Laser scanning-also referred to as laser surveying-was introduced in 1998 and quickly become associated with the engineering and manufacturing industries. Since that time, however, the use of laser surveying has gradually grown, until, today laser surveying is used by organizations as diverse as police departments and archeological societies. An example of how laser surveying has expanded its reach over the past decade can be seen in the recent surveying of the Mount Rushmore monument in May 2010, where surveying experts scanned the immense sculpture to collect its surface data, which will be stored and used for restoration purposes as the sculpture suffers gradual erosion, or in the event sudden damage.

The 3D laser scanning system used for the operation was shipped from Scotland-a situation not uncommon in today’s scanning culture, where surveying companies and suppliers of surveying equipment regularly lend their services to cross-continental scanning projects. Due to the expected precipitation in the Mount Rushmore area, water resistant scanning equipment was used, which proved essential, as surveyors experienced regular fog, rainfall and snow during their gradual scanning of the sculpture. Although using time-of-flight scanners, which use a laser rangefinder to measure surface data from long distances, could have significantly reduced the project’s duration, triangulation scanners, which have a more limited scanning range but greater accuracy, were used.

In addition to scanning the Mount Rushmore sculpture, the surveying team also scanned the memorial park that lies beneath the sculpture for restoration purposes as well, scanning various structures and terrains, including the Avenue of Flags, the Presidential Trail, and the amphitheatre. Regardless of their scanning needs, scanning projects have one thing in common: the need to capture the precise physical data of an object, space or environment. To this end, using a 3D laser scanning system has four basic advantages over traditional surveying methods: it costs less money; it takes less time; it offers more accurate results; and the scanning information is easier to store than reams of 2D drawings, although many scanning providers also offer 2D drawings of scanning data to interested customers.
Despite the obvious advantages of laser surveying over traditional surveying, some companies remain dedicated to the latter out of familiarity, and also because scanning technology’s relative newness makes some think that scan data would be difficult to interpret for those unfamiliar with laser scanning. But, in most cases, scanning providers deliver scan data that is already in the file types needed by the customer, including specific polygon mesh models, surface models, and solid CAD models, which the customer can then edit and manipulate through a user friendly interface. Some companies even buy their own scanning equipment. But on a smaller budget, hiring out scanning services is the most affordable option. Check out the 3d laser scanning services page.