How to View, Measure & Manipulate an RCP Point Cloud File

Read our essential guide on how to use AutoDesk Recap to open, view, measure and manipulate 3D point cloud data for your project.

Article By: Tom Ayre | Last Update: May 2021

In this post I will try and explain how to open and use point cloud data in a free to use program called Autodesk Recap.

Utilising point cloud data can help you design your projects more effectively by:

  • Using dense, accurate 3D data to design elements more effectively.
  • The ability to quickly survey complicated features and areas.
  • Import straight into a CAD program to get an idea of the space, constraints and features of an area.

Table of Contents

What Is A Point Cloud?

Point clouds are a collection of spatial data that represent 3D objects both large and small. Point cloud data is usually acquired by utilising 3D scanning equipment that can survey hundreds of thousands of positions per second. The point cloud survey data that is produced by the scanner is usually presented in XYZ format. This can be presented as an accurate 3D representation in computer aided design (CAD) programs.

We typically use our 3D scanner to survey and generate point cloud data of buildings, structures, and boats. From this data we produce a 3D point cloud CAD file that we can cut and manipulate to generate drawings such as floor plans, sections, and elevations.

3D scanning and producing a point cloud file is an excellent way of quickly acquiring large volumes of accurate data. Conventional surveying methods such as hand measurements or using a total station can never beat the acquisition speed of a 3D scanner. We use a Faro S70 scanner that can pick up data at a rate of 976,000 points/second!

In the photos below you can see an example point cloud file and in the zoomed in image, how the point cloud is shown with lots of tiny dot (point) building up the bigger picture.

3D Point Cloud Of A House
Point cloud image of a house
Point cloud example zoomed in points
Zoomed in to a point cloud

How Can I Open A Point Cloud File?

There are many different types of point cloud file types. These include CPE, DXF, E57, POD and more.

One of the most common and easiest to produce file types is an Autodesk RCP file type. An RCP filetype can be opened in most Autodesk programs including AutoCad and Revit. The 3D scanning company who undertook the 3D scanning works should be able to provide you with an RCP file / folders.

An RCP can also be opened in a free to use program called “AutoDesk Recap” which can be downloaded here.

As of May 2021, Autodesk offer a pro and free version of the program. The free program is accessible to anyone and is confusingly accessed by downloading a pro trial version. You do not need to enter any billing information.

Once you have downloaded an installed Autodesk Recap you can now open .RCP file types.

An RCP point cloud is formed from an RCP file and a support file folder. Please see the image below:

RCP file and folders

The support folder needs to be in the same folder as the RCP file for it to be able to open correctly.

By double clicking on the RCP file you will be asked if you want to open it in Autodesk Recap, click yes and you should now see the point cloud.

How to Move The Point Cloud In AutoDesk Recap

Moving around a 3D object in a point cloud can be a little confusing. Luckily Autodesk have an excellent guide on how to easily navigate around the point cloud.

Here you can find out how to do things such as panning, zooming, orbiting, and flying through your point cloud.

Autodesk Recap 3D navigation tools

Useful Autodesk Recap Tools

Recap has a number of free tools that can help manipulate, measure and view your point cloud however you need to. These are some of our most used tools that we use.

Measurements & Markup

Recap provides a few measurement tools that will allow you to measure distances and angles in your point cloud. You can leave the measured distance displayed in your model which can be quite helpful!

Autodesk has a great guide on using the measurement, annotations and markup.

Autodesk recap measurement tools
Recap measurement tools
Autodesk Recap measurement tool example
Recap measurement examples

Limit Box

The limit box is a useful tool that can help restrict the size of your point cloud to an area that you want to see. For instance you could use the limit box to only show the ground floor, or the rear elevation.

Autodesk has written a useful guide on utilising the limit box which can be found here.

Autodesk recap limit box
Recap limit box tools
Point cloud of a house rear elevation
Recap limit box showing a rear elevation

Window Selection Clipping

The window selection clipping tool allows you to remove any points in your point cloud that you don’t want to see. For instance the 3D scanner may have picked up neighbouring buildings or trees which you don’t want to see. With the tool you can highlight areas you do or do not want to see and clip them out so you don’t see them.

Autodesk has written a useful guide on utilising the window clipping tool, see their guide here.

Autodesk window selection tool
Recap window selection tools
Autodesk Recap Window Selection Tool
Point cloud that has been tidied up using window selection.