Beyond The Total Station

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Total station layout is a mainstay of almost every modern building project. However, it’s almost unrecognizable next to its predecessor device–originally used by the Ancient Egyptians to help build the pyramids.

So how has the total station been adapted through the decades? How has it boosted the workforce’s productivity and digital transformation in construction? And what might the future look like for construction layout technology?

The evolution of building layout with the total station

The early form of a total station was called a Theodolite. Incredibly, these were used by the Egyptians to measure areas and distances during the building of the pyramids.1 Up until the 1960s, these were the major surveying instruments for collecting geodata referenced in an Earth-fixed coordinate system. Over time, as technology advanced, the core design of the total station was extended with features to make surveying faster and more convenient.

  • Servomotors enabled horizontal and vertical angle movements to save time when staking out coordinates.
  • The prism was pinpointed through either radio signals or imaging.
  • Stepless magnetic motors were introduced that operated more quickly and silently than mechanical gears.
  • Wireless communication was employed so the device could be operated by an external controller, increasing the safety of on-site workers.
  • Inbuilt microprocessors were fitted to collect and store data that could be processed into angles, horizontal distances, and x, y, z coordinates. This could then be transferred to tablets, laptops, office servers, or the cloud.

This all led to what we now recognize as the modern, tech-led, and efficient robotic total station.

So, what’s next for building layout?

In many ways, the latest iteration of the total station is already in use. The robotic total station can record measurements from a long distance via remote control. Its microprocessor records measurements in a memory chip and performs any necessary computations and calculations for the surveyor.

But construction robotics isn’t limited to the total station. In fact, the global construction robotics market size was valued at $50 million in 2021 and is expected to grow to $164 million by 2030.2 Construction companies are increasingly using technology like this to meet workforce shortages by attracting younger, more tech-savvy workers, and improve the productivity of their current teams.

Another piece of innovative technology to speed up layout work is HP SitePrint. As the next step in construction robotics, HP SitePrint automates the layout process–so the total station and moving robot carry out the layout work, overseen by one worker. It can help enhance your workforce’s capabilities, minimize health issues associated with traditional layouts, reduce costs, and boost productivity. And by combining HP’s expertise in print and ink with robotics technology, it can reliably and precisely print on a variety of surfaces and materials too.

Find out more about how HP SitePrint can fast-track your building layouts.

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