Lidar Community mourns the death of Martin Isenburg



Martin Isenburg was an outstanding software developer, bright mind and pioneer in the field of lidar and topographic data processing. As the father of the .las/.laz format, he helped to simplify the exchange of point cloud data worldwide and thus leaves a great legacy. His LAStools have also been popularly and frequently used throughout the LIDAR sector and his open source LiDAR compressor LASzip has become the de facto industry standard for compressed LiDAR. 

Martin has always been willing to share openly with others and has been a promoter and driver of new innovations and ideas. Individual members of our team have also had frequent exchanges with Martin and will greatly miss the stimulating conversations we had together.

It was with great dismay that we learned that Martin succumbed to his battle with bipolar disorder and suicide last week. The world thus loses a great thought leader and an outstanding personality. We mourn together with his family, friends and loved ones.

We urgently appeal to all those who are themselves struggling with mental illness to overcome the social stigma around it and turn to specialised support services

PointCab signs Petition for Open Point Cloud Formats




The eternal problem with converting

When working with point cloud data, users still have to jump back and forth between different data formats. Using different software solutions or even sharing data often requires conversion to open formats such as .e57. The constant conversion of data consumes time, resources, and storage capacity. In addition, this process often leads to a loss of information. 

Although these problems are well known, the market has not yet reacted. Shouldn’t we be glad that open formats like .las, .laz, or .e57 exist at all? It is true that before these formats were published, there was practically no way to pass on point cloud data to other systems in a meaningful way. In the meantime, however, this solution is simply no longer practicable. 

While the computing power for point cloud processing has increased significantly over the years, the volume of data has also grown considerably.  More and more points and additional information are being collected to produce more precise and reliable results. However, higher data volumes also mean a longer conversion times. Time that cloud surely be used more efficiently. In addition, the .e57 format – the industry standard – is compressed rather poorly and requires much more storage capacity than other formats. Heavy point cloud users will quickly run into a storage problem that will also put a strain on their wallets. Similar problems occur with data transfer. Downloading a point cloud project might take serval hours.


The solution

But what can be done in practice to combat these problems? The solution is actually fairly obvious. If all software on the market were able to read the native formats of the various laser scanners and software directly and, in the best case, also write them, the age of constant conversion would be a thing of the past. This would be technically possible without much hassle. So why is it not happening?

In order for a software to be able to read other point cloud formats, you need a so-called Software Development Kit (SDK) from the manufacturer. Some manufacturers, such as RIEGL, already make their SDK available to other applications.  Unfortunately, there are still many other manufacturers who do not yet provide SDKs and so the user is still forced to convert their data.


The petition

The petition for open point cloud formats therefore calls on manufacturers who have not yet made an SDK available to do so. This would not only be in the interest of the end user. Research and even the manufacturers themselves would also benefit. That is why we have signed the petition and plan to make an SDK for our own .lsd format available soon. 

If you also think that something has to change, then join us with your voice and sign the petition too.


What are point clouds?

Punktwolke point-cloud


Here’s an easy-to-understand introduction to the topic of point clouds. We answer the following questions:

Basics: What is a point cloud and how is it created?
What are point clouds used for?
How to work with point clouds? 

Punktwolke point-cloud

Basics: What is a point cloud and how is it created?

A point cloud can best be explained with the help of a gadget that reached the peak of its popularity in the 00s and is now primarily used for presentations: the laser pointer. The laser pointer can be used to illuminate a precise point in a straight line. If you know exactly where the laser pointer is located in the room, you can also exactly locate the point that is being illuminated. After all, the laser beam is straight as a die and thus makes it possible to calculate the exact position of the point in space in relation to the origin (the laser pointer). Geodetic points in surveying are also measured according to this basic principle, only it’s a little more complex. Instead of a laser pointer, special tachymeters are used for this purpose. 

And what does this have to do with point clouds? Quite simple. In addition to total stations, laser scanners have been used more and more frequently for surveying in recent years. These also work in the same way as our laser pointer, except that they can measure thousands or even millions of points simultaneously. Taken together, all the measured points constitue the point cloud. 


What are point clouds used for?

Point clouds contain an incredible amount of information because every single point in the point cloud has its own X, Y, and Z coordinates. If we scan a staircase with a laser scanner, for example, we can use the resulting point cloud to determine exactly how straight the individual steps are, where the steps are worn and how high the deviation from the construction standard is. Accordingly, laser scanners and the point clouds they produce are always used when you want to document existing structures precisely, for example to digitise, measure or modify them. 



For the design and optimization of production parts, for example in the automotive industry, very high-resolution hand-held scanners are usually used. They can capture even the smallest details and deviations. This allows a digital twin to be created on the PC. With the help of the twin, new prototypes can then be created and improvements digitally simulated and tested.

