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Buyers Guide To Total Stations

Buyers Guide To Total Stations

The total station is a vital piece of equipment that allows professionals across a wide range of industries to perform their job.It is the stable horse for any surveyor or civil engineer and the ace up the sleeve for archeologists and forensic scientists. We have even seen commerical plumbers use a robotic total station to layout piping. 

Below is the key information to keep in mind when purchasing your total station. This is large ticket item and it is imperative that you make the right decision, and more importantly, you feel comfortable with the decision you made. This piece of equipment will used for many years to come.

Main players in the game:

The major brands who sell total stations are Topcon/Sokkia, Leica, Trimble, and Spectra/Nikon. When it comes to differences between brands, there isn’t much so play ball! With that said, many veterans are brand loyal to a specfic brand. In our eyes, this is where we see each manufacturer excel:

  • Topcon/Sokkia Total Stations – A staple in the construction industry. 
  • Leica Total Stations – Known for their robotics, tracking, and GNSS systems. 
  • Spectra/Nikon - A solid option that is an excellent best bang for your buck.

Key features to keep in mind that dictate price:

  • Accuracy – Most total stations have an accuracy that ranges from .5 arc-second to 10 arc seconds. The more accurate a total station is, the more expensive it will be.
  • Distance – Total stations can typically measure distances from 250 to 3280 feet. The greater the distance a total station can measure, the more expensive it will be.
  • Screens & Keypads – Total stations will have either a single or dual screen. Some prefer to have dual screens to make the operators job easier and more effcient.
  • Software Compatibility – Make sure the software you use is compatiable with your total station. Some models allow you to collect all the data, calculate area, elevation, distances, in the total station and dump it into Auto CAD. Survey pro and Carlson software are staples among many surveryors. 
  • Security Features – Some total stations, such as Topcon/Sokkia, include anti theft software. If somebody steals your total station, it can be tracked down similar to Apple's "find my iphone" function. 

Features to consider for the field:

  • Weight – The weight of the total station can be a deal breaker on your back over the course of a long day. If you have back problems, you want to consider a total station light in weight. 
  • Battery life – This is straight forward, but a longer battery life gives the operator piece of mind out in the field.
  • Data collectors/ Add ons – Some data collectors are wireless while others are direct connect. If you are using a robotic total station, you must use a wireless data collector to run the machine.

MISC options to consider:

  • Warranty – This is always something to consider, escpically when purchasing expensive equipment.
  • Staff’s Experience – Changing systems can be cumbersome for veterans whose worked on one particular system for an extended period of time. Keep this mind as it will take them time to get use to a new system.

What is a Reflectorless Total Station

Reflectorless Total Stations do not require a prism to measure, however most are limited in distance they can measure. To get the full range out your total station, you will need a prism.

Total Station vs Theodolite

The difference between a total station and theodolite is that theodolites do not measure distance. If your job only requires you to measure angles, save the bucks and purchase a theodolite.

Manual vs Robotic Total Stations

The difference between a manual and robotic total station is the number of people you need to operate the device. With a manual total station, the operator works the gun while another person works the prism pole. With a robotic total station, the total station will automatically follow the prism allowing one person to operate the machine. From a finance standpoint, robotic total stations are more costly upfront, however you will save money on labor expenses down the line as only one person is needed in the crew. Do a cost analysis to see if a robotic total station is worth it depending on your labor resources.

We hope this helps. Feel free to give us a call to discuss your needs to find the best total station for you and your team!

Click here to browse the largest selection of total stations on the web!

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