Importing point clouds to a laptop or desktop machine is easy and there are a number of programs available to handle the data, whether you're stitching scans together or just viewing it. Leica Cyclone and Autodesk Recap are just a couple of examples.

However, bringing that point cloud data with you into the field on a mobile device is not so easy. As mentioned in a previous post, we use Autodesk BIM 360 Glue in the field for a number of processes. This app also allows us to combine point clouds and model information.

The trick is to get that point cloud packaged into an NWD file, which is first created in Autodesk Navisworks Manage. Here's how we do it:

Start with a PTS or a PTX file. These are natively read by Navisworks.

As with any file imported into Navisworks, BIM 360 Glue will import the PTS file only after it creates a cache file (NWC) as well. Since PTS files tend to be pretty large (typically several gigabytes), this step can take a little time.

Once it finally loads, you should see your point cloud inside of Navisworks. This is the best time to move the point cloud to the right spot so it lines up with any other models.

At this point you are ready to publish an NWD file, which can be opened inside the app. Be mindful of large point clouds since the resultant NWD files could prove too large to open on a tablet. The screenshots shown here are from a 280MB model file. While it is a very dense point cloud, its limits are confined to a single room, making it a fairly manageable file.

This method works well on Navisworks 2013 and older versions. Autodesk has since introduced a new point cloud engine starting with their 2014 lineup. While this version makes it much faster to draw and navigate in Revit, Navisworks, and Recap, it does not (at this time) show up in BIM 360 Glue.

Zack Creach is a senior engineer for Holder Construction in Atlanta.