As far as business challenges go, it’s not a bad problem to have—too many laser scanning projects, and not enough scanners. “We do a lot of work across the country,” says Joseph Romano, PLS, vice president of surveying and mapping for Langan Engineering & Environmental Services. “Moving the scanners around from location to location is a time-consuming endeavor, and wasting three days shipping it back and forth creates an issue.”
The Elmwood Park, N.J.-based firm already owns four laser scanners. In 2006, the surveying group purchased one of the early Leica Geosystems ScanStation units, and they’ve been steadily building their collection as new scanners have been introduced, adding a Leica ScanStation 2, then a Leica HDS6000 and finally a Leica ScanStation C10. At any given time, all four of the scanners are in operation on various projects, from large infrastructure surveys to building information modeling (BIM) of a historic structure; sometimes Langan has even had to rent scanners to meet project deadlines.
As the pace of the introduction of new scanning technologies has accelerated, Romano has kept a close eye on the market. Despite the popularity of some of the newest scanners, Romano was looking for something specific. “Once you collect the data, you can never make it more accurate,” he says. “You can dumb it down later, but you can never ‘smarten it up.’ The downstream use of that data has to be considered. You never know when someone is going to pick up something out of a computer that was meant to be to the nearest foot, and because the computer can measure it to the nearest hundredth of an inch, that’s the measurement they’re going to use. So as a surveyor, I’m concerned about collecting data accurately the first time every time. For Langan, that means staying with a well-known, survey-based technology company.”
Leica Geosystems’ new ScanStation P20, introduced in October 2012, was exactly what Romano had in mind. “The history and tradition of Leica producing accurate survey equipment made of durable, reliable materials is impressive,” he says. “On the traditional survey side, their equipment has never failed us. No one can doubt their ability to make an instrument that can turn angles and record distances very accurately. And that translates directly to the scanning side. The ability to collect more points more accurately with a smaller beam size in less time gives us more accurate surfaces to work with, which allows us to produce the data we want to give our clients.”
With increasing demand for scan to BIM services, Langan was drawn to the speed and accuracy of the newest Leica unit. Based on waveform digitizing (WFD) technology, the ScanStation P20 captures 1 million points per second with submillimeter range noise at its maximum range of 120 meters. According to Anthony Paturzo, Leica Geosystems’ northeast regional manager of HDS and Langan’s key point person for survey and scanning equipment, the P20 is one of the most accurate scanners Leica has developed to date, offering a 3 mm precision at 50 meters and 6 mm precision at 100 meters. The system also has improved onboard controls. “The controls work very smoothly; they’re very quick to react to you pushing buttons on the screen,” Paturzo says.
The unit’s increased operating temperature range, from -20ºC to +50ºC (-4ºF to 122ºF), was also attractive to Langan’s survey group, which frequently works in cold temperatures. And the onboard Check & Adjust routine is an added benefit. “Sending scanners out to have them adjusted and cleaned, which we do yearly, takes the units out of play, and with the price of the units, you’d like to run them all the time,” Romano says. “The ability to do in-field checks, adjustments and calibrations of the P20 will be a good time saver for the firm.”
Romano expects to keep the new scanner busy on a variety of projects. Demand for Langan’s scanning and modeling services is robust and has been further bolstered by the firm’s involvement with the U.S. Institute of Building Documentation (USIBD). Romano is already talking about the possibility of purchasing additional scanners within the next year or two. Although he doesn’t rule out the idea of going with a different brand at some point, he has reasons for his current loyalty. “We appreciate Leica’s survey tradition,” he says. “As a surveyor, I can’t harp on that enough.”
As Langan continues to blaze new trails in laser scanning, the company isn’t losing sight of its true goals. “Scanning is a large portion of the product and the foundation of the product, but our ability to extract the data in innovative ways to help our clients is what has led us to be successful,” Romano says. “It means asking questions, being inquisitive about the project, and listening to the client. The technology is another tool.”