One of the most time-consuming and important functions on a construction project is gathering reliable measurement data. Today’s lean construction approaches leave no room for error in time or materials. Layout for installs, dimensioning for off-site fabrication and as-built confirmation all call for accurate, precise measurement in the shortest possible time. And when you add in the noise, activity and clutter common in construction areas, the chances for errors increase.
In measuring for cabinets, countertops and other finish surfaces, the cost of materials makes accurate measurement the key to profitability. Errors or incomplete information can result in costly revisits, rework and material waste. Handheld laser distance meters have helped reduce error and increase productivity, and some field software enables a project manager or technician to enter the electronic measurement data while on the job site. But even these systems can struggle when faced with walls that are sloping or out of plumb. Complex or irregular shapes and high, difficult-to-access places introduce additional challenges in safely getting accurate results.
To address the problem, ETemplate Systems in Raleigh, N.C., has developed a 3-D system for measuring and computing design dimensions for construction and fabrication. ETemplate Systems’ President Paul Hansen says that many of his customers have used laser-based handheld distancers for years. The handheld units are good for many basic measurement tasks, and the users appreciate their speed and error-free performance. But, according to Hansen, new 3-D measurement capabilities are paving the way for faster, more efficient building construction. The cornerstone of the new ELaser Pro system is a new, simple 3-D measuring system specifically designed for construction and installers.
A BETTER WAY TO MEASURE
To obtain precise measurements in the shortest possible time, ELaser Pro uses the new Leica 3D Disto in conjunction with specialized software to provide on-site CAD-based digital templating for countertops and other finish surfaces. The Leica 3D Disto is a new measurement system specifically designed for building and construction trade applications.
Unlike tape measures or laser meters that can measure only distances, 3D Disto measures the 3-D position of points and objects, and then delivers the results directly to CAD or fabrication systems. 3D Disto provides highly efficient 3-D measurement and positioning for an array of common tasks.
For several years, ETemplate Systems has provided its EPhoto system for 3-D measurement on construction sites. EPhoto enables a templater or project manager to measure a job site by taking digital photos of the scene and processing the images in EPhoto software. The photo system requires targets to be placed in the project area. As Hansen’s customers took on larger and more complex projects, placing the photo targets in high or inaccessible areas was difficult. Hansen began to look at laser measurement to serve as a stand-alone technology, as well as working in conjunction with ETemplate Photo.
“The one-dimension (1D) handheld units have limitations,” he says. “When you are into more complex spaces with curves, multiple angles and 3-D spaces, you have to use additional tools like levels and plumb lines to get a good feel for what is happening in 3-D space. And we quickly realized that a surveying type of total station really wasn’t for the type of interior measuring we were doing.”
The video display of 3D Disto offers an important advantage by eliminating the process of aiming and focusing the telescope. And simply setting up and leveling a total station can be a time-consuming chore.
To solve the problem, ETemplate Systems worked with Leica Geosystems during the development of 3D Disto to create its ELaserPro 3D field measuring system. The system uses Measure Manager software developed by ETemplate to take measurements from the 3D Disto and compile it into 3-D drawings of the project area. The approach relies on tight integration with the 3D Disto. Measure Manager runs on a rugged netbook computer, and communicates wirelessly with the 3D Disto. Because the 3D Disto handles the measurement tasks, the operator can focus on making sure the information is complete and correct. Hansen said that ETemplate Systems has targeted the countertop market as one of its first focus areas for ELaserPro. It has equipped Measure Manager with specialized routines that understand whether it is measuring a cabinet, island or a back wall. Once the basic measurements are complete, the software automatically draws overhangs and corner radii to user specifications. The information can then go to CAD systems for further design and fabrication.
“There is new functionality within this device versus some other systems that are out there,” says Hansen. “People like the built in video and the crosshair. It lets them document the process. And because they can see what they are doing on the display, it’s easier to measure items farther away.”
The ELaser Pro system is designed to provide accuracy while reducing the amount of time needed for the measurement. It takes advantage of the precise measurements from the 3D Disto and uses best-fit calculations to compute planes, arcs and curved surfaces. W&C