ClearEdge3D wins National Science Foundation grant

The maker of wicked fast 3D scan technology for feature extraction will work on eliminating blind spots and extending the technology’s use from single buildings or plants to whole facilities and city blocks.

ClearEdge3D has won a research grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to further develop its technology in the rapidly evolving field of automated feature extraction from 3D laser scan data. ClearEdge will use the grant to enhance its industry-leading automated feature extraction algorithms with the goal of modeling entire facilities and whole city blocks in minutes.

EdgeWise Building automates the process of transforming 3D laser scans into a building model. (Source: ClearEdge3D)

The company’s software, EdgeWise, automates the extraction of complex CAD pipe and building geometry from 3D laser scanned data, dramatically reducing time to create accurate as-built 3D models. However, due to the “line of sight” limitations in laser scanning technology, there are always occluded regions of point cloud data (blind spots) that must be manually modeled. The core goal of the research grant is to devise algorithms that will automatically populate these occluded regions based on the feature pattern in the surrounding area.

Competition is always heavy for the limited number of NSF grants to commercial organizations. In recent years NSF funding has boosted early-stage research in cloud computing, bar codes, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The Internet search engine originally called BackRub—later renamed Google PageRank—won an early-stage research grant in the 1990s. Google founder Sergey Brin credits NSF with providing the early funding that made his vision a reality.

ClearEdge3D EdgeWise Building in use: Step 1, import point cloud. Step 2, extract pipes. Step 3, export to CAD. (Source: ClearEdge3D)

“Our focus has always been to develop software that can complete a 3D model in minutes with only a few mouse clicks,” said Chris Scotton, ClearEdge president and CEO. “This research grant brings the prospect of accurate city-wide 3D models one step closer to reality,”

ClearEdge3D was founded in 2006 and released its first product in 2009. The company’s current line of automated feature extraction software includes EdgeWise Plant for the industrial engineering market and EdgeWise Building for the architectural and BIM industry. The software ships with plug-ins for both AutoCAD and MicroStation; a Revit plug-in will be released soon. (See also the GraphicSpeak article from June 2011, “New EdgeWise Plant finds pipes within massive 3D scans.”)

Earlier this month ClearEdge shipped EdgeWise Plant version 2.0. The new version increases the number of simultaneous scans it can process to 1,000, and allows for batch processing.

The privately held company is headquartered in Herndon, Virginia, and has received funding from the state’s Center for Innovative Technology and from regional angel investors.