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Newbie looking for his first Robotic Total Station - need advice!  

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Jamie Kossowan
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November 15, 2018 8:34 pm  

Hello! I'm the owner of a small construction company in Vancouver, BC (Canada). We're doing more and more concrete formwork and we have normally hired a surveyor to come in and provide points on batter boards from which we pull string lines. This has worked well but isn't cheap and when we find errors, we need to call them back, incurring more expenses. I have had survey errors before which we end up paying for. 

I'm familiar with the absolute basics of a theodolite and can use them to set angles, and haven't touched a total station in 12 years. We don't want to go over the top but want to be able to layout anchor bolts and corners of formwork ourselves along with elevations. We have one upcoming project where we have approximately 200 pedestals with anchor bolts which need to be accurate for the structural steel contractor. Our projects never exceed a few hundred feet in size. 

I'm currently looking at a used and freshly refurbished and set up Trimble 5603 set up which is complete including a Trimble Ranger for a data collector for about $6,000 USD ($8000 CDN). They tell me its turn key. 

The other option i'm looking at is approximately $14000 USD (19000 CDN) and is a brand new Spectra Focus 35. I'm getting a demo on it tomorrow from a sales rep.

My questions are simple: I can get proper training on each option to perform our very basic construction layout. Will the Trimble 5603 meet my needs? We don't do as-built drawings as they need to be done by a proper certified land surveyor here. 

Thanks in advance for any input!

Cheers

EDIT: Also wondering if there is a more recent data collector I can upgrade to!

 

This topic was modified 2 months ago by Jamie Kossowan

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Peter Lothian
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November 16, 2018 11:25 am  

I can't comment to the Trimble or Spectra equipment, never used either brand. For a newer data collector I would recommend any one of the Carlson branded units. The customer support from Carlson Software is excellent, and the user interface on the data collectors is easy to learn.


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Richard Imrie
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November 16, 2018 1:51 pm  

Check out the other recent thread on this same subject:

https://rplstoday.com/community/construction-mining/topcon-ln-100-versus-trimble-rpt600/


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Jim Frame
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November 17, 2018 9:44 am  

The 5603 is a mildly-updated Geodimeter 600-series instrument, ancient technology in the total station world.  It generally requires an external battery, and (I think) an external radio in order to use robotically with a Ranger, which is also way out of date.  An active prism is required for robotic use.  The cabling is a real nuisance during setup and teardown.  Not all 5600 instruments are equipped with robotic hardware -- some are just plain old total stations.  And repair parts are no longer manufactured.

The Spectra 35 is a generation newer.  I think all of them are robotic, and they use passive prisms.  The upgrade in convenience and reliability/repairability is well worth the price increase, in my opinion.

Although I own and used a Geodimeter 640 robot for awhile, I've since gone over to the Leica/GeoMax side -- first a Leica TCRA1102plus, now a GeoMax Zoom80R.  I find the GeoMax to be every bit as good as the Leica for a lot less money.  The dealer network is thin, though, so if you're going to need a lot of support it might not be a good fit.

Jim Frame
Frame Surveying & Mapping
609 A Street
Davis, CA 95616
framesurveying.com


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Mark Mayer
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November 17, 2018 10:22 am  

The 5603 is a good gun. I used them for many years. But it was introduced to the market as in the late '90s - almost, if not exactly, identical to the Geodimeter 600 that preceded it by a few years- and has been out of production for some time now. In fact, Trimble no longer manufactures parts for it. And it does need repair parts (principally electronic boards) from time to time.  There are rumors of service departments that still have old stock on hands, but mostly parts are scavanged from old units. Being old tech it's radio communications is rather heavy and exposed. Radio-DC needs wired connection- newer units use bluetooth. Radio battery is large and heavy. Plus, it requires the target prism to have diodes that the instrument tracks. If you were a person who was familiar with all the quirks of this instrument and needed something cheap to do you for a year or 2 while you got a business on track, it might do. IMO it's not the unit for you. 

The Ranger data collector may be nearly as old.  There have been several generations of dc marketed as the "Ranger". The most recent being also known as the "TSC3". And that one is about 10 years old now.

I have had some experience with the Spectra guns and while the data that came out of them was good, the reliability was very poor. Of 4 units that were delivered 2 o them 4 quit working within 2 weeks of delivery. After leaving that outfit I learned that they gave up on their new Spectras - due to the reliability issues -after about a year and a half and switched to Topcons. I judge these maybe OK where a solo operator will handle them with kid gloves but in a construction environment, where it might get handled more roughly, not so much.  

I currently have a Topcon PS and while I find it to be very slow, annoyingly slow, in everyday use it is very reliable. It benefits from regular collimation. Like every week. Might be a good choice for you. I was offered $10k for it with a TSC3 dc included. I might have gone for $15k (US) for that same package.  

I work a lot of construction - urban apartment buildings mostly. Most of the trades have instruments they use to layout there own stuff. I set grid points for them to use as control, they layout all there stuff from that.  All of them, every single one I've seen - and I've seen quite a few - use modern Trimbles or rebrands thereof. This in spite of the fact that there is a very active Topcon dealer in town.

EDUCATION, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.

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Tim V. PLS
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November 17, 2018 12:02 pm  

For the most part I agree with Mark - the MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing) layout guys even use Trimble as a verb. Like, "I'll get out there and Trimble the sleeves this afternoon." Only difference is I see equipment from other vendors more often.

 

Aside: I have an excess 5603 that I'd be willing to part with.


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squowse
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November 17, 2018 2:08 pm  

I don't think the 5603 will be a great introduction to robotics for you. bit of an enthusiasts instrument is about the best thing I can say for it. i'm sure it was ground breaking in it's day. but my experience of it was spirit breaking due to it's huge appetite for batteries. and cables.

