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National Park Service uses AutoCAD to document historical engineering record

The National Park Service is using AutoCAD software from Autodesk to help document American engineering and industrial achievements as part of an historical program started more than 40 years ago.

America’s engineering and industrial achievements are stunning accomplishments in themselves, although most Americans may not be aware of them. That is why the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) was established in 1969 by the National Park Service, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Library of Congress to document historic sites and structures related to engineering and industry.

Everything from bridges and boats to factories and gold mines has been documented by HAER for historical purposes. Using laser scanning technology from Leica Geosystems and software from kubit, an Autodesk developer partner, HAER is able to capture “point clouds” of data that create a 3D image of these sites. Using the powerful AutoCAD  point-cloud rendering engine and kubit's enhanced functionality, HAER staff works with this point cloud data to create detailed 3D models and 2D drawings, which are then housed in the Library of Congress for access by the general public, ensuring America’s industrial achievements are documented and preserved for future generations.

“We’re creating a collection of documentation that tells a story about the built environment in America,” said Tom Behrens, an architect with HAER. “Quite simply, AutoCAD lets us work more efficiently, enabling us to document more historic sites and structures than we could have in the past.”

Not everybody knows how many support cables are required to support the Golden Gate Bridge, or what a steam-powered lumber mill looks like. But they could easily find out — thanks to HAER’s efforts. Fortunately, HAER has embraced technology to help its employees document sites more effectively. They start by laser scanning the site to capture millions of data points, creating a “point cloud” that provides a digital image of the site. This data is supplemented by hand measurements and digital photography.

HAER takes this data and works with it in AutoCAD, CAD software, which features a powerful, built-in point cloud engine capable of handling up to two billion data points. Additionally, software from kubit expands their ability to analyze the point cloud data and create accurate 3D models from within the native AutoCAD environment.

Using AutoCAD, HAER creates 2D technical drawings from these 3D models. By making AutoCAD a key component in its workflow, HAER is able to complete drawings more quickly and undertake more projects.

“America benefits from HAER’s valuable work documenting the country’s industrial and engineering processes,” said Amy Bunszel, vice president of AutoCAD products “It is terrific that AutoCAD plays a role in helping produce historical material with such a wide appeal to students of American history of all ages.”

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