Case Study Published: 18/02/2019

1st Horizon - EdgeWise

The end of 3D modelling workarounds: 1st Horizon makes its geospatial survey workflows faster, with EdgeWise

“Creating a 3D model from point cloud data is always time-intensive. Given that it's one of the core, day-to-day processes for 1st Horizon, anything we can do to make it easier and faster is a huge benefit to us. EdgeWise has revolutionised our approach, cutting process times by 50%.”

Chris Merrell, Principal BIM Engineer, 1st Horizon 


Excitech services provided:

  • Autodesk licenses
  • EdgeWise software
  • Training 

Meet 1st Horizon

1st Horizon started in 2006 as a conventional land survey operation with a purely geomatics (also known as surveying engineering) background and experience. Its roots are in the construction and petrochemical industries, with gas pipelines and large-scale civil engineering projects being amongst its earliest involvement with clients.  

This is a company with a constant requirement and desire to improve and innovate. It predicts and reacts to changing market trends to make sure it uses the latest technologies and techniques to maintain its position at the forefront of the ever-changing measurement industry. 

1st Horizon specialises in 3D Laser Scanning, BIM (from point cloud) Utility Location, CCTV Surveys, the production of CAD drawings from surveys, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAVs, or drones) Surveys and Mobile Mapping for a diversity of project and client types. In addition to civil engineering projects – such as scanning 25 miles of the M1 as part of the Highways England Smart Motorways project – their services are called upon by architects for university projects, councils, offices; they are involved in historic building restoration projects, sports stadiums, railways, factories and numerous industry sectors including sewage, water works, gas plants and power stations.
 

The challenge – bringing point cloud data to life 

The company has its own scanning team, CAD department and BIM department, providing support for a comprehensive service package for clients that covers all aspects of geospatial surveying engineering and its follow-through. 

Fundamental to this follow-through is the creation of 3D models from point cloud data; models that allow complicated and congested spaces to be interrogated in the CAD/BIM environment. These same models fulfil a core role in the BIM process, enabling 1st Horizon clients to populate the models as they want. Accuracy and attention to detail within every aspect of the model is critical.

Traditional 3D CAD design software solutions offer the capability to fulfil most of the modelling requirements at this stage in an efficient and straightforward manner. Even so, complications tend to arise when it comes to pipework, particularly in old buildings and structures such as stadiums and 'pipe-intensive' environments like sewage and water processing plants. 

They don't build them like that anymore
Chris Merrell, 1st Horizon's Principal BIM Engineer, found an ongoing challenge when using industry standard 3D CAD design software solutions for non-standard features, most particularly, pipe-modelling. "The solutions that everybody is familiar with in the CAD arena are absolutely perfect for new builds. This is where their strength is. 

At 1st Horizon, however, a large chunk of our work includes older structures. 

These are structures that were often created long before modern methods of construction. With older building methods, one encounters unique approaches to problems that may have arisen as the project unfolded. This is work that would have been instigated in the moment. The ways the construction issues were sorted out was certainly pragmatic, but often not performed in a context that recognised the knock-on effect during the evolving life-cycle of the asset. This doesn't mean the structure is any less dependable, but it does mean that when it comes to looking at the scan data from the perspective of creating a 3D model, you come across some very non-standard craftsmanship."

Chris quotes common examples of pipework with unusual joints and tapers as being frustrating to faithfully represent in 3D models and leading to slower production of the final model: "Things slow up because you have to do a workaround for complex forms. This in itself is fine, and is part of the value we bring to client projects, but we were aware that we were spending time on aspects of the model creation details for which there had to be a quicker fix."
 

The solution – "EdgeWise made a massive difference" 

Not all of 1st Horizon's projects involve pipework, so the workaround issue was not a preoccupation in the business. A busy business always prioritises current requirements on client projects, meaning the enhancements to its internal processes cannot always take centre stage. Each time the problem arose for 1st Horizon, the workaround sufficed to fix it. 

"We had heard of Edgewise but had it on our list of things to do rather than a top agenda item. Now that we've compared it to our previous approach, which is common to the industry, we're delighted we made the test happen when we did. EdgeWise Plant has made a massive difference," says Chris.

Trialling the software
1st Horizon decided to put EdgeWise through its paces in a trial where they compared the modelling process, and time taken, on a structural model that had already been completed; to provide practical evidence of the advantages of EdgeWise and decide whether or not to make it an integral part of the company's modelling process.

Chris outlines how the trial was conducted: "We had previously completed a drawing for a 25,000 square metre five-story factory. For the model on the first pass, when we actually did the project, the pipe modelling part had taken about six weeks. So that was our benchmark for EdgeWise effectiveness. 

Using the same source data to ensure we were totally comparing like with like we set out to ensure a precise and accurate match to the as-built condition of the factory. What I discovered from the outset was that the software was remarkably easy to use, very intuitive. I enjoyed using it and had a definite feeling that we were discovering features and functions within EdgeWise that were about to revolutionise our approach to 3D modelling."
 

The result: 50% time saving - Faster workflows and lots more to explore 

The pipe modelling that had taken six weeks on the original project was completed in three weeks; a 50% time saving. "Our workflows accelerated in this trial and we are now going from trial to full licence. EdgeWise is going to be core to our business and I have every expectation that it will enable us to make a validated promise to clients that we can save them time and money in addition to the professional services we provide. 

It won't just make us more competitive in bids, it will free up all that time we used to spend down in the pipework part of the model, manually inserting the pipework detail. There are a host of other features within the software that we have yet to explore. I just know EdgeWise is going to keep on inspiring new ideas for the team at 1st Horizon.

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