Ross McAtamney

Vertical data investigation - Process Tear-down

Blog Post created by Ross McAtamney on Nov 11, 2020

The purpose of these posts is to pull apart a process and higlight a workflow in TBC, while also highlighting some significant pain points in TBC and identifying some enhancements that will help improve results.


Let's take a look at another process here where we want to work in the vertical plane in TBC.


There are a couple of cases here:

  • A site has a wall on it and it is encroaching into the title of a site and it needs to be identified how far it is onto the side across the entire boundary.
  • An old wall is shifting and it need to be seen how far out of vertical it is.
  • A building fascade needs to be drawn up.


This then needs to be presented both digitally as well as plotted on a plan.


The workflow below will look specificaly at the first two cases above, where we are trying to identify how far a wall encroaches on a site and how vertical it is. The third case is an extension of this process, and while this tear-down looks at using scan data, this work can be done with a traditional total station taking reflectorless shots to certain points, this process can be used for that application as well.


For this example an SX10 has been used to do a single scan on a tight site to capture 3 walls around an empty lot, which is then compared to the title boundary.


Spoiler alert: We can produce nice results, however we can't really do much with them.


This is a relatively simple project where are importing the scan data as a JOB file into a new TBC project and then importing the DWG..



 In this process we have colourised scans, classified regions as well as put the three main walls on individual regions.





As we need to use projected surfaces here, Planes need to be set up to project the surfaces against. A vertical plane was created against each of the walls.



NOTE: The direction of the plane will be important as to which direction Grid text will be placed in the Cut/Fill map later. It is recommended that the RED Axis line is directed into the direction where the view is taken from. If this isn't done when creating the surface, then the text will be in reverse.

This will also define the direction of "Cut / Fill" later, with Fill being out along the RED axis line and Cut being away.



Now that the Planes have been created the Projected surfaces can be generated, starting with the scan data. Normal surfaces will not work here as they are assuming a horizontal depth, hence why a projected surface is used and also why a plane is created for each face.



TIP: Use the Cutting Plane View in the plane of the surface you are looking at to use tools like Trim Surface Edge and create shapes to add to the surface as breaklines.


ENHANCEMENT REQUEST: Allow Projected Surfaces to be handled the same way as a normal surface for all tools. Currently there is no ability to use some tools, like Edge Breakline, on a projected surface.


ENHANCEMENT REQUEST: Ability to turn off the rebuilding of the surface at a global level, currnetly every surface is set to Auto and there is no global setting for how this is handled. Surfaces in this consideration is ANY surface type, so surface, projected surface, cut/fill map, contours, etc.

NOTE: The reason for this request was TBC constantly needing to recalculate all the surfaces, however this was later identified as being the Cut/Fill Grid. With that said this still a needed request and should be in the Project Preferences to be able to be saved at a template level.

ENHANCEMENT REQUEST: Recalculate surfaces button to recalculate all surfaces without needing to work through individual surfaces one at a time.



A comparison is being made against the boundary and the scanned wall here. For this reason we need to create a surface of this line to compare the wall location with.


The boundary imported is currently 2D, and for the comparison we need to make it 3D. To do this a Copy was made of the imported boundary and it was shifted to the same point, with a 30m elevation elevation to ensure that the wall is completely covered by the boundary surface.



Once this is done you can create the individual projected surfaces for each of the boundaries using the same process as the wall scan surfaces.



BUG: Colour by height is actually colour by depth in projected surfaces as we are colouring against the change along the plane. TBC calls it Colour by height which when looking at a vertical surface doesn't make sense.


ENHANCEMENT REQUEST: Exaggerate a projected surface, similar to how we can do it with vertical data.



By now we have set up the project in terms of all field data collected. We have the walls in regions, the surfaces generated and our bounaries defined. From this point onwards things get a little tricky.



While for this application the tool name could be a litte different, it isn't too bad overall.

ENHANCEMENT REQUEST: Remove the need to have two surfaces here and allow users to create a cut/fill enquiry against scan data. This would simplify this overall workflow significantly and reduce the amount of work needed in the buildup. This can be done in TRW, where a surface and scan data can be compared allowing for difference surface to be created at the end.

