Scanning a Commercial Space with Leica BLK360
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Scanning a Commercial Space with the Leica BLK360

[CASE STUDY] Architect, Kyle Barker, steps you through using the Leica BLK360 to scan a commercial space for a retail client.

Scanning a Commercial Space with Leica BLK360

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Kyle Barker, Architect

Kyle Barker, Architect

The first time I used the Leica BLK360 was for a retail client that was in the midst of a national roll out. The retail space was a 1,200 square foot storefront with 20-foot ceilings.

Since it was my first time scanning with the product, I wasn’t sure how many scans I would need to take, if it would be able to capture the height of the space, and if there would be adequate light.

At this stage, the space didn’t yet have any lights and the windows were temporarily blacked out.

Scanning a Commercial Space with Leica BLK360

Getting Started

Once I pressed the button on the iPad to initiate the scan, the BLK360 did a spin to capture the HDR photos.

Since the space was so dark, I used HDR. It took longer than the standard setting would have but it was worth it because it captured the details of the space. 

Next, the BLK360 did another, faster spin to capture the point cloud scan. Once that was complete, the iPad notified me that the scan was finished and was being transferred to the iPad.

At this point, I was able to relocate the scanner and start the next scan.

While the BLK360 was working on the second scan, I was able to view the previous scan. As I scanned more locations, it stitched them together so that I could start to get a picture of the overall space.

At any point, you can either see the space from the scanner’s point of view or you can view it as a plan. I find the plan view helpful for determining overall coverage.

I found this workflow to be amazing because it removes the “did I get everything?” worry from the site visit. It also lets you pull dimensions and leave location-specific text notes in the file.

This was a huge help for project reminders and in communicating with my team.

Scanning a Commercial Space with Leica BLK360

Indexing the Scan

When I returned to the office, I transferred the scans from my iPad to my computer via Autodesk ReCap Pro.

I found the process to be simple by following these steps: 

1. Launch Autodesk ReCap Pro**
2. Connect iPad to computer using thunderbolt cable.
3. In ReCap Pro, select "New Project"
4. Then select "Transfer from Mobile Device"
5. If there are multiple projects on your iPad, select the one you’d like to import.
6. After the files have finished downloading to your computer, select “Index Scans”
7. Save the project as a .rcp file (this will allow you to open it in Revit)
** iTunes needs to be installed on your computer for this to work.

When I returned to the office, I transferred the scans from my iPad to my computer via Autodesk ReCap Pro.

ReCap Pro and Leica BLK360

Using ReCap Pro

If you're familiar with other Autodesk products, ReCap Pro's interface will look familiar.

For example, you can use the “view cube” to spin your scan around, see it in a plan view, or look at it elevationally.

One thing that was intuitive, but new to me, was that it uses “tiles”— clickable icons that categorize functions — rather than the “ribbon” that Revit uses.

For this project, I found the following features particularly useful:

Display Settings

Color Mode

  • RGB: In addition to the photo imagery the BLK360 takes ("RGB"), you can view your data as a heat map to highlight different types of information.
  • Elevation: "Elevation" illustrates the height above grade via a gradient.
  • Intensity: "Intensity" shows the quality of the scan information captured at a given point. It's also insanely beautiful, and impressive to both clients and your colleagues.

Toggle UI Elements

  • Mirror Balls: By default, scan locations show up as "mirror balls." These are helpful because they allow you to quickly click into a scan and view the high quality imagery you've captured. However, sometimes you'll want to turn them off so you can export a clean view of your project.
  • Annotation: If you take measurements with the “Distance” tool, this allows you to toggle them off.
  • Perspective: This button allows you to toggle from a perspectival view to a parallel projection view. This is very helpful when you’re capturing plan or elevation imagery.


Navigation: This menu will help you if you’re having trouble flying around your model with the mouse commands or the view cube. It allows you to isolate the movement to one mode at a time: panning, orbiting, “looking” or “flying.”  

Like Revit, ReCap Pro has a contextual menu at the bottom of the screen that changes based on the tools that you’re currently using.

