Initially Wild N3 Precision Levels & Leica Theodolites were the tools of choice for accurate optical tooling and machine alignment , for everything from Papermill Wet-Sections & Automotive re-tooling to Boeing Jetliners .
Although still the tools of choice for most industrial construction jobs at the moment , modern 'fabricate & build' projects required a more versatile equipment and so the Total Station's ease of use and accuracies soon began to find their niche .
Eventually T Stations slowly gained acceptance with Master Alignment Specialists and so then did find their way onto industrial construction sites . Word spread of their quick , easy and accurate ways of gathering and analyzing data points and slowly they became familiar .
Now , in the last 5-6 years the industrial construction industry has embraced another even more advanced technology that is finally coming into it's own thanks to very intricate softwares coupled with powerful laptops , office computers & printers .
Finally arrives the Laser Tracker . Almost overnight one particular manufacturer's machine has been chosen to become the current industry standard and that machine is ... The FARO .
FARO is quick & easy (once you know the machine's many programs) and only requires one person to gather data points , not the typical 2 person team (Shooter & stickman) . The operator moves the cat's eye prism from point to point and the FARO automatically seeks it's target and records the shot . A remote control is also in the operator's pocket in case of problems resulting from extreme environments or a very crowded workspace . Once you've used a FARO it can seem a little difficult going back to our familiar N3/T2 method of working .
After The Shots ...
After the shots are taken and the data is gathered the operator can fire up any number of included software programs , on the Laptop computer , and quickly display the data in numerical , as a graph or even in 3D as a point spread or point cloud . The software can indicate which points are within tolerance and which points have to be moved and exactly how much . It can also determine a medium criteria baseline if one hasn't been set , so that only a minimum number of data points will require moving , re-machining or re-adjusting .
This kind of versatility and exacting feedback is why Engineers love it , and in fact , it is an Engineering tool as much as a field data gathering tool . Having a FARO has become a prerequisite for even bidding on major installations in many jurisdictions . A FARO offers cold hard evidence about any critical surface , right here and now , unlike what an N3 or T2 operator might "say" is his best estimation .
We can compare the above to our traditional method -
1) Request a Shooter from somewhere ...
2) Have the Tool crib supply an N3/T2 from somewhere ...
3) Pick someone who is half-way conscientious enough to be a reliable Stickman
4) Keep any notes or hand written diagrams this Shooter may be able to supply
Not trying to take anything away from N3/T2 shooters at all . I know many could come close to matching the FARO in certain situations as far as shot-accuracies go if the N3/T2 is in calibration , the lighting is good , the stickman is sober and the shooter's eye's aren't too tired .
The FARO removes human error from the equation . All an operator must do is place the 'Cats Eye' target and the FARO will sight and zero in precisely and record the shot . This can be invaluable in cases of critical turbine installations for instance , where both engineers and the Global Contractors they are employed by demand complete assurance of critical accuracies .
FARO operators can not only guarantee the shots but can supply hard-copy certification in any number of formats , thanks to the many charting and customized data-sheet programs available . FARO can also provide a real-time comparison to imported CAD data allowing quality control technicians and engineers the ability to immediately determine if there are any deviations and whether or not they are in/out of the tolerance range .
The FARO is also self-calibrating and if needing service due to mishandling or extreme exposures will let you know instantly . FARO's have many, many advantages but just one main disadvantage ... they are expensive to purchase , to completely outfit and to keep constantly updated and serviced . Having said that the FARO is also irreplaceable on projects where Prime Contractors simply state on mechanical bid sheets "only those who will supply FARO hard copy documentation for major critical component installations will be considered" ... and that is the bottom line .
BYE FOR NOW