With the cost of the technology reducing and its public profile rising, using laser scanner technology in your work has become a tempting option. Why spend days on site with a DISTO and some paper, or even a total station and a tablet PC when you can drop a scanner in the middle of the room and capture everything with the push of a button? It’s becoming an option for a lot of companies who wouldn’t normally use this level of technology, but there are other things to consider than just the cost and capabilities of the scanner itself.
It’s important to think carefully about and dare I say, take advice on, several other factors:
Registration software. One scan is never enough, and all those scans need to be knitted together in a coherent bundle. For that you need registration software. It’s all manufacturer developed, and you can’t work without it. Nor is it included in the stated cost of the scanner; additional options can also increase the price as can the warranty package you choose to keep you up to date.
I.T. The amount of data gathered by a laser scanner can be large and the computing power needed to register and even display 3D point clouds is relatively expensive. All manufacturers will give a recommended PC spec for their registration software and they’re not making that up. You’ll need something with plenty of space on a solid-state hard drive, plenty of RAM and a dedicated graphics card. Be prepared to spend some money on a laptop or make a saving using a less portable tower.
Digitising software. A point cloud is seldom the final result, once you’ve got your point cloud, what are you going to do with it? There are plenty of pieces of software out there that will cope with point clouds these days but few (if any) are free. Then you’ll need to decide whether you want to buy into the numerous plug-ins that are out there to help you handle your data. They contain lots of tools to help you and make you more efficient, but you’ll need to pay.
Warranties and maintenance. All equipment can be bought with an array of maintenance packages of different lengths and covering different things. You could start with a basic 1 year warranty which covers you for software updates and technical support but at the end of the year you’ll need to stump up for the unit to be calibrated again. Software packages aren’t exempt either. Everything must be kept up to date or the whole system falls apart. These are ongoing costs that you’ll have to wrangle with.
Servicing. Your maintenance package can also cover regular servicing of your shiny new instrument but that cost of calibration every year isn’t cheap. Expect even a basic service to set you back a couple of thousand pounds. Nor is the turnaround particularly rapid. Scanners need to be returned to the manufacturer and there’s a queue. Expect to be without your scanner for at least a month – do you put off work? Or stump up to hire a unit in the meantime? Top level warranties will cover a courtesy scanner while yours is in the shop.
Time. If you’re new to 3D data you’re going to have to spend the time learning how to use all these new toys. While data collection can be relatively straightforward, producing the desired result from that data can be a steep learning curve. Be prepared to spend time in the classroom even if that classroom is YouTube.
Taking a laser scanner to site is an attractive option and it is an important tool for measured survey but there are hurdles to overcome before you can embrace the future and make those time savings on site. The good news though is that we’re here to help you! Our account managers are here to guide you through your options before you make that investment and make sure your picking the right option for you.
If you’d like to speak to someone about laser scanners and how to integrate them into your business contact your nearest service centre and we’ll do our best to help.
Call us on 0330 678 0181, or call our technical support team on 01293 565 565.