Trimble's new all-in-one total station tech, an efficiency kingpin


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They’re calling it a game-changer – a new scanning total station that combines super-fast 3D laser scanning, high resolution imagery and extremely accurate survey positioning into one device.

Released today, October 6, 2016, this new all-in-one technology scanning total station for surveyors has the potential to cut workflow times in half or better, according to Steaphan MacAulay, vice president of geomatics for WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff’s mining and industrial sector in Canada. “We can take a traditional eight-day job in the Fort McMurray region, where they’re drilling for samples to determine depths and all that, down to about three hours,” MacAulay said in an interview featuring a preview of the new scanning total station in Westminster, Colo. on Tuesday. “So the efficiency gains are almost immeasurable. They’re off the charts.” WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, an engineering, consulting and professional services company, helped beta-test the scanning total station this year, developed by geospatial technology and hardware company Trimble. About a dozen different companies took the instrument for a spin starting in February, testing it with a huge range of applications and in locations across the globe, from the U.S. to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, France, Germany and Sweden.

Trimble’s new surveying and scanning instrument, the SX10, removes much of the need for time-consuming data cleansing and manual transfer, letting surveyors get straight to work with their data creating deliverables for customers. The beta testing this year helped fine-tune details such as touch screen navigation for directional and turning functionality. The precision technology also enables more specific data capture options with a patented rotating deflection prism that allows double action laser scanning.

MacAulay recalled one job that his team used the SX10 to survey a 450-meter railway bridge. “We had a boat to use to get out onto this sandbar, and we transferred a control point out there,” he said. “The total time it took, including the time monkeying around with the boat, we might have spent an hour and we had the whole abutment scanned. The client was blown away. They said, ‘How’d you do this that fast?’ They were extremely impressed.” Without the SX10, MacAulay said that the job would have taken a full day to set up the crew in different locations. “It would have been a couple thousand dollars at least. This is less risk, less exposure to the staff,” he said.

Surveyors are diversifying to meet market demands, as businesses are becoming more commodity-based, and many surveyors are looking to specialize. Ron Bisio, vice president of Trimble's surveying and geospatial division, said that the SX10 was developed with that in mind. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) scanning and mapping just doesn’t offer the level of accuracy that many surveyors want, down to the millimeter. “With a UAV, it’s hard to georeference back to the coordinate system,” MacAulay said. “You might get centimeters when you’re looking for millimeters. The UAV; maybe that is the right tool if you’re only looking for centimeters.”

Kurt Ernstberger, Denver brand manager and scanning manager for surveying, engineering and geomatics company Flatirons, also used the SX10 during beta testing this year, and his team plans to purchase at least one this year, as soon as they’re available. “Now that we’ve been using it, we can’t imagine not having it,” Ernstberger said in a phone interview. “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.” For projects like Ernstberger’s, the streamlined data collection and aggregation means that workflows that previously took days can be cut down to hours.

Trimble made one potentially controversial choice in developing this instrument: they got rid of the eyepiece. Instead, the SX10’s data points and imagery are viewable in real time on a PC tablet. Changing a workflow with new equipment requirements can be a hard sell – but that’s one of the points that Trimble insists is much less different than surveyors will expect. “Surveyors saying, ‘This is the way we do things’ and they don’t want to change,” said Todd Steiner, Trimble’s marketing director of Imaging and Optics in the Geospatial Division. “Well, this works the way they do things. We say that this solution is going to transform the way surveyors work, without requiring them to change the way they work.” There are barriers to the adoption of 3D scanning – the investment, risky return on investments, complexity of new technology requiring specially trained personnel, some have different integration requirements for traditional workflows. Steiner said that it isn’t an issue here, "If you know how to do backsights, you know how to use this,” he said.

About Trimble's Geospatial Division

Trimble's Geospatial Division provides solutions that facilitate high-quality, productive workflows and information exchange, driving value for a global and diverse customer base of surveyors, engineering and GIS service companies, governments, utilities and transportation authorities. Trimble's innovative technologies include integrated sensors, field applications, real-time communications and office software for processing, modeling and data analytics. Using Trimble solutions, organizations can capture the most accurate spatial data and transform it into intelligence to deliver increased productivity and improved decision-making. Whether enabling more efficient use of natural resources or enhancing the performance and lifecycle of civil infrastructure, timely and reliable geospatial information is at the core of Trimble's solutions to transform the way work is done. 

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About Trimble

Trimble is transforming the way the world works by delivering products and services that connect the physical and digital worlds. Core technologies in positioning, modeling, connectivity and data analytics enable customers to improve productivity, quality, safety and sustainability. From purpose built products to enterprise lifecycle solutions, Trimble software, hardware and services are transforming a broad range of industries such as agriculture, construction, geospatial and transportation and logistics. 

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