usually from LIDAR scanners


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POINT CLOUD applications in Construction

Point cloud modeling employing drones and UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) is rapidly increasing in Earthworks and construction projects at different stages of the project due to its versatility and competence. 

Here are a few applications of Point cloud data at various stages of the project:

  • Construction progress Monitoring- Drones enable Earthworks projects to inspect the progress by taking photos of the site and turning them into Orthomosaics.
  • Building performance examination- Mechanical analysis of bridge structure, stress estimation, morphologic analysis, building accessibility diagnosis, etc.
  • Construction safety- Safety hazards identification, Active safety management, safety assistance for mobile crane lifting operations, identification of blind spots of construction equipment, etc.
  • Renovation & Remodeling- Re-design and renovation of the façades, interior design, energy performance retrofit, refurbishment, etc.
  • Construction automation- Digital reproduction, automated earthwork excavation, etc.
  • Heritage Applications – Surveying, repair and maintenance [136], stability analysis, heritage site preservation, documentation, etc.



Uploading your point cloud into a photogrammetry platform lets you organize the data without the hassle of triangulating every point on X, Y and Z manually. The software does the work for you, which saves you hours of time you would have otherwise spent manipulating data. With these hours shortened, you can pull together the project details more quickly and begin your work sooner — which also means faster completion time.

Data collection is also faster because of the large number of points that can be recorded at once. A drone can scan a larger area in much less time than it would take for a surveying team to do the same.


Precise and quicker outputs for capturing an area or landscape into 3D models. Ground-based LIDAR can yield results that are exact inside a millimeter scale, while drone-based LIDAR is precise from 1 to 30 centimeters.

LIDAR frequently incorporates different highlights like GPS to guarantee every information point accompanies exact data. Photogrammetry, as well, utilizes Real Time Kinetic (RTK) geo-labels to guarantee precision in recording the landscape.


In light of the more prominent exactness engaged with site planning with point cloud, you can design a more compelling spending plan for your activities. You can try not to go over your monetary cutoff, and you’ll have less odds of running into any exorbitant mix-ups or unforeseen costs. Laser examining likewise wipes out the requirement for manual reviewing, which diminishes the expense of recruiting extra work.


Manual surveying may require maneuvering through tough terrains which carries the risk of safety hazard for surveyors. Point cloud incorporates drones for each capture of data from these difficult terrains without the risk on injuries.

Point cloud techniques can very powerful be when applied outside of their traditional domain. Working with an expert CAD partner can help you save more money on your projects and finish tasks more efficiently.

INDOVANCE Inc delivers a full range of Point Cloud and 3D modeling services to its clients. We work on LIDAR, 3D Topo drawing from Point cloud, Point Cloud SCAN Conversion Services and more.

For more queries regarding any of the above-mentioned topics, feel free to connect with us on our website www.indovance.com or contact us on +1-919-238-4044.

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