Researchers, land surveyors and scientists have been using laser scanners for the last few decades to collect data about real-world objects, buildings, surfaces or environments to create accurate 3D maps and models and to assist construction.
The first time laser scanning technology was used was in the 1960s. The scanners at that time used cameras, lights, and projectors to carry out the laser scanning procedure and often took a lot of time and effort. It was only after 1985 that these conventional scanners were replaced with high-end scanners that could use shadowing and white light to capture LiDAR data related to any surface or object.
How Does Laser Scanning Work?
The laser scanning process has improved a lot over the last three and a half decades. What started with ordinary cameras and lighting has now turned into an effective data collection process that uses beams to capture the point clouds of any surface or object.
Modern laser scanning components include sensors, lasers, scanners, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Inertial Measurement Units (IMU) sensors, photodetectors and receiver electronics.
The scanning process begins with light waves thrown at the object. Experts then calculate the size and distance of the object based on the time it takes the waves to hit it and return to the sensor. This process is also known as the “time of flight” measurement.
Usage of Laser Scanning
Laser scanning is a critical process used in many private and government-backed projects. Some of its primary applications are as follows:
Nowadays, many organisations and individuals use laser scanning for material processing. If the laser is of low power, then it’s used for laser ablation and engraving where a small amount of the material in question is removed. Higher power lasers are used for metal welding or metal cutting.
Sometimes, laser scanning is used for hardening liquid polymers as well as carrying out laser sintering (melting polymers by laser scanning). The best thing about this arrangement is that a computer application can control the end-to-end procedure — so there is no risk for people present at the site.
Laser scanners can help you greatly reduce the time taken in spatial scanning and plotting, improving the planning process and cutting down errors during the data collection process. Specific uses of lasers in spatial scanning are surveying, mobile mapping, scanning large buildings and their interiors, and archaeology projects.
Barcode readers also use laser scanning technology. They are equipped with an electromagnetically driven mirror scanner that can quickly scan codes from a distance of up to a few meters.
Laser scanning is also used in space flight operations, laser shows, underground excavation documentation, LiDAR data collection for plants and marine life, public safety and forensics.
Is your organisation involved in any of these operations? If so, why not try laser scanning to achieve quick and accurate results without increasing the project budget.