Reduce your workforce and save time, too? Now that’s a win-win for any operation, and one of the reasons concrete contractors turn toward robotic total stations for laying out projects. “I eliminate one person, plus I can locate the points much faster than with a mechanical total station,” says Neal Weiler, president of Weiler Walls, Inc., Denver, Pa. He purchased a robotic total station in 2006 and hasn’t touched his conventional one since then.
“With a robotic total station, no one needs to be at the instrument,” he explains. “My data collector is clamped to the pole and I just keep walking, and the total station keeps on shooting until I zero in on the point. Not only do I save the labor cost associated with having an individual at the station and the pole, the fact that the system is continually shooting saves time having the prism holder plumb the rod and then the individual at the instrument shooting.”
Weiler installed approximately 200 walls last year, and throughout employed a Trimble 5605 robotic total station equipped with Trimble LM80 Layout Manager software to lay out excavations, footings and wall corners. “The device calculates angles and distances to position a point and can also be used to shoot elevations,” Weiler says.
The contractor admits he doesn’t take full advantage of the total station and software capabilities, yet it still delivers a healthy ROI. “Change orders can be sent directly to the total station, allowing the operator to quickly adjust the building position — something we don’t find necessary with our projects,” he relates. “I know it also has Direct Reflex (DR) capabilities and can collect and import data into third-party software for analysis.”
“When Trimble introduced its robotic total station with LM80 software, the perception by contractors was that they would require a sharp learning curve,” relates Jim McCartney, segment manager for Trimble’s building construction division. “It wasn’t true, however, and once the contractor understood how to operate a robotic total station, not only was the labor cost cut in half but the time associated with training rod holders disappeared as well.”
Kirby Justesen, owner of Formco Foundations in Salt Lake City, Utah, also found the learning curve to be short, not only for himself but for employees. “If someone quits or gets sick, I can have a new operator up and running in a day,” he relates.
Justesen works in the custom home market where he notes that building plans seem to be constantly changing. “AutoCAD drawings, with the most recent changes, can be easily downloaded into the instrument to ensure our measurements are accurate,” he explains. “I believe the robotic total stations are also more accurate than mechanical ones.”
LeRoy Sorenson, product marketing manager for Topcon Sokkia, agrees. “Instrument optics are more accurate than the human eye. Having the robotic total station direct the placement of the rod versus a human do the directing allows for a higher degree of accuracy.”
Topcon Sokkia manufactures two brands of robotic total stations under the company name. Sorenson notes that both brands operate similarly, the biggest difference being the wireless communication. The Topcon models GPT-9000A series and the GTS-900A both feature Spread Spectrum radio versus the Sokkia SRX robotic total stations that operate with Bluetooth technology.
“The Topcon GPT-9000A is also noted for its reflectorless capability, up to 2,000 meters, whereas the Sokkia brand features an extremely robust prism tracking and measurement system,” he adds. “The latter allows the Sokkia units to work in especially difficult environments, e.g., where intensive reflections occur from behind the prisms or where there are repetitive interruptions in the line-of-site.”