Using Point Cloud Data within Smart Manufacturing Processes

As IT and operational technology (OT) merge in the smart manufacturing environment, point cloud data is playing a more crucial role in eliminating single points of failure in the production cycle. According to IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Manufacturing 2017 Predictions, 35 percent of global manufacturers with smart manufacturinginitiatives will integrate IT and OT systems to achieve advantages in efficiency and response time by 2019.

Smart manufacturing is quickly merging its use of sensors, intelligent motors, computerized controls, production management software and the like to manage each specific stage or operation of a manufacturing process. Point clouds are a vital link in the convergence between machine-gathered data and human intelligence in the pursuit of plant-wide optimization and enterprise-wide management objectives.

Point cloud processing, 3D laser scanners, and the IoT elements of the smart manufacturing process enable a more seamless connection of a product’s evolution by providing an integrated view of an asset throughout the manufacturing lifecycle. Detailed point cloud data virtualizes products and parts to enable accurate design, development, simulation, monitoring, optimization and servicing in conjunction with computer-aided design (CAD) software.

Together, these processes make smart manufacturing possible via:

  • Detailed systems of record and process workflows
  • Distributed decision support and correction across the production lifecycle
  • End-to-end production lifecycle monitoring
  • Process efficiency and streamlining that accelerates production, mass customization and product-as-a-service business models
  • Reductions in scrap and rework that lowers production costs and increases end-user satisfaction and sales

Leading industries from computing, semiconductor manufacturing and energy to automotive, aerospace and beyond are poised to realize the many benefits of smart manufacturing. Point clouds and computer modelling can identify risks and pinch points through improved visualization that is based on superior data collection, use and sharing.

Point clouds are key to predictive modeling that eliminates uncertainties in the manufacturing process. This is a crucial role that goes hand in hand with sensor monitoring of machines throughout the production cycle. Together they enable pinpointing of specification and tolerance anomalies so that the origin can be traced to specific production points.

Connecting in-plant modeling and data technologies with high performance computing platforms (cloud computing and point cloud processing) will make it possible to build significantly higher levels of manufacturing intelligence and connect it throughout the factory. Consequently, businesses will be able to develop advanced models and simulations of manufacturing processes to improve current and future operations.

OEM parts development/production, replacement parts, or design prototyping requires a very accurate data map of the parts to be importedinto engineering analysis tools to obtain accurate tolerance verification. Having detailed point cloud data with maximum point density from superior 3D laser scanners is crucial to that accuracy.

Point cloud processing delivers accurate data for creation and verification of complex CAD drawings for current and emerging product development/improvements. When used in conjunction with the data from IoT sensors throughout the smart manufacturing production cycle enable organizations to meet tight deadlines, tolerances and QC/QA parameters that create seamless production cycle times and superior products.


  • James Rawstron

    James Rawstron is a Senior Marketing Specialist at Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence North America, located in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. Rawstron has 20 years of marketing communications experience in the software, high tech, industrial, advanced manufacturing machinery and medical device markets. He has written numerous articles for B2B publications, including blogs for a variety of industries. Prior to joining Hexagon, Rawstron served as a web marketing professional at IBM and a Marketing Manager at Vector Software. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and European History from Union College of Schenectady, New York.

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