In the construction industry and as-built documentation of buildings, various scanners are used. Depending on the object, mostly terrestrial or mobile laser scanners, sometimes even drones. They are used to scan buildings for a variety of reasons, e.g. to plan an extension or renovation, to optimally position new equipment in production buildings, or to document the construction progress of various building projects. 

These are just a few examples of applications. Point clouds are used wherever objects need to be precisely captured and digitized. Depending on the area of application, different laser scanners are used. They can produce different accuracies and point cloud sizes. 


How to work with point clouds?

How to work with point clouds depends above all on what goal you are pursuing. As already mentioned, different laser scanners are used for different areas of application. The same applies to the software used to evaluate the point clouds. Our software solution, Origins (Pro), for example, is mainly used when existing buildings or landscape structures are to be digitally captured.

Regardless of which hardware and software solutions are used, there is an important step between the acquisition and the evaluation of the point cloud data: the registration.


Point Cloud Registration

During registration, individual scans or individual “sections” that were captured with the laser scanner are merged into a point cloud. If you want to register a complete building, for example, you often set up the laser scanner in the different rooms and scan them. Of course, in the end, you don’t only want to have individual scans of the different rooms. You prefer simply one large point cloud in which all the scans are available and linked together. To achieve this, you have to register the scans.

Behind the registration usually stands a rather complicated mathematical process. The accuracy of the data produced by the registration depends on how well the laser scanner captured the environment on site and how reliable the registration software used is. Fortunately, this process has become easier and easier in recent years. If you use a mobile laser scanner, for example, you often no longer have to make individual scans. You can simply walk through or around the object with the scanner. With this type of scanner, registration is also usually fully automatic and provided together with the hardware. The user does not need much know-how. The disadvantage here, however, is that mobile laser scanners are currently often not able to deliver as precise results as terrestrial laser scanners, i.e. scanners that are set up stationary and take individual scans one after the other.




There are different methods to register a point cloud. The best known are cloud-to-cloud registration, target-based registration, or plane-to-plane registration. Which method to use depends on many different factors, e.g. the laser scanner used, the desired accuracy, or your own preferences. Especially for newcomers, it is, therefore, advisable to have the scanning and registration carried out by experts. They not only register the point cloud but also “clean” it in most cases during the registration process. This means, for example, that duplicate scans or “noisy” areas of the point cloud are removed or the point cloud is professionally “thinned out” to reduce the file size.


Importing, processing, and passing on point cloud data

If you receive registered point cloud data, there is usually one more stumbling block to overcome before you can take measurements and create digital 3D models from the data – importing the data. 

There is not just one file format for point clouds. In general, each laser scanner works with its own file format. Different software for processing are often using their own formats as well. As a result, there is hardly any software that can import all native file formats from the different laser scanners and processing software. We are very proud that our Origins (Pro) software can read and import over 25 different point cloud formats and export over 20 different formats (point cloud formats and others). However, even though we provide one of the greatest diversities on the market, it still doesn’t represent all native data formats. So what is the best way to deal with the different file formats?

Open exchange formats such as .las, .laz, .e57 or .xyz offer a solution to this problem. These file formats were developed by independent parties to solve the problem of data transfers. The .e57 format in particular has virtually become the industry standard. Almost all registration software of the laser scanner manufacturers can output the format and processing software for point clouds can also read the format. Therefore, in most cases, the surveyor will hand over the point cloud in .e57 format.

The disadvantage here is that the .e57 format, in contrast to the native formats, is less well compressed. Therefore it requires more storage capacity in comparison. However, the large amounts of data are normally no problem for point cloud software. After all, they were developed specifically for the processing and evaluation of point clouds. They can be used to carry out measurements and other evaluations. With Origins (Pro), for example, you can also create automatic floor plans that can be vectorized and much more



However, if you want to create a 3D model from the point cloud, you need to employ a BIM or CAD software. These were not originally developed to handle point cloud data. Accordingly, many of these software still have major problems processing the data. Some CAD software, such as Autodesk Revit or AutoCAD, cannot read .e57 or other common point cloud formats. In order to use these software, the data must be converted again into the Autodesk formats .rcp or .rcs. Other CAD software cannot read point cloud data at all or can only import small amounts of data at once, which means that the point cloud has to be “split” again and imported in parts. These are all very tedious and time-consuming tasks.

