Earlier in 2023, Tommy Benson, BSc (Hons), Director and Senior Land Surveyor of Reality Capture Surveys in the UK purchased a newly released Trimble® X9 3D laser scanner, and answered some questions about the decision to buy a laser scanner, the process of training, and how they are now exploring new types of projects.
Images courtesy of Reality Capture Surveys
Trimble: Have you owned a laser scanner before, or is this the first foray into scanning?
Tommy Benson: This is the first time I have invested in a laser scanner, but I have been using Leica scanners since 2014.
Q: What made you purchase the X9 over another Trimble scanner?
A: I purchased the X9 as I had seen some improvements over the X7 in a document forwarded by Luke Puddy at KOREC.
Q: What did you and KOREC talk about leading up to the purchase of the X9?
A: I planned a demo of the X7 earlier this year on a site where I had been using an alternative laser scanner. I was really impressed with the X7's capability with the tablet on-site, but a comparison of the data quality of the two instruments revealed that there wasn’t any benefit to changing to the X7. A few months later, Luke provided me with some data sheets for the X9, and I could see the improvements in quality, sensitivity, and range that would bring it up to the standards I required. Luke walked me through the upgrades, and it was because of this chat that I decided to invest.
Q: What made you purchase the X9 over another brand?
A: The main selling point for me was the functionality of the scanner. Importantly, being able to import control to the tablet and register in the field. Likewise, the ability to carry out window scans to pick-up high-density areas where needed. These two functions are key to the kinds of work I have been picking up; I was hiring Leica scanners to carry out works and finding myself wasting a lot of time in the office.
Q: How much training did you need before you could use it on a project?
A: One hour during handover on the day of purchase. For the instrument handover, I met with the guys in the Liverpool office, where the instrument had already been unboxed and was laid out in a meeting room. Then I was shown the fundamentals, such as the battery systems, tripod, and carrying cases. We then proceeded with a step-by-step tutorial, setting up the scanner and conducting a basic survey of the space, focusing on the cloud-to-cloud registration process and target-based registration using the tablet. The technical help on the day was very encouraging, and I was informed of the procedure for requesting follow-up support in the future. They even offered to recycle the cardboard packaging, which was a thoughtful gesture and saved me some hassle when I got home.
The next stage for me was to get out in the field and become acquainted with the software interface and the scanner's capabilities. In my leisure time, I scanned a market street near home. The software is user-friendly, and I never found myself becoming frustrated or stuck. I tested with the scan density, picture quality settings, tablet interface, and increased the distance between scan set ups before the cloud-to-cloud registration failed. My next time using the scanner was for a client, and I felt competent and confident from that point forwards.
Q: How have you used it and how will you plan to use it in the next few months to a year?
A: I have used it for a range of jobs, the first being for a topographic survey of a road and entrance to a quarry. I have also scanned an art deco cinema which is currently undergoing restoration, I collected some really nice data using the HDR image’s function and high-density scans. I have also used the scanner for building elevations and floor plans as well as Right of Light surveys.
Moving forwards, I will continue with Right of light surveys as they can come in quite regularly. My focus now is push into the architectural side of the market and offer a scan-to-BIM service to architectural firms. With the scanner being so easy to use, I am planning to train someone up with relatively little survey experience to carry site work for building surveys, freeing me up to process the data into a 3D CAD model.
I will continue to use the scanner for topographic surveys as it gives me the ability to ensure full data capture and reduce the risk of returning to site. I have been extracting topographic data from the scanner in N4ce and have developed a quick process. Now I have a good system in place, I am relying less on total station measurements and more on the scanner when carrying out topo surveys. It means more time in the office, but I can reduce time in field.
Contact your local Trimble Authorized Distributor for more information on the X9 or to set up a demo.