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Earlier this week we teamed up with Topcon Europe’s scanning specialists who brought their pre-production Topcon GLS-2000 laser scanner to South Wales for some field testing and feedback. Having seen the official specs at the launch in Intergeo, we were keen to test out its capabilities for real on some familiar test sites. First off we visited the Museum of Welsh Life in St. Fagans to scan St. Teilo’s Church, an excellent example of a heritage project. The following day we went the short distance from our offices to Mermaid Quay in Cardiff Bay to test out different scan modes and range.

Note that this was a pre-production unit with in-progress firmware, so many things may change by the time final production takes place (early 2014). We noted several interesting features in the software that were not yet enabled, so won’t mention these until we get a full production model. There’s some exciting stuff in there though!

Having used the older siblings of the GLS-2000 from the very beginning, we already had big muscles from lifting heavy weights to shoulder height (don’t knock them though – excellent wind stability for coastal work!). At just over 11kg, the GLS-2000 is significantly easier to handle yet inherits the robust, workmanlike characteristic of its predecessors via two well positioned aluminium handles. It is IP54 rated and we put this to the test in a small downpour during one of the initial scans. It will even ship in a total station case, so we’re starting to think in terms of ease of use on site along the lines of some of the small phase scanners we’re familiar with. The top carry handle is identical to some of Topcon’s total stations and is easily removable if overhead scanning is needed (however as with the GLS-1500, we seldom needed overhead points as data voids were always more effectively filled by overlapping adjacent scan positions).

Switching on the GLS-2000 takes around 3 minutes of warming up time, and then the first scan is always one minute longer due to the fact that this also includes a one-time calibration routine. The colour touch screen on the side of the instrument is clear and responsive making operation very user-friendly, especially when navigating the scanner to scan ‘top left’ and ‘bottom right’ or areas, or to initialise target scanning (more about target scanning later).

Getting to actually scan is as easy as naming the station and then choosing ‘Start Scan’ after choosing the scan resolution from a pull down list of quick options (e.g. 3.6mm @ 10m, 6.2mm @10m etc.). The only thing to do then is to move out the way fast to avoid being photographed or scanned. The speed of the scanner is impressive, (120,000 in high speed mode). Being a survey grade instrument, it can take longer to set up and level over a survey nail than actual scan time, so we expect massively increased productivity. The GLS-2000 has two laser sources with a variety of modes to suit different scenarios. This is good news for example if you need to operate in an environment where eye-safety is mandatory. Scanner speed is obviously a big issue for the marketing men so see this separate post on “how fast is the Topcon GLS-2000?”

The GLS-2000 has two cameras onboard. We did not test the internal zoom / high detail one, just the external 5 megapixel camera whose lens is found on the outer case just to the right of the scanning mirror.

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