Next-Gen 3D Scanners Transform Surveying

April 5, 2017

Sharing is Caring


The SX10 is a new all-in-one scanning total station for surveyors that has the potential to cut workflow times in half or better. It is the next generation of total station scanners that combines super-fast 3D laser scanning, high resolution imagery and extremely accurate survey positioning into one device.

Surveyors are diversifying to meet market demands, as businesses are becoming more commodity-based, and many surveyors are looking to specialize. As a result, the SX10, Trimble’s newest surveying and scanning instrument, has the ability to transform the way surveying and GIS professionals operate. It removes much of the need for time-consuming data cleansing and manual transfer, letting surveyors and GIS professionals get straight to work with data creating deliverables for customers. The precision technology enables more specific data capture options with a patented rotating deflection prism that allows double action laser scanning.

The streamlined data collection and aggregation means that workflows that previously took days can be cut down to hours.

“We can take a traditional eight-day job in the Fort McMurray region, where they’re drilling for samples to determine depths, among other things, and reduce it down to about three hours, so the efficiency gains are almost immeasurable. They’re off the charts,” said Steaphan MacAulay, vice president of geomatics for WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff’s mining and industrial sector in Canada.

Redefining Survey Equipment

The SX10 redefines the capabilities of everyday survey equipment by providing the world’s most innovative solution for surveying, engineering and scanning professionals. This new, versatile solution is capable of collecting any combination of high-density 3D scan data, enhanced imaging, and high-accuracy total station data, allowing surveying and GIS professionals to capture exactly the data they need, saving time and money on every job.

“Now that we’ve been using it, we can’t imagine not having it,” said Kurt Ernstberger, Denver brand manager and scanning manager for surveying, engineering and geomatics company Flatirons. “We’re using the SX10 completely for both types of surveying. It eliminates the need to set up another unit, bring in that data from that scanner into the site, georeference it, make sure it falls where it needs to and do all that work in the office. With the SX10, everything appears when we download the files. Basically, it shortened our workflow time.”

This thousand-fold increase in measuring speed is a technological advancement that has created opportunities—and challenges—for geospatial professionals. It’s also a driving force behind some important advances in software technology.

Along with the massive data sets produced by today’s scanners, the geospatial industry is experiencing rising expectations on how the data is used. With projects ranging from forensics and architectural preservation to mining, construction and a plethora of industrial applications, scanning service providers need to produce actionable information quickly and with high accuracy.

Data from the SX10 is modeled by Trimble RealWorks, a powerful 3D laser scanning office software suite with applications that span a breadth of industries. The ability to power automated modeling quickly and accurately is significant. In scanning an industrial facility with thousands of pipes of different sizes and orientations, automatic modeling can save hundreds of operator hours. Once the piping is modeled, technicians can draw from libraries of pre-modeled equipment (such as pumps, valves and fittings) to create a comprehensive, detailed 3D model for design, building information modeling (BIM), construction and asset management.

This software automation can provide specialized functionality, such as automated registration. Automated registration is a core piece in efforts to increase productivity in processing lidar and imagery. For example, automated registration in Trimble® RealWorks® software can automatically identify scanning targets and common features between multiple scans and use them in the registration computations. As a result, the need for scanning targets is reduced or eliminated, saving time in field and office. Freed from the high point density required to accurately capture targets, field crews can adjust scan densities to optimize scanning times.

Automated Modeling for Project Efficiency

Software manufacturers have enhanced the use of point clouds directly within their software, making it easier to use the data natively for as-built or clash inspection applications. However, for other applications, the key task is to convert point cloud information into a 3D CAD model. In addition to classifying planes and ground surfaces, automated modeling software can create 3D entities for use in CAD and design applications.

Like most computerized systems, the goal of automated modeling is to reduce the time humans spend on a task. While human judgment remains a vital part of data processing and analysis, automated tools make it faster and easier to provide high-value services and deliverables. Time previously spent on registration and modeling can be used for analysis and to focus on deliverables and quality control. Classification routines can produce “smarter” point clouds that provide more efficiency and can be especially helpful for additional analysis and modeling once the primary work has been completed.

With the combination of high-powered software and automated modeling capabilities, along with next-gen hardware, surveying and GPS professionals are equipped to handle a wide range of projects quickly and accurately.

Topographic surveys combine the high-accuracy surveying and high-speed scanning to quickly document all the features of land title surveys, including location of boundaries, buildings, easements and site improvements. With the rapid transfer of data, engineers back in the office can visually see the full context of the site and surrounding elements, including right-of-way features, encroaching elements or complex structures, and CAD technicians can easily understand and extract additional site information from scan data and images without site revisits.

Additionally, roadway/corridor surveys, volumetric surveys, infrastructure surveys, utility design surveys, and many other applications are able to be completed efficiently, easily and within budget – all key components of project deliverables. The combination of transformational geospatial hardware, like the SX10 and RealWorks software presents an opportunity for surveying and engineering professionals to streamline decision making powered by intelligent data in real time.


Sharing is Caring

Geospatial Newsletters

Keep up to date with the latest geospatial trends!

Sign up

Search DM

Get Directions Magazine delivered to you
Please enter a valid email address
Please let us know that you're not a robot by using reCAPTCHA.
Sorry, there was a problem submitting your sign up request. Please try again or email

Thank You! We'll email you to verify your address.

In order to complete the subscription process, simply check your inbox and click on the link in the email we have just sent you. If it is not there, please check your junk mail folder.

Thank you!

It looks like you're already subscribed.

If you still experience difficulties subscribing to our newsletters, please contact us at