Our GeoConnexion column: 3D Laser Scanning – 5 questions before you invest

If you’re looking to invest in 3D Laser Scanning technology, Mark Poveda urges you to go beyond the spec sheet to unlock your perfect 3D Laser Scanning solution and ask these five important questions instead.

If you’re looking to invest in 3D Laser Scanning technology, Mark Poveda urges you to go beyond the spec sheet to unlock your perfect 3D Laser Scanning solution and ask these five important questions instead.

There’s no doubt that 3D Laser Scanning is now a widely accepted tool for surveyors thanks to its ability to quickly and accurately capture detailed 3D spatial data, making it valuable for a wide range of applications.

The technology has continued to evolve and become more accessible in terms of cost and equipment and there’s more choice than ever……which is where the challenge begins!

It’s at this point that I would urge you to move beyond the manufacturer’s spec sheet which are often complex and don’t compare the same information, and instead ask these 5 important questions.

1. What is the cost of ownership v. unit cost?

    The unit price tag may look good but what are the ongoing expenses? It’s time to dig a little deeper.

    First up, I’d urge you to ask how often the scanner needs to be calibrated and here it’s crucial to consider not only the financial aspect of calibration but also the duration your instrument will be unavailable for use, particularly when it requires international shipment. Additionally, factor in the expenses associated with acquiring a temporary replacement.

    Under cost of ownership, it’s also important to check for hidden charges including upgrades for firmware software licensing or any additional modules you may need to create your preferred deliverable. Also don’t forget to factor in office processing time and any extra investment in IT.

    2. Do I need survey grade auto-levelling?

    It’s not all about the time the scanner is turning and collecting data. Having an auto-levelling feature ensures that you are ready to go as soon as you set the instrument down. Having an IMU and dual axis compensator on a scanner, means data is always level to survey grade accuracy and does not require the same level of post-processing as those that don’t meet that same accuracy specification. This also massively improves the accuracy of your scan data over the scanners full range. Potentially, this feature can save you around 5 hours a week if you’re undertaking 150 scans a day.

    3. What’s more important to you, scan time or total time to project deliverable?

    I’ve written about workflows in previous columns and it’s just as important here, as is a broad look at total production costs, namely adding in the field capture plus the office processing time and investment in IT and training.

    The first thing to consider here is that speed is not always what you think or see on the spec sheet,  because Scan Speed and Scan Rate are not the same thing. Scan speed is the number of points you collect per second, scan rate is the number of seconds needed by a scanner to collect that data and this depends on the density of the scan data you require and the range of your scan. So in theory, the scanner with the fastest speed doesn’t always have the fastest rate. It’s therefore really important to make sure that you select a scanner that has the best balance for your applications. 

    Additionally, time saved in the field doesn’t always equate to a faster deliverable. When purchasing a scanner, one of the best ways to deliver a faster result to your customer is through in field automatic scan registration so it’s definitely worth checking if your potential new scanner has this feature.

    4. Will it work in the rain?

    On average it rains 151 days a year in the UK! Time to check the IP (ingress Protection) rating of your proposed scanner. The first IP digit relates to the level of protection against solid objects; the second digit relates to the level of protection against liquids. If your scanner IP rating is IP54, it’s imporant to understand that it does not have a closed mirror and you may be risking your scanner by working in conditions it’s simply not suitable for. IP54 means that the scanner is protected against water spray and is suitable for outdoor work, however an IP55 rating means suitability for working with in rain.

      5.  Has it got a handle?

    It’s possibly any scanners most underrated feature, but your scanner is worth thousands of pounds, not to mention any down time if it gets dropped! Easy maneouverability is vital in tight spaces of if you’re working within complex structures. Several KOREC customers have mentioned this as one of the deciding factors in their purchasing decision.

    …… and this feature doesn’t even get a mention on the spec sheet!