HEBER CITY — A small engineering firm is using a three-dimensional laser to scan all sorts of projects across the country, including the site where the Provo Tabernacle burned two years ago.
Summit Engineering uses a scanner called Skandit. The technology has been around about 10 to 15 years, but it's now being used in different fields, such as archeological digs, traffic accidents and building renovations.
The Skandit is a small gadget that is usually mounted on a tripod, though it can be in a vehicle or a plane. Within minutes, the device begins to rotate, scanning and then photographing everything in sight — recording millions of data points every second.
"Once we get the laser data and the photo data, we can marry the two and create a 3-D color image of millions and millions of points," said Brian Balls, Summit principal and vice president.
At the site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Provo Tabernacle, the foundation of the original building was still buried. After it was located and excavated, the 3-D scanner was brought in.
Knowing that the old foundation would be removed to make way for a new temple planned at the site, the pictures now preserve the history of the site.
"We went in and scanned every detail of that foundation," Balls said, "so when it had to be removed, we now have a digital record of exactly what it looked like. We could actually put it back, stone for stone, if we had to."
The Skandit was used to make images of a section of the San Juan River in southeastern Utah. Geology students are studying the rock layers on those cliffs for potential energy resources.
"They're going to take this data and use it and study it to find and hopefully develop better ways to mine natural gas out of these rocks," Balls said.
The finished images are very convenient for clients, he said. If the geologists, for example, need more information about the San Juan site, they don't have to spend days getting back to the remote area. It's all right there on a computer screen.
Law enforcement agencies are using the technology for accident reconstruction. By scanning a vehicle and measuring the crushed metal, it can be determined how fast cars were moving when the collision occurred.
Other sites Summit has scanned include a pipeline repair project in Mississippi, where the scanner was used to make sure all measurements are exact, down to a millimeter. Summit also scanned and preserved a huge Fremont Indian ruin site near Goshen after its discovery.
Summit Engineering has been in Heber City since 2001, providing engineering and surveying services to clients around the country.
"I think, as time goes on, we're going to see applications that we never thought about being able to be utilized," Balls said.