The Cambridge, UK-based CADCentre Ltd computer-aided design software company has teamed with London University to offer the energy industry a system for plant renovation without leaving the office. PDMS Digi-AB produces intelligent three-dimensional models of plants through which engineers can walk and, by selecting any part represented, get full physical details of it and how […]
The Cambridge, UK-based CADCentre Ltd computer-aided design software company has teamed with London University to offer the energy industry a system for plant renovation without leaving the office. PDMS Digi-AB produces intelligent three-dimensional models of plants through which engineers can walk and, by selecting any part represented, get full physical details of it and how it relates to its environment. The system can be used remotely, and this has attractions for companies where engineers might have to enter hazardous environments or visit off-shore sites. CADCentre, whose main business is in software for the processing and power industries, says most of these companies prefer to refit existing sites. It’s cheaper and they are less likely to have to comply with onerous regulations relating to environmental impact. But in many cases when they decide to renovate, the models, or plans, are out of date. CADCentre reckons that PDMS Digi-AB enables these companies to get an accurate picture of what sits where in the plant and how feasible it is to alter it. The product is an integration of CADCentre’s Project Data Management System, a three-dimensional design management database, and University College’s commercial company, As Built Ltd’s close range photogrammetry technology. The latter was created by the college to exploit technology it has developed in the field of surveying hazardous environments. It has customised a traditional theodolite, used to measure horizontal and vertical angles, motorising it and adding two off-the-shelf video cameras that are linked by cable to a computer. These take 360o pictures from a series of points and these photographs add up to a total view of the plant. Unlike the traditional use of a theodolite, where it must be pointed at targets that have been marked, this system needs no targets in order to capture the total image. As the views are caputured digitally, there is no wet photography and everything goes directly to the attached computer. Once loaded, software calibrates the images so that each one knows how it relates to all the others in the system. A network of pictures, with ‘beacons’ where the theodolites were placed, is built up. It’s this network that is passed into PDMS and then transformed into a three dimensional plan, the accuracy of which depends on the accuracy of the analysis of the original images. Both companies pointed out that the networked images give considerable insight into the plant and this may be attractive, since modelling is not an automatic process and can be quite time-consuming for individual engineers to do. CADCentre underwent a management buy out last year from ICL Plc (CI No 2,486). The company has just opened a new office in Seattle, adding to the ones in the UK, Japan and Germany.