This is where you’ll find the “Dimension” tool. It is also home to the “Limit Box,” which is ReCap Pro’s version of Revit’s “Section Box.” This allows you to set a limit box, adjust it, or reset it. I found this helpful for two reasons.

First, it allows you to see your model in the way that architects like to look at spaces: as plan and section cuts. Second, when I reduced the amount of point cloud data on my screen, my (old) computer ran faster.

The first time I used ReCap Pro, I didn’t notice the “Project Navigator” in the lower right-hand corner. This is analogous to a layer manager: it allows you to turn on and off individual scans. This is particularly helpful when cleaning up the scans that you’ve taken.

As you can imagine, trying to eyeball two parallel points in a point cloud to determine a space’s height is a challenge. Thankfully, the dimension tool has ortho settings that do the work for you (both vertically and horizontally).

Additionally, if you forget to select “Ortho Dimension,” it automatically creates a triangle based on your dimension that tells you what the ortho dimensions would be.

A typical view of the point cloud: note the “View Cube”

A typical view of the point cloud: note the “View Cube” 

The tiles are used to access ReCap Pro’s tools & settings

The tiles are used to access ReCap Pro’s tools & settings

Elevation view shows the height of the captured points

Elevation view shows the height of the captured points

Intensity view shows the quality of the capture

The tiles are used to access ReCap Pro’s tools & settings

The “mirror balls” can be turned off

The “mirror balls” can be turned off

The dimension and limit box tools can be found in the contextual menu at the bottom

The dimension and limit box tools can be found in the contextual menu at the bottom

The dimension and limit box tools can be found in the contextual menu at the bottom

The dimension and limit box tools can be found in the contextual menu at the bottom

A clip of the model taken with the Limit Box

A clip of the model taken with the Limit Box

The project navigator shows each scan and any annotations that have been taken

The project navigator shows each scan and any annotations that have been taken

A view of the model in parallel projection

A view of the model in parallel projection

The same view of the model in perspective mode

The same view of the model in perspective mode

Annotating and Dimensioning in ReCap

Here are five features of ReCap that I found the most helpful in this project. All of these are nested to the right of “Window” at the bottom of the interface. You’ll notice that the name and icon change based on the last function used.

Note: This allows you to leave notes in the point cloud. I used this to draw attention to critical features of the space; either to help myself remember, or for my colleagues. For organizational purposes, I title each note. You can also add an attachment in several different image formats.

Distance: Under the distance button, there are several options for creating a dimension.

Surface: You can click on two surfaces and it measures the distance between them. I like it because regardless of where you click on the second surface, it creates a straight dimension line and shows you how far off you were with a small guideline.

Freehand: As an architect, I don’t love the sound of free-handing dimensions, but what I like about this tool is that it triangulates the dimension in real time. While you’re placing the second point, and after you click, it shows the dimensions of the other legs of the triangle.

If you’ve stayed in plane, there will be one triangle. If you’ve moved out of plane, there will be two triangles. When you deselect the dimension, the additional triangulated dimensions will disappear but they’ll reappear upon selection.

Faces/3-Point: ReCap has two options for measuring angles. I prefer “Faces,” which measures the angle between two adjacent faces based on your clicks.

Also, any note or dimension can be hidden in two ways. You can either select the item and click on the hide icon (an eye with a line through it) from its contextual menu, or you expand the Project Navigator in the lower right of the interface and hide it from there.

The Project Navigator allows you to hide/unhide any dimension or annotation

The Project Navigator allows you to hide/unhide any dimension or annotation

The dimension sub-menu

The dimension sub-menu

A surface dimension

A surface dimension

When selected, a surface dimension allows you to add annotation, hide or delete

When selected, a surface dimension allows you to add annotation, hide or delete

A freehand dimension in one-plane

A freehand dimension in one-plane

A freehand dimension in two-planes

A freehand dimension in two-planes

A 3-point dimension at a wall return

A 3-point dimension at a wall return

Using the Leica BLK360 allowed us to save lots of time on the project, get the most accurate measurements and have digital documentation of the space. Since the client was a retailer rolling out several locations, we can reuse the data. This will save even more time in future rollouts while increasing the client’s satisfaction with our firm.


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