ENHANCEMENT REQUEST: Look at ways to speed up this tool for applications like this, even for small surfaces it takes ages to produce the surfaces. Interestingly the Grid is produced almost instantly.

ENHANCEMENT REQUEST: Allow the Grid to simply be produced without needing a surface to be produced. This would allow users to simply create a quick overlay against images in a station view to get a visual representation of the project.


Before running this tool for vertical applications it is recommended to look at the Project Settings and change the way TBC handles the lables and colours. The default is set up for a cut and fill approach for earthworks which doesn't really work in this application. Its personal preference as to how this is set up.


TIP: Recommend using the settings below for vertical applications to help the resulting represenation of the infomration on screen. It is important to consider the colour of the text against the shading being used in the heatmap.



BUG: Every time this menu is opened the shading cut colour reverts to 237, 28,36 even if something else is saved previously.


NOTE: This is where the plane direction will come into play in terms of how colours are appled, the direction of the lables and also what is defined as cut and fill.


When creating the Cut/Fill Map we select the corresponding boundary surface as the initial and then the scan surface as the final, in the setup it is recommended to make sure that the grid labels for each surface are put on their own layer so they can be turned on and off independently.


TIP: ENSURE that the grid is placed on its own layer, and turn it off as soon as a Cut/Fill map is generated.

Trust me, it will save you time and frustration in the long run here.


ENHANCEMENT REQUEST: Once a Cut/Fill Map has been created, TBC cycles through loading graphics for Plan view and 3D after any function or change is made. This is increadibly annoying after a while making the software hard to work with.

This seems to be associated with the Cut/Fill map grids, as if you turn them off it doesn't to all surfaces in the view, however there is still an issue where it cycles through loading graphics for Plan and 3D view which is a pain.


Once a Cut/Fill map has been made its worthwhile making sure that the colour mapping is appropriate to the needs of the project.


TIP: Use a bold style for the Text style for the the Grid lables as the values will come out better. Also use a contrasting text colour against the heatmap colour.




So now we have a project in TBC ready for exporting out.

What next?



This is a bit of a problem. Essentially we are left wtih the data in TBC unable to export most of the vibrancy of what has been created out to another package.


At the moment the answer is it can't really be done other than taking screenshots in TBC.


BUG: exporting a projected surface flips the vertical orientation so it lays horizonal to the ground.

BUG: Plotting cannot be done from dynaviews in a vertical plane, the dynaview can be created however it doesn't plot anything inside the view.

BUG: Weird one, but exporting a Cut/Fill map (for whatever reason) assumes that it is horizontal not vertical, so it flips the orientation to its side. Other projected surfaces seem to export ok.

BUG: Cut/Fill map legends can't be created for a Projected Surface, they aren't able to be selected and can't be placed in plan, 3D view or a cutting plane view.


ENHANCEMENT REQUEST: Ability to export rectified images with overlays of other information in a project. Rectified images can't be exported with an overlay such as the grid and the only way to capture this information is a screenshot.

ENHANCEMENT REQUEST: Ability to export the Grid from TBC. Currently the cut/fill grid can't be exported, so it can't be used in anoter package for viewing or use against other information.

ENHANCEMENT REQUEST: Similar to TRW it would be good to get a slice through process of two surfaces. This tool should have the option to produce the result TRW does which maps the difference between the two surfaces as well as an option to show the pure difference so users can see how both surfaces map against each other, the case being if there is a kink in the title and a kink in the wall, TRW makes one wall look constant and straight however in reality you want to see the position and different of both like a horizontal cutting plane view.

This could be handled as simply creating slices of a cutting plane view at set intervals and putting them out to CAD. The goal being to represent the data to a customer easily showing the differences between different lines.

ENHANCEMENT REQUEST: Better output reports for projected surfaces. A good example would be the Cut/Fill map with the grid overlay and the legend showing as a simple export.

ENHANCEMENT REQUEST: Ability to apply photos to surfaces as a shading style, the reason here being it would enhance the surface and grid overlay information.

ENHANCEMENT REQUEST: Show surface colours in cutting plane views.



I am sure there are a lot of other exports to consider and options here, however as a starting point these would be needed to produce vibrant and useful information from TBC.