Structure, canvas and SketchUp

Seems interesting. I am still doing surveys the traditional way (pencil, paper, ruler gage and disto meter) in mostly historical buildings, plumb structures are non-existent in my field. I can imagine that this device could help me a lot.

What is the distance to beams and rafters this device is capable of detecting? And do you use it for exteriors as well?
I can imagine that it’s worth scanning the building and produce a good set of drawings and than survey the building in a more technical way (no measuring).
Is it possible to use the scanned data for architectural details like profiles of windows, doors etc?

So you do get the raw scan-data in SU, but the scan to cad service turns it into a clean 3d model. Sounds nice because it probably takes hours to remodel everything in SU or Rhino or whatever.
At the moment I take my measurements and start in AutoCAD and there’s always a moment I start banging my head against the wall, because I forgot to take a certain measurement (diagonals and heights mostly).

edit: what happens with webs of dust hanging from the ceiling or whatever structures?

I do a great deal of listed buildings too, it is by no means a complete replacement, I still use my disto meter with magic plan on the iPad but it is a fantastic tool, I also scan every room even though I may not send it for cad conversion into .skp. It just means I know I have captured everything alongside my Critical dimensions and photo/video survey.
So far I haven’t had a problem with spiders webs😃

In regards to distance to beams etc - accuracy obviously falls off with distance. I post a couple images later so you can see some examples

I know it sounds strange, but my disto meter laser refuses to get past these webs sometimes.
Besides the cad conversion, you are able to load the raw data in sketchup?

Yes and no.
SketchUp does not handle models with a high number of polys very well. I have loaded small .obj output files from canvas into SketchUp if architectural details to trace off (pediments, canopies, stone details etc) but it doesn’t like it very much.

I still draw all my models from my measured survey but use the scans to augment my measurements (and memory) or use the scan to cad service for ready made models that I then adjust and add detail to.
It’s not really designed to produce models to then trace off, you could in theory but I wouldn’t recommend that workflow in SketchUp, you’d need a modeller like 3ds, Rhino or my favourite, Modo.
Dropbox - File Deleted

Hello Bifterx,

How are your thoughts about canvas now? about 8 months later. Are you still happy with the results/accuracy? (does is for example scan also plinths) how easy is it to use for “less technical” inclined people to use?
Do you use the conversion service to .skp or do you use the scans for your own drawings. did you find any shortcomings with the app/device.
What are the maximum room sizes you can scan and/or can you “stitch” separate scan data?

I’m sorry for the bombardement of questions but our company is looking into buying one to test for scanning rooms for retrofitting for people with multiply disability’s. Alex sended me to this thread :wink: We now work with traditional pen/paper measurements or make paper templates for more challenging situations. so you can see we need to update our workflow.

I’m also curious about the customer reactions about this tech? did it improve the confidence in you as a contracter?

Best Regards,

Hi Joost
Yes, still using Canvas on a day to day basis, its a daily driver alongside my Disto. As I’ve mentioned before, the accuracy of the raw scans, I find, is excellent. I always still do a measured survey but depending on the type of job, I would use the Scan to CAD service or create the model from scratch and use the Canvas scans for reference. The Scan to CAD service has improved over the year and is much more accurate and the result still needs some fettling but ultimately still saves me vast amounts of time.
Canvas (the app) itself has also improved, with better drift correction and things like that.

A large proportion of my work is similar to yours - retrofitting / alteration / extensions for people with disability.
We have been discussing equipping the consultant OT’s (occupational therapist) with Structure / iPad / Canvas as it really is super easy to use, you can’t really go wrong once you have practised the scanning techniques.

Not sure on the maximum size you can scan, I’ve never run into that sort of ceiling apart from memory constraints as the progressing scan is saved into memory - so obviously iPad Pro is better in this respect (4GB) but you can do things to the room to maximise the scan area (cover reflective surfaces like TV’s, mirrors, pull the curtains or binds etc as reflective surfaces affect the memory usage)

The Scan to CAD results can be stitched together, speak to Alex regarding questions related to this.

I’ve attached below a recent Scan to Cad result, its for a friend so happy to show - this is the raw result back from the service, I haven’t altered or added anything to this, so yes, an excellent starter for 10. So i was on site doing the survey for about 3-4 hours, carried out a standard measured survey with my Disto, Magicplan & Sketch. Canvas scan survey and photo survey. So to get this sort of result back is pretty darn good in my book, yes it’ll need some fettling but only a few hours. I’m not the fastest modeller so starting from this point has saved me a ton of time.

