Factory hall and, right, screenshot of As-Built Modeler, point clouds and CAD model

As-Built Modeler allows completely automated extraction of 3D modelled surfaces from point cloud data - all without the need for expensive third-party BIM authorising software

Faro’s new software platform, As-Built Modeler, provides a helpful bridge between traditional, labour-intensive 2D and 3D model data driven building information modelling (BIM) workflows.

Today, 3D laser scanning is established as a measurement method and 3D Point clouds are collected from multiple sources. While terrestrial scanners, mobile mapping systems and handheld scanners provide point clouds, drones also provide point clouds via photogrammetry.

More and more companies and general contractors are using 3D point clouds. With platforms such as Faro WebShare Cloud, users make current as-built data of their projects available to all project participants as 3D point clouds.

The 3D data is used in tenders to prepare construction sites for construction supervision and as a basis for the prefabrication of components in trades such as façade construction, steel construction and interior design.

"We know that many in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry work with CAD systems that support point clouds only to a limited extent or not at all," says Marc Zschieschang, Product Manager at Faro.

"This is especially true for software used by craftsmen, who often have very industry-specific additional functions and are indispensable for their users," he adds.


Faro’s new As-Built Modeler is a core, standalone product that allows the almost completely automated extraction of 3D modelled surfaces from point cloud data - all without the need for expensive third-party BIM authorising software. It imports reality capture data as point clouds and meshes from Faro and other scanning solutions without constraints in data. They can be viewed in 2D, 3D and virtual reality (VR) with the highest detail evaluated to closed surface data models.

"We want to give a broad group of users a cost-effective entry into 3D point cloud technology. They should be able to integrate 3D point clouds into their specific workflows as easily as possible. Regardless of where the point clouds come from and with the freedom to use their favorite CAD or BIM target systems," says Zschieschang.

Faro As-Built Modeler works by using generic interfaces; tools and icons that act intuitively. Based upon the Faro Scene software platform, it natively reads the scan project file if the scans have been collected using Faro scanning hardware. In this instance, the solution benefits from not requiring an ‘export’ process from other registration software.

In addition, the software can be used to make highly accurate distance and volume measurements. Utilising the millimetre accuracy in measurement from scanning hardware enables this functionality resulting in millimetre accuracy for design and fabrication.


Scans of a factory hall with resulting CAD model in As-Built Modeler

Following import of the scan data, the first identified workflow is a simple ‘in-tool’ process whereby the user selects a region of interest in the point cloud. The software will then extract surfaces using a ‘plane of best fit’ and produce a simple, yet effective 3D CAD model. This approach will also extract pipes once the user selects a region, specifies a diameter and the software will search for matches and deliver a 3D model once again.

The second identified workflow is a more agile modelling workflow and uses an interface described as ‘Send To’. Rather than loading the point cloud data into the design software, the feature allows a connection between point cloud data and design software such as McNeel’s Rhinoceros or Nemetscheck’s Allplan. The feature creates a side-by-side view of both the FARO software and the design software enabling the latter to call upon points in the point cloud to act as a reference for modelling as-built elements in the native tool.

This workflow does not only work with CAD software but with all programs that have command lines that allow the programming of macros. Measured values are directly sent from the point cloud in As-Built Modeler in real-time to, for examole, Excel, a scenario that is very common for facility applications.

In each of the above workflows, available scan data enables much easier access to more accurate and more complete measurement information.

If the scan data is stored on Faro’s Scene WebShare Cloud, access to the data is even broader. Additionally, for point cloud viewing, measurement, annotation and much more via the web browser, users can download interesting parts of the stored point clouds and evaluate them locally with the Modeler.

This is a very innovative approach that establishes new workflows between project stakeholders. General contractors provide real time 3D data on the Internet and provide accessibility to their contractors for specific downloads pertaining on the area of expertise.

"Once the data has been captured and made available in Webshare, visits to the construction site are no longer required to take millimetre accurate measurements. Collaborators simply measure with the Modeler in the downloaded as-built data and have all the necessary dimensions for prefabrication, provision of required material or site preparation," says Zschieschang.


As-Built Modeler is not restrictive. The software has an unlimited capacity of scan data and is not restricted to only Faro scan data formats; all open scan data formats are supported such as .e57 and .las.

Users can make the most of this solution even if the scan data is captured by non-Faro hardware. It’s possible to import scan data generated from drones, mobile scanners or from a photogrammetry process.

As well as being a standalone product, As-Built Modeler, Faro also provides plug-ins for Autodesk AutoCAD and Revit, catering for an already large user-base and perhaps enticing many more into the world of point clouds.

The CAD models resulting from the evaluation of the point clouds can be exported in standard formats which are supported by almost all CAD and BIM systems.


Amazingly, the Faro Video Pro plug-in (bundled with the solution) allows users to create animated visualisations such as fly-throughs or walk-throughs. These can be exported and shared as animation files, something that would have previously been an expensive outsourced service for most craftsmen.

Extending the use to the full Faro Scene software, the 3D modelled surfaces can be imported to overlay with the original point cloud for further detailed interrogation. This provides the opportunity to navigate the model in VR or overlay the view in a 360-degree panoramic image. Showcasing the intended design in context, in more engaging media with fewer errors and greater certainty serves to increase stakeholder buy-in.

"Our core aim is to create a hybrid solution that fits between CAD and BIM. The solution is a significant step, but our development team does not stand still. Already in the pipeline is a feature that takes the surfaces and objects, categorises them using IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) – the standard for OpenBIM interoperability and applies the relevant properties to them," states Zschieschang.

This truly is a step into a real BIM workflow, and we are aiming high by seeking certification from BuildingSMART International".

In summary, the Faro As-Built Modeler solution truly bridges the gap between 2D workflows and full BIM modelling by automatically generating highly accurate models matching the as-built situation.

It simply makes scan data accessible to more people. It also serves as an affordable enabler of digital transformation by upskilling experienced craftsmen and introducing them to the benefits of working with point cloud data and 3D modelling whilst retaining the comfort of their familiar design tools. In addition, it’s a low-cost entry point for animation and immersive virtual reality, enabling craftsmen to offer a greater experience and more intelligent digital services to their clients.