To avoid this effort, the data is often first pre-processed in a point cloud software and then further processed in the CAD software. For example, Origins (Pro) can be used to create floor plans and vector lines, which can then be transferred to the CAD software in the correct position and with all the important 3D information in .dfx or .dwg format. These formats can be processed by almost any CAD software and require much less storage capacity than the entire point cloud. Of course, there are now also plugins for the most common CAD software that can transfer the 3D information from the point cloud software directly to the CAD software.

In conclusion, it can be seen that the acquisition and processing of point clouds, right up to the creation of a 3D model, still requires a great deal of expertise and know-how. Especially the amount of data and the data exchange between the different systems is still a challenge. Fortunately, a lot has already been done in recent years to simplify this process, also known as scan-to-BIM. We are also working every day to be able to import more data formats into our software and to simplify the handling so that even beginners can work with point clouds.

Do you have any further questions about point clouds or would you like to test our software yourself? Feel free to send us an e-mail to: We would be happy to advise you in a personal meeting without obligation.

As-built documentation of a planetarium


Using LIDAR technology for as-built documentation of a planetarium


Thanks to the use of laser scanning and PointCab Origins Pro, placing new projectors is no longer a problem

The precise placement of projectors in specially designed theatre rooms within planetariums is no easy task. Just measuring these rooms, which have sloping floors and domes, is a challenge. In addition, the measurement results and the design proposals derived from them must be communicated clearly and concisely to all project participants.

In the USA, the professionals from Seiler Instrument, more precisely Seiler’s Planetarium Division, are often called in for such jobs. Seiler employee Howard George used to use a combination of manual measurements and a total station for this task- a very time-consuming process. To speed up and simplify the process, laser scanning and PointCab’s point cloud software were therefore used for the first time.

The first step was to employ a handheld GeoSLAM ZEB Revo RT LiDAR scanner that creates 3D point clouds literally in minutes. Then the challenge was to efficiently extract the geometry and features to create BIM models of the spaces and better communicate the design intent to project stakeholders. To achieve this, Howard was provided with a trial version of PointCab 3D Pro (now Origins Pro). This is an easy-to-use point cloud editing and sharing software that was recommended by the Design Solutions team at Seiler. Howard comments, “In non-orthogonal areas like planetariums, PointCab allows me to freely tilt, rotate and magnify data points and orient perspectives. ” Thanks to the PointCab and Revit support, as well as online resources, Howard was able to start modelling from the point cloud within a few days, even as a novice, thanks to PointCab`s 4Revit plugin. This allowed him to simulate the placement of the projectors as-is and quickly create vectorised CAD schematics of the space and installation details. He was thrilled: “PointCab’s software exports 2D images of 3D spaces, but screen sharing the software via Zoom or simply forwarding my results with PointCab Share allows me to walk anyone through my process and show them whatever they want to see.” 

Verschiedene Evaluationen in Origins Pro


The powerful combination of LiDAR scanning technology and PointCab Origins Pro has had a profound impact on the schedule and customer experience for these complex projector installations. Howard says: “I’m given metric spherical coordinates from ZEISS  to place projectors in relation to the dome. In PointCab, I export Cartesian imperial coordinates to place the projector stands on the floor.  Then the PointCab software exports 2D images of 3D spaces to me. Sharing data via PointCab Share (freeware) or screen sharing via Zoom allows me to share each step of the process with everyone and show in detail what is of interest.” In just one week, essential but very time-consuming tasks were thus radically reduced and changed for the better for everyone involved in the project. Once tested, the Seiler Planetarium Division would like to continue to rely on the combination of laser scanning and the PointCab software in the future.

Point Cloud Processing on macOS


Point Cloud Processing on macOS


Apple has become a synonym for good design. So it’s no wonder that Apple’s devices are in high demand among designers and architects. However, especially in the LIDAR sector, where more and more designers, architects, and real estate companies are entering the field, the predominant operating system is still Windows. As Apple has integrated a lidar sensor in their latest device it can be expected that Apple will be part of capturing the world in 3D in the coming years. To keep up with the expected demand, we at PointCab decided to take the lead and release the first commercial software for comprehensive LIDAR point cloud processing on macOS. While software like Arena 4D Studio Professional already offer point cloud visualization, they do not provide the manipulation capabilities that our Origins software  offers. 

Our Origins software for macOS works almost identically to its Windows counterpart. It can read all open laser scanning formats and its results are compatible with all prevalent CAD software. However, since some hardware and software providers do not supply their own macOS solutions yet, they also don’t have a SDK readily available to allow Origins to read their native formats.

Nevertheless, our CEO and co-founder Dr. Richard Steffen is confident some of the industry will follow soon: “For quite some time now we’ve been playing with the idea to make Origins available for macOS. We’ve seen CloudCompare doing a great job with their open-source software for macOS and expected commercial hardware and software manufacturers to follow soon. Since our software is known for its great inter-compatibility, we hoped for other manufacturers to take the lead and then port their format SDK to macOS. After we renewed the whole structure of our software with our Origins 4.0 version we thought there’s no better time to work on a macOS version.”