Shortcomings? Difficult to say, it does what is says on the tin, it is incredibly simple to use. I guess navigating the scan in Canvas itself is a little unusual as the camera tends to be around the level of the the sensor height, so if you have scanned, say a stairwell, its difficult to move the camera vertically if you want to take measurements, and as you move back away from the model the camera angle widens - most of the time this is very helpful so you can measure between parallel walls (the app recognises opposing walls and will handily give you a planar measurement). but this is a very small gripe, I mostly export the scan from the app to Meshlab on my MacBook and do most of the measurements there.

That said, I would have also done a measured survey so this is mostly about corroboration and to get measurements where I haven’t recorded traditionally (complex height information, difficult to measure architectural details stuff like that)

It isn’t a magic bullet but I wouldn’t do without this tool now, its a primary source of survey information alongside, measured survey, photos, video etc. I rely on it, when I get to a job, its the first thing I get out and connected, when I’m building my model, Canvas is open on my iPad with the relevant scan up, it puts you back in the room and helps you remember all those little details and nuances.

Customer reaction is good, people are interested dunno about confidence - I wouldn’t be there in the first place unless I have and maintain a good rep :wink:

Quite happy to answer questions, so feel free.


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Hey Rob,

Thank you for your reply and taking the time to Write down that wall of text. I’m convinced we should give it a test run (buy one Unit) and go from there.

Good luck with your company!

Kind Regards,

Hi bfterx,

As an architect I am seriously considering buying Structure Sensor to capture interiors. The majority of my work is 3D modeling and archviz, and building the 3D model of the existing site usually takes up a lot of time. From your reviews earlier it seems like the captured 3D mesh, although not a replacement, would be a great reference for modeling. Would you mind uploading a sample raw 3D mesh captured from the Structure Sensor? It would be really helpful for me to set expectation for how accurate and how much 3D data I can obtain. Thanks!

heres a link to a reprocessed, colorised mesh (which comes back from Occipital)

and a link to the original captured (on device) mesh - which isn’t colorised.

hope this helps

Hi bifterx,

Thanks so much for the files! Has been requesting original scan from Occidental but no avail.

Can you share some of the materials you created?

hi tyson

when you say materials, you mean drawings etc?

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I meant like the actual files that are created. I know you shared some of the obj files above, but it appears that we need a converter to open them in SketchUp and those all seem to cost money (unless I’m missing something? I just re-read and saw the MeshLab comment). I’m very seriously thinking about buying this product, but I wanted to mess around with one of the actual models that was created from it a bit first.

With that in mind, would you mind sharing one of the Canvas to Cad files? I guess I just want to see exactly what that $29 creates.

Apologies if any of this is redundant

HI Tyson
sorry for the massive delay, I must have missed your last post.
.obj should import into sketchup natively , or open in meshlab and convert to Collada.

here is an example of a colorised scan and an output .skp file.

output .skp

colorised scan


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Similar workflow with DotProduct and Undet for sketchup DotProduct 3D Scan to SketchUp 3D Model with Elly Ball and Undet on Vimeo

@alexschiff The Structure Sensor has been out for a few years now (launched in 2014?). Sensors/hardware are getting better every year I would expect. If you would buy a StructureSensor now - is it the same hardware as in 2014? If so, will there be a new version of the hardware with better accuracy at any point / soon? I would expect sensors matter too although a lot of the heavy lifting might be done by the algorithms that will be updated once in a while.
I ask because 1% errors while scanning spaces that are 6x10m or 10x15m large is a bit too much for my work.

@bifterx You are still using the sensor for your work? Any new experiences you can share?

yes, I still use it for every survey as it remains invaluable for capturing large amount of data that you may not otherwise measure. I don’t really take advantage of the Scan to CAD service as I use the raw scan mesh in both the Canvas app and Meshlab for measurements (the raw data is very accurate). I still use it in conjunction with a measured survey ( I use MagicPlan and a Disto laser for that). I also use a UAV survey with Metashape Pro to generate Orthomosaic site plans and meshes.


Hi again Max! Yes, it is the same sensor, and indeed the heavy lifting is done by the software. A lot of people don’t know this, but Occipital (the company behind Structure Sensor) started as a pure software company — we built a depth sensor to give devices the extra sense we felt was needed to create better, more reliable software. So, most of the improvements since 2014 (especially with accuracy) have been on the software side, though we have launched other hardware like Structure Core (though that is targeted at embeddable uses like robotics).

If you’re looking to close the gap a bit on certain critical dimensions, you may be interested in this workflow some of our customers use: I need higher accuracy than 1-2%. Can I submit my own dimensions to improve accuracy? - Canvas FAQ.