Reality capture – 3D scanning and virtual reality

Dag A. Nilsen

Director, Business Development GSA-FDS

T: +47 4889 3227

Riyaz Ahmad Malik

Team Leader, 3D Scanning & Survey, Middle East

T: +974 44231754
M: +974 55097446

3D scanning makes virtually anything possible

To keep offshore infrastructure in shape, modifications and brownfield engineering are necessary everyday aspects of the energy industry. However, these processes are expensive and take a lot of time. The structure usually needs to be shut down for safety reasons and every minute of closedown becomes a costly affair for the operator.

With advanced reality capture 3D-technology, the on-site modifications and costly shutdown time are cut down to a minimum. At the same time, the inherent geometrical errors associated with brownfield engineering are significantly reduced or, in some cases, eliminated. 

Quicker and accurate implementation

Globally, Ramboll is one of the few companies to own explosion proof (EX proof) equipment.  This allows us to perform 3D scanning and surveys while the facility is still in operation, maintain strictest safety requirements and reduce time expenditure as the scans are usually performed by only one- or two-man scanning crews.

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“When one of our clients were facing a gas leak at 12 offshore locations due to cracking of piping materials, which could potentially develop an explosive environment, we were able to perform the scanning with a crew of only two people”, explains Riyaz Ahmad Malik, Head of Department, 3D Scanning & Survey.

The scans can be used for controlling new components before their assembly, which enables quicker installation with fewer problems, less offshore welding and shorter shutdown time for process systems.

“After scanning the 12 offshore locations using our EX proof equipment, we used a ‘like to like’ concept to simulate a virtual modification right in our office and ensure the new design can be implemented offshore without any geometrical discrepancies. This approach helped the client replace 800 piping spools with over 2,000 tie-in points without any site modifications. None of the fabricated spools was returned from site during installation”, Riyaz says. 

Virtual reality increases efficiency across borders

With companies becoming more global it is not unusual that highly specialised experts are scattered across different geographies. Therefore, projects involving virtual reality can increase safety and efficiency in solving different challenges even though not every member of the project team sits in the same office. 

Ramboll’s VR solution has been developed based on in-house technology to create 3D models of existing facilities or newly designed structures. The goal is to achieve what appears to be a real-size platform, where experts can have the same experience as they would if traveled offshore. 

 “We used virtual reality for fire and gas detection mapping systems on offshore platforms where we performed simulations of the coverage areas of each sensor to mitigate the risk of hazarduous situations”, Riyaz says. 

Ramboll uses Oculus rift. The main advantage of using this type of equipment is that all elements required for the VR experience are compactly packed in a box. Basically, the system follows a ‘plug and play’ philosophy with wireless controllers designed to make it feel like you are using your own hands. To interact with different objects within the model, you just need to gaze at the icon for a few seconds to stimulate the function.

Each engineer is assigned with a specific ID and avatar and all team members can meet on the structure, explore the components and talk to each other. The technique furthers cooperation between team mates and enhances efficiency and safety by locating blind spots that are not covered adequately.