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Laser Scanning Anchors a New Marine Application

In the shipping industry, equipment retrofit is necessary and often extensive, costly, time-consuming and fraught with measurement errors; existing spaces and equipment are traditionally measured by hand. With environmental regulations adding to the need for modernization, ship operators seek out efficient, accurate solutions.

With the Trimble® X7, Roelvert scanned the Melina’s engine and control room in six hours, one of 82 setups used to capture the bulk carrier's engine room.

One South African company is using laser scanning to replace the convention with the speed and precision of 3D data, enabling architects to confidently design new equipment and keep vessels sailing.

“Laser scanning is the perfect and only answer to this problem,” said Danie Roelvert, whose company is based in Pretoria, South Africa.

In September 2017, a treaty adopted by the United Nations' International Maritime Organization (IMO) to help prevent the spread of potentially harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens in ships' ballast water became a reality. Under the order, ships must manage their ballast water so that aquatic organisms and pathogens are removed or rendered harmless before the ballast water is released into a new location. That means most ships will need to install special equipment to treat the ballast water. Although phased in over time, all individual ships that meet the treaty's vessel eligibility must be fitted with the required treatment system by September 2024.

For engineering surveyor Danie Roelvert, that regulation has buoyed his burgeoning business with ample opportunities. Since launching his own company, PinPoint 3D, in April 2020, Roelvert has created a niche ship-scanning application in Africa, delivering rich 3D data to ship owners who need to retrofit equipment and comply with new mandates for ballast water treatment systems.

“Laser scanning is the perfect and only answer to this problem,” said Roelvert, whose company is based in Pretoria, South Africa. “Ships are in port for a limited time so you need to work efficiently and ensure you collect everything because you don’t have another opportunity to rescan once the ship sets sail. The speed, versatility and data density of laser scanning enables you to quickly set up in cramped spaces and capture the fine, detailed elements of entire engine or pump rooms in a few hours. With that virtual environment, designers can place pipes exactly where they need and ensure they’ll tie together.”

The X7-based 3D model of the three decks of Melina’s engine room. 

Roelvert has scanned several ships in South Africa and West Africa, giving him the opportunity to utilize different scanners for different jobs and help determine which technology best suits his business. “The Trimble X7 is the best all-rounder scanner,” said Roelvert. “It has speed, good quality data, efficiency, and most importantly, versatility. I want to be able to put it in a backpack and fly off, and the X7 is perfect for that. Its on-site registration is incredibly valuable and saves me significant time. And its software solutions enable me to load project data such as a design file, and after scanning a particular asset, I can immediately see if that planned equipment will fit or if there are obstructions that might be a problem. That data depth is really valuable for the client.”

A final result of point cloud data captured of the MV Intrepid post-processed with Trimble RealWorks software.

Tight Spaces, Broad Views

One particular ship-scanning project tested his technical skills. Roelvert was tasked with scanning six areas of interest (AOI) across three decks of the engine and control rooms of the Melina, a 28,000-ton bulk carrier. Of critical importance was capturing specific flange positions and connecting pipes targeted for replacement.

The 28,000-ton bulk carrier, Melina, sits in the Durban port.

Roelvert started on the lowest deck of the engine room and worked his way up. He positioned the scanner to both capture the particular elements highlighted by the client and an extended boundary for proper scan overlap. For each setup, he collected a full-color scan and a set of corresponding photos in about two minutes—a few scans requiring exceptional detail took four ;minutes. After each scan, he reviewed the 3D image using Trimble Perspective software on his T10 tablet to confirm that he clearly recorded the important assets positions and that there was enough overlap to connect scans together. Within six hours, Roelvert captured 82 scans with data quality that was well within precision requirements.

A maze of engine room pipes captured by the Trimble X7 for the Melina ship-scanning project.

Roelvert post-processed the data using Trimble RealWorks, a software solution specifically designed for point cloud processing and analysis. Loading his registered scans into the
software, he used automated cleaning tools to eliminate any extraneous noise and then rendered the 3D dataset into a complete colorized model of the ship’s engine room and control room.

With that virtual detail, marine architects had a precise, as-found picture to accurately design replacement equipment that would be manufactured and ready to install at the Melvina’s next port.

Although he’s using the X7 on other projects, Roelvert feels most fortunate that his passions—ships and laser scanning—are anchoring his new business journey.

Trimble Geospatial Solutions:

Trimble X7 Laser Scanning System

Trimble Perspective Field Software

Trimble T10x Tablet

Trimble RealWorks Office Software

“The X7 ensures I capture all the important assets, which is critical for clients because parts are prefabricated while the ship is in transit and then installed at its next port.” Danie Roelvert, engineering surveyor and owner, PinPoint 3D