‘Reality Capture’ – the Foundation of the Virtual Facility

‘Reality Capture’ – the Foundation of the Virtual Facility

3D digital twins, the key technology that will unlock fully digital workflows for countless industries, are nearly ready to roll out en masse.

mCloud is at the forefront of this effort, using laser scanning technology and our own AssetCare™ solution to fully realize the potential of digital replicas of the workplace. Critical to achieving this are two core concepts: “Reality Capture” and “Virtual Operations,” which form the two main tracks of AssetCare 3D.

Reality Capture serves as AssetCare’s starter kit for digital transformation, especially in process industries where site visits are challenging. Virtual Operations takes that digital replica a bit further into specific engineering and maintenance functions with 3D models. We’ll dive into Reality Capture in this first of two blog posts.

The name gives a rough idea, but “Reality Capture” has historically been easier to talk about than to achieve, especially in process industries. This has largely been due to the cost of capturing complex piping and instrumentation. In addition, traditional scanning solutions have lacked functionality to integrate with conventional 2D engineering documents, while in the “field”. With cutting-edge technology these former obstacles are now quite feasible. We’re able to achieve it through a lightweight non-intrusive solution, using 3D laser scans, asset labels and linkages to piping and instrumentation drawings (P&ID’s) – ideal for simple and complex facilities alike.

Creating a Digital Copy of a Facility

With the aid of 3D laser scanners, it’s possible to create an accurate, three-dimensional copy of a given facility – a critical piece in moving to remote, digital workflows. The models are high resolution, crisp and finely detailed, capturing the facility “as-built” on day one while allowing for regular updates as needed. The solution is viewable on any connected device with a standard web browser, enabling remote walkthroughs as well as the ability to access scans and 2D documents in the field. mCloud has its own scanning teams and authorized scanning partners, but can also work with existing customer scans, if available.

The precise 3D scans capture details down to a fraction of an inch and can streamline efforts to verify or update As-builts. While traditional scanning efforts were static snapshots, Reality Capture can include efficient methods to support Management of Change efforts. MoC activities would normally require significant time investments for necessary site surveys and manual updates to scans and/or drawings. Through AssetCare, simple MoC updates are part of the subscription package, and handheld scanners can be employed for more elaborate updates.

The Reality Capture approach also allows for virtual asset labels on key equipment. Searching for equipment and identifying important machinery in the field is easily done at a glance. The “AssetCare 3D viewer” enables the simple walkthrough of the facility, along with retrieval of information or correlated documents. The viewer can also be accessed through a ruggedized headset.

The key advantages of Reality Capture are its speed, accuracy and usability – scans are remarkably fast and can support a number of functions remotely. Perhaps most important is supporting virtual walkthroughs. Site visits are required for a number of reasons — capital project planning, due diligence for M&A transactions, inspection, training, etc. Most of these can be done without the costly logistics and risks associated with people being onsite. This is especially valuable in the era of COVID-19, and further amplified for sites in remote locations, which can often be difficult or expensive to visit under normal circumstances.

Building on Excellence

Supplemental features of Reality Capture include verifying and even updating piping and instrumentation diagrams – a regularly requested feature in process industries – along with visual safety zone overlays. Looking forward, new Connected Worker features, all accessible through headsets, will also be available, including integration with an asset health dashboard for specific equipment where performance or reliability can affect productivity.

Though it lacks the deep integration of our Virtual Operations approach, which we will discuss in greater detail in our next post, Reality Capture is ideal for customers getting started with digital transformation or aiming to meet compliance requirements. Companies with remote and minimally-staffed or unmanned assets in midstream/upstream oil & gas, or utilities sub-stations, may be especially well-suited for AssetCare 3D—Reality Capture.

For facilities with more complex needs or operators looking to see all that the future of remote asset management has to offer, our Virtual Operations track will likely have what they’re looking for. A full breakdown of that track is coming in our next post.

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