A Brief History of Laser Scanning Technology

June 28, 2021

Modern laser scanning is a consistent, rapid, and inexpensive way to produce 3D surveys of outdoor sites and both the interior and exterior of structures/buildings. The use of laser scanning has been reportedly increasing by 15% per year, with the construction sector leading the way in its growth. New technologies are consistently being sought and researched to increase the capabilities of newer 3D scanning technologies.

Where is laser scanning technology used?

Laser scanning technology is used throughout architecture, design, land/site/house surveys, mechanical engineering, construction, and even the digital archiving of historic landmarks.

Use of the technology in the 1960’s 

Though 3D scanning technologies have only come into common commercial use in the relatively recent past, laser scanning technology first came about in the 60s, though it was a much more cumbersome process than in modern house surveys. Older laser scanning technology used a combination of lights, cameras, and projectors to create their images.

Use of the technology in the 1980’s

In the 80s, LiDAR systems (Laser Imaging/Light Detection and Ranging) often known as 3-D laser scanning, started becoming common practice across multiple sectors. LiDAR systems target an object or surface with a laser and determine the variable distance by measuring the time it takes that light to be reflected to the receiver.

Commercial use in the 1990s

The first commercially available scanner was released in early 1992 however it was deemed too impractical for surveying use. In the late 90s ‘portable scanners’ began circulating – though they needed to be attached to laptops and heavy batteries.

How the technology is used today

Though the 2000s the accuracy, portability and range of scanners increased rapidly – culminating in 2009 with a laser scanner able to take 1 million measurements per second. Since then, scanners advanced in leaps and bounds, with 2 million point per second scanners commercially available by 2019. In a relatively short period of time, scanners have become more mobile, more accurate, exponentially faster and have a wider range than their historical counterparts.

How a laser scanning survey works now

Throughout a modern survey, a combination of lasers, highly advanced sensors, receivers and detectors, GPS (Global Positioning System) and inertial measurement units (IMUs) are used to create the most accurate image yet. Millions of 3D co-ordinates are generated with pinpoint accuracy to the nearest 0.1mm. This accuracy makes laser scanning incredibly beneficial for BIM (Building Information Modelling) projects across a wide range of applications from initial site plans to residential house surveys.

Modern laser scanning or HDS (High-Definition Surveying) is used to create 360-degree plans and images of land and buildings to an extremely high level of accuracy. Using these images and plans in a house survey, a scan can enable a thorough inspection of a building or site’s conditions and updates on progress against any proposed design specifications. It can also highlight any defects and/or structural problems, including subsidence and instability. This allows qualified personnel to give advice and guidance to the long-term effects these issues may cause, and the best plan of action towards any repairs and maintenance that may need completing.

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