“We finally decided to take matters into our own hands and not to wait around any more. We’ve reached out to other manufacturers to make their format SDKs available and were mostly received in kind. RIEGL for example was one of the first to respond and is in contact with our developers as we speak. It seems like the compatibility with macOS is in the back of everyone’s minds but since most other players in the industry rely on Windows it never makes top priority. Honestly, it was very much the same for us and if we hadn’t released our Windows 4.0 version, we still might not have a macOS version. As a software provider that relies on compatibility with other manufacturers, it’s a gamble to put our resources towards a less prevalent operating system. Only the future can tell if we’ve made the right bet covering this niche market. So far, we’ve received a lot of interest, especially from CAD users that work on macOS. We hope that us making the first move as a commercial provider will inspire others to do the same.”

So far, our Origins software has been tested successfully on macOS Big Sur 11, Catalina 10.15, and Mojave 10.14. In terms of hardware, it works on any Apple computer with an Intel-based processor (x64). We’re also confident that the compatibility for the latest Apple M1 ARM-based Chip will follow with the next updates.

As with our Windows version, the Origins software does not require high-performance hardware components to run smoothly. As demonstrated in our preview webinar on May 27th a Mini Mac with 8GB RAM already does the trick. 

Point Clouds in BricsCAD

BricsCAD point cloud punktwolken plugin


Point clouds in BricsCAD? Easy as can be with our new 4Brics plugin.

BricsCAD point cloud punktwolken plugin

PointCab 4Brics - Why a BricsCAD point cloud plugin?

As you may know, we already developed point cloud plugins for Revit and Archicad. Now, we are happy to announce that we have also developed a plugin that will simplify the modeling of point clouds in BricsCAD. The decision to develop a BricsCAD plugin was an easy one. For months, more and more customers approached us and asked for us to develop a BricsCAD solution. Those who know our team know that we always try to implement customer requests as quickly as possible and try to respond to all requests. So it’s not surprising that we got to work right after the first requests came in.


How was the plugin developed?

We are developers and point cloud professionals. We are not BricsCAD experts and we openly admit to that. This is the reason why, when developing our BricsCAD plugin, we did what we always do in such cases – consult the expertise of our customers. Therefore we spent months studying the BricsCAD software and the workflow of our BricsCAD users. Special mention must be made here of Sebastian Zell, who has been massively involved in all stages of development, from conception to beta testing. The result is a plugin that perfectly matches the workflow of our BricsCAD customers and the architecture of the BricsCAD software.

What can the plugin do and how are point clouds modeled in BricsCAD with it?

Our 4Brics plugin helps you to transfer 3D information from Origins to BricsCAD in the correct position and in real-time. This way you don’t have to export the entire point cloud or individual orthophotos first and then import them into BricsCAD. As already mentioned, we have adapted our plugin to the architecture and structure of the BricsCAD software. That is why there is the function to fix axes. In principle, single or multiple axes can be fixed, depending on what is needed at the moment.  For example, the x and y-axis can be fixed if heights are to be determined. Measurements are generally made with the 3D point tool in Origins. No matter whether lines, surfaces, or individual objects from your own templates are to be transferred – simply click on the desired element in Origins and it will be transferred to BricsCAD in the correct position. As usual, the 3D point tool can be used in the standard views, layouts & sections, or panoramic views. No matter which view you use, the information from the point cloud is always transferred correctly to BricsCAD. In addition to the transfer of 3D point cloud data, we have also implemented other functions that make your work in BricsCAD easier. For example, our multilines tool allows you to create several individual lines one after the other without interruption. Preparing your data for other CAD software is also done with just a few clicks. For example, you can transfer the data from your user coordinate system to the world coordinate system or flatten the heights. This way the data can also be read into CAD software like Revit or ArchiCAD. 

If you want to learn more, take a look at our overview video or visit our online shop.


PointCab Origins 4.0 – a Review


PointCab Origins 4.0 – A Review


Karol Argasińsk: BIM Manager and freelance surveyor 

On April 07, 2021 we officially released our new Origins 4.0 version. One week before, on March 31 our developers presented in a webinar what the new version has to offer. 

Karol Argasiński, a long-time PointCab user and beta tester, took this opportunity to write a review of our new version for Lidar News. Read his take on the update here.

Of course, you can decide for yourself what you think of Origins 4.0

In this in-depth webinar, our developers show you the most important changes we’ve made to the new version. You can find all the features listed on our changelog.