A handheld imaging laser scanner proves invaluable in meeting a tight project timeline

Three weeks. That’s how much time the surveying team from Morrison-Shipley Engineers, Inc., had to scan 250,000 square feet and deliver building floor plan models to Dallas-based Merriman Anderson Architects for 16 Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) facilities in spring 2021. 

The Fort Smith, AR-based multidisciplinary firm owns three high-speed Leica RTC360 laser scanners, which can capture full scans with high-dynamic range (HDR) imagery in less than two minutes. But on this project, high-speed wasn’t fast enough. Even if they put all three scanners on the project 40 hours each week with three operators, they would be cutting it close. 

Survey Project Manager Wade Powell, PS (AR), PLS (OK), reached out to Leica Geosystems reality capture specialist Matt Brown to ask about the possibility of renting one more RTC360. Brown, however, countered with another idea: The objectives and time constraints of the DART project presented the ideal scenario for the Leica BLK2GO handheld mobile laser scanner.

“I was skeptical,” admits Morrison-Shipley Principal Greg Shipley, PE, who was the driving force behind the company’s first foray into laser scanning 10 years ago. 

A scan image of the North Peak Street DART office captured with the BLK2GO.

Accuracy has been a key standard, starting with the firm’s investment in a Leica ScanStation C10, followed by a couple of ScanStation P40s and the RTC360s. The BLK2GO, although manufactured by the same company, didn’t seem to fall within the same specifications. For Morrison-Shipley, a company that strives for excellence in quality and customer service as a foundational principle, the proof of any technology is in the performance.

“Matt came out and showed us what it was capable of, but we needed to see more,” Shipley says. “I asked Matt to loan us his BLK2GO. ‘If it gives us good data,’ I said, ‘We’ll buy it from you.’”

Accuracy with a 41 percent Time Savings

After testing the BLK2GO at the office, Powell felt confident the instrument would perform as needed. He quickly trained Morrison-Shipley’s Frisco, TX, scan technicians, who immediately put the BLK2GO to work on the DART project. 

It didn’t take long to start seeing the value. “We ran the first few buildings and started processing the data, and the guys in the office were telling me how good the data was,” Shipley says. “We knew going in that it wouldn’t be as clean as the RTC360 data, but the accuracy was good—close to 1/8 in. on just about everything we did. It was really impressive.”

Since the scope was for building floor plan models to upgrade the spaces, rather than rebuilding structure or mechanical systems, the accuracy was well within the project requirements. The company decided to move forward with just the BLK2GO and a single operator. 

And that’s when another aspect of the technology caught Shipley’s attention. “I called our technician and asked if he had been able to get to the next set of buildings,” Shipley explains. “‘I finished those the day before yesterday,’ the technician said. ‘I’m on the fourth set now.’ The efficiency was remarkable!”

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Although Morrison-Shipley had budgeted 120 hours with three RTC360s, the project was finished with the BLK2GO in just 71 hours—a 41 percent time savings. Using Cyclone REGISTER 360 software, the team easily handled data registration, cleanup and export to create the required Revit models.

“The entire project progressed smoothly without any issues,” Shipley says. “We were all pleased with the outcome.” 

The Right People with the Right Tools

Since its inception in 1996 with just two people, Morrison-Shipley has grown steadily to 56 employees by hiring only people who share the same quality aspirations and good work ethic—people dedicated to serving clients well. The firm, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, is known for its attention to detail, personal service, highly qualified professional staff and innovative approach.

The company culture, in turn, draws people who value this standard of excellence. 

“Morrison-Shipley continues to evolve, whether it’s new technologies, new practices or new lines of business,” Shipley explains. “We are innovative because we want to speed up the delivery of our projects and improve the accuracy of what we do for our clients, but innovation is also a core aspect of our business. We want to give our people opportunities to explore the latest technologies and grow their skills. That approach benefits everyone.”

The BLK2GO is a handheld imaging laser scanner that creates a 3D digital twin while you walk through a space.the BLK2GO.

Survey-grade lidar continues to be a mainstay for the firm, but the speed and agility of the BLK2GO has been a valuable addition. Having the right tools in the toolbox gives the company’s surveyors and engineers the confidence to tackle complex challenges. It gives clients the assurance that they’ll get the best service. 

It also raises the bar on what’s possible. “Insight is priceless,” Shipley says. “If we can offer insight with details and accurate documentation, that affects everything—the planning, the design, the construction, safety and productivity. At the end of the day, we’re here to help our clients and do a really good job for them. Technology helps us do that.” 

Note: This article was originally published on Pure Surveying Insights. For more stories on how technology improves surveying efficiency and quality, visit https://pure-surveying.com/insights. 

To learn more about solutions to maximize your surveying potential, get in touch with a surveying and engineering expert at Leica Geosystems. 

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