Spectra 35 is very good value and i think will suit your needs fine. My main gripe with it is that it can lock onto other reflective surfaces so be aware of that on site. You might have to turn your vest inside out for example. and get the guys to get out of your way and give you a clear line of sight.

Might be worth checking out the like for like price of a GeoMax, Carlson or Leica iCon setup. If you have a good dealer that will support you with those. The "top stream" Trimble and Leica's will be a lot more expensive. Topcon/Sokkia is another option, don;t know anything of their pricing and quality these days. They used to be a cheaper option.

This post was modified 2 months ago by squowse

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Richard Imrie
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November 17, 2018 5:38 pm  

Here's what the concrete industry said, in 2013, re the 5600.

Robotic Systems for Layout — A Consultant’s View


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Jamie Kossowan
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November 20, 2018 11:31 pm  

I can' t begin to thank all of you for your input and advice enough. I've since had demos done on the Spectra Focus 35, Trimble product line, and Hilti products (which are basically more expensive Trimble products where I am located). We have decided to go for a lightly used Spectra Focus 35 and a new TSC7 for approximately $14,500 USD with all the field hardware, calibration and 3 month warranty, all sold by the local Trimble dealer. I've taken into consideration that it's passive as well. We are mostly working on sites which have been recently excavated with little other traffic or machinery until we're complete our scope so i'm hopeful we can mitigate that risk with enough awareness.  Thanks for everyone's help and I look forward to more discussions!

Jamie


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Luke J. Crawford
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December 29, 2018 12:49 pm  

Any robot that came with alligator clips to hook to your truck battery has a power management issue! I used to run ours off a large lawn tractor battery and i'd still get that "low battery" ding before a day of heavy use was over.


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Luke J. Crawford
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December 29, 2018 12:51 pm  
Posted by: Jamie Kossowan

I can' t begin to thank all of you for your input and advice enough. I've since had demos done on the Spectra Focus 35, Trimble product line, and Hilti products (which are basically more expensive Trimble products where I am located). We have decided to go for a lightly used Spectra Focus 35 and a new TSC7 for approximately $14,500 USD with all the field hardware, calibration and 3 month warranty, all sold by the local Trimble dealer. I've taken into consideration that it's passive as well. We are mostly working on sites which have been recently excavated with little other traffic or machinery until we're complete our scope so i'm hopeful we can mitigate that risk with enough awareness.  Thanks for everyone's help and I look forward to more discussions!

Jamie

Good price on a nice instrument. Good luck! 


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Just A. Surveyor
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January 2, 2019 6:54 am  

Buy from a local dealer & pay for training

Hire an experience construction layout person, not the first and\or cheapest 

Pay him good money

Require him to stay on top of all the subcontractors.

Give him to tools to do the job, a good cadd program, good data collector, good robot, good level, good truck, and all the other bits and pieces that go with it. Don't go cheap here, nothing is more frustrating than having a boss that refuses to buy a proper tool for the job.

Buy local, not long distance.

This post was modified 3 weeks ago by Just A. Surveyor

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freefallin1309
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January 6, 2019 1:29 pm  

I'm in the same situation basically.  I'm starting a new business, and am looking at a decent priced used robot and buying a new Spectra SP60 or 80 Rover-only receiver.  Got a good quote on the new GPS, but am looking at maybe a Spectra Focus 30 or 35.  I haven't heard the term "passive target" until recently, is this a bad thing?

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Norman Oklahoma
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January 7, 2019 7:43 am  
Posted by: freefallin1309

...  I haven't heard the term "passive target" until recently, is this a bad thing?

Passive target just means that the instrument tracks the prism glass without any additional help. When these devises became a thing back in the 90's some of the earliest models had difficulty distinguishing between  the prism glass and any other shiny object that might pass by, like the reflective material on a surveyors vest, the lettering on a stop sign, a car headlight, or a pane of window glass. And so active targeting was invented, where the instrument (mostly the Trimble 5603 and it's Geodimeter predessessor) tracked a diode attached to the prism rather than the prism itself.  Later models of Trimble retain the diode as a way of distinguishing between multiple prisms, but actually track the prism passively. 

While the passive tracking instruments will still occasionally lock onto a false return, it's much less of a problem than it once was. So passive tracking is not a bad thing as long as your prism is the only prism on the site. If there are likely to be other trades with prisms of their own working around you it may get to be a problem. 

"Convention is like the shell to the chick, a protection till he is strong enough to break it through." Learned Hand


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freefallin1309
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January 7, 2019 3:47 pm  
Posted by: Norman Oklahoma
Posted by: freefallin1309

...  I haven't heard the term "passive target" until recently, is this a bad thing?

Passive target just means that the instrument tracks the prism glass without any additional help. When these devises became a thing back in the 90's some of the earliest models had difficulty distinguishing between  the prism glass and any other shiny object that might pass by, like the reflective material on a surveyors vest, the lettering on a stop sign, a car headlight, or a pane of window glass. And so active targeting was invented, where the instrument (mostly the Trimble 5603 and it's Geodimeter predessessor) tracked a diode attached to the prism rather than the prism itself.  Later models of Trimble retain the diode as a way of distinguishing between multiple prisms, but actually track the prism passively. 

While the passive tracking instruments will still occasionally lock onto a false return, it's much less of a problem than it once was. So passive tracking is not a bad thing as long as your prism is the only prism on the site. If there are likely to be other trades with prisms of their own working around you it may get to be a problem. 

Thank you sir!

You haven't truly lived until you've jumped out of an airplane.


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