MA-TH’s Use of Mixed Reality Technology Helps Clients More Easily Visualize Models On-Site
Founded in 2016, MA-TH Inc. is a multi-disciplinary engineering firm serving industries such as mining, port facilities, pulp and paper, energy production, and building.. Located in Montreal, Canada, MA-TH also provides feasibility studies, cost analysis, plans and specifications documents, as well as work supervision for its clients. With a loyal and constantly growing clientele, MA-TH is focused on delivering cutting edge technologies and providing exceptional support for health and safety, environmental issues, and productivity.
As the company’s co-founder, Félix Therrien leads the industrial department and ensures the proper integration of technology for the company’s industrial, pulp and paper, and mining clients. His goal is to create a personalized and trustworthy relationship with all of his clients and offer well-designed and well-coordinated projects.
Facilitating the Design Review Process
MA-TH was facing some challenges in effectively communicating with site owners and other key stakeholders during the design review process. Many owners are not familiar with building information modeling (BIM) technology or engineering-focused documents, and MA-TH found that even with the use of BIM and 3D scans, owners often accept a design without fully understanding the layout and space occupancy. This was frequently resulting in the need for site modifications down the road, leading to extra work and increased costs.
For example, in one instance, a client’s representative read the plans incorrectly during a recent interior extension construction project. Although a 3D survey was performed, the client was not making proper use of all the available data and therefore was not able to correctly visualize the end result.
Visualizing Designs with Mixed Reality
Therrien hypothesized that many misinterpretations of engineering documents (including BIM models and point clouds) resulted from a lack of knowledge of common software and data extraction by the owner. Knowing that this could easily be remedied with the use of mixed reality technology and a constructible workflow, he purchased Trimble Connect for HoloLens and the Trimble XR10 with HoloLens 2. Together these tools bring BIM models and data off the computer screen and onto the construction site, with 3D holographics that provide users with the ability to engage and interact with design data more intuitively. Stakeholders across the project can also coordinate all of their different types of design files together in a common location.
MA-TH was already using the Trimble X7 3D laser scanner, with Trimble FieldLink software, for surveying and was regularly integrating this data into its BIM models. Now, the company can share these models in the cloud using Trimble Connect, which syncs with the Trimble XR10 with HoloLens 2 for onsite visualization – functionality that would pay off for the company on its very first project.
“Unlike many other new technologies, we found that the learning curve was very short for the Trimble XR10 and Trimble Connect for HoloLens. We were up and running within a few hours of testing,” said Therrien. “Before, our clients could only visualize their projects on a computer screen, but now they can easily walk the site and see firsthand all of the details of the design.”
For its initial implementation, MA-TH’s engineering team worked with their client NGA Structure to carry out a factory expansion project that would double their manufacturing production area. Using the Trimble XR10 and Connect for HoloLens loaded with their BIM models, the owners were able to quickly visualize their project and its impact on their operations, including circulation flow in the courtyard, loading of transport, and the visual impact of the new building. After the presentation concluded, the owners identified and requested modifications to the concept in order to better integrate the space and their operations.
Significant Cost Savings
This newly implemented process for design review allowed the client and its operating team members to preview their project on site and reduced the risk of misunderstanding the BIM model or engineering documents. MA-TH found that having this type of visibility at full scale allowed the owners to provide feedback that prevented two major modifications from happening after design review approval.
The first modification was the relocation of a service door interfering with the access area to another building. This on-site modification would have generated costs of approximately $5,000, considering the concrete work, structural modification, and building envelope. The second modification was the relocation of a building bracing to facilitate the integration of a future expansion. This major modification would have required a future investment of approximately $20,000.
“Beyond these costs, the changes that were avoided on site allowed the construction work to be completed faster and allowed the owner to start their operations sooner,” said Therrien. “Trimble’s mixed reality solutions allow us to facilitate the design review process in a way that helps our clients better understand what is being planned, and this translates into stronger business relationships.”
The project team members, including MA-TH employees and owner representatives, found that the full-size visualization of the project on the site using mixed reality made it possible to democratize the consultation of BIM data directly at the site. In addition, the mixed reality allowed for an easy design review process on site with all end users providing feedback, which reduced the probability of misunderstandings and design changes further down the road.
After seeing the benefits for its design review process, MA-TH expects to expand their fleet of Trimble XR10 units for other stages of the construction process. In addition to their current use, MA-TH plans to conduct bidder visits with the mixed reality solution to help win new business.
“Using this technology more widely will help us execute larger projects with better coordination and integration into existing facilities, which is a win-win for us and our clients,” added Therrien.
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