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Old 02-10-2015, 04:42 PM   #1
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Total Station


We specialize in foundations for communications equipment and some times we encounter some odd shapes. I had one that was essentially a round foundation with 20 flat sides! I worked with the engineer and I shot all the points using a digital theodolite, but it took too long to be cost effective. I should have paid the surveyor.

I have looked at total stations but I just wasn't sure how difficult it would be to learn and if one may be more user friendly than the other. I liked the Leica Builder series and thought about the robotic version, but I couldn't justify $25k for something that was not going to be used everyday, but something in the $8k-10K range would be something more realistic for my needs.

So the questions are, what are you using? How do you like it? And did it take long to learn it?
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Old 02-10-2015, 04:50 PM   #2
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Re: Total Station


Hilti (I forget the model #)

It's an 18k set up(2 man operation, robotic is around 35k), open an account, lease it for 5 years @ $3xx.xx per month, buy it out at the end of the lease for a few thousand.

On site training from Hilti anytime we want them, no charge, calibration as long as it is under lease, no charge, over the counter loaner if it goes in for anything including calibration.

Most guys figure out how to use it in about an hour. The only error we have had is me programming it wrong.

Your foundation would be simple with this tool

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Old 02-10-2015, 04:55 PM   #3
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Re: Total Station


Thanks Chris. I'll have to look into Hilti, I didn't realize they offered an option. I had been looking at Leica, Nikon, Topcon, etc. Anything to help reduce my costs per a job I'll entertain.

Its nice to know they do on-site training as well.
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Old 02-10-2015, 07:30 PM   #4
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Re: Total Station


We use a robotic total station with a ranger data collector. About 25K for the entire package. It works great but does have a learning curve. A good dealer will not only sell you an instrument, but also get you up to speed and comfortable with it. I always extensively research costs, but the cheapest is not the best when it comes to high tech equipment. If you can't figure out how to use, it is useless. Make sure your dealer includes some in the field instruction.
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Old 02-10-2015, 07:33 PM   #5
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Re: Total Station


A buddy of mine is a foundation contractor and has a robotic Topcon that he paid $25k for. He said it has been one of his best investments. He can program it right in his truck and layout a house foundation in 15 min by himself.
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Old 02-10-2015, 09:37 PM   #6
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Re: Total Station


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Originally Posted by JDEERE View Post
We use a robotic total station with a ranger data collector. About 25K for the entire package. It works great but does have a learning curve. A good dealer will not only sell you an instrument, but also get you up to speed and comfortable with it. I always extensively research costs, but the cheapest is not the best when it comes to high tech equipment. If you can't figure out how to use, it is useless. Make sure your dealer includes some in the field instruction.
I actually had the local Leica dealer show me both the robotic and standard total stations. I believe they were the Builder series and used the iCon software. They seemed very user friendly and Leica offered both classroom and on site training. The robot would be ideal but is a large investment. It would be nice if there was a way to demo them on a project before fully investing. All the rep had for the demo was a basic house footing. Been nice to see it do a complex layout.
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Old 02-12-2015, 08:19 PM   #7
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Re: Total Station


Hilti-POS 18. Only one i ever used.

Basic functions and set up are easy. And just from the 3 hour training session i had the specialist come in and do for me, i am able to do some pretty what he called "tricky" things with it so i can really see the benefits of it.
To layout the foundation you described. The machine will give you an infinite number of points along the circumference, and obviously plot all the corners for you.
I personally have never used it in a curved application, but i do intend on taking it for a test drive once it warms up. Not to mention since it works in 3 dimensions it can give you specific heights and specific coordinates which seems pretty cool to, especially for laying out arches or organic curves.
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Old 02-13-2015, 02:43 PM   #8
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Re: Total Station


I don't know the range you need but Topcon came out with the LN-100 last year it is self leveling 3d layout system the total package is about $19,000. the local rep came down to my shop to demo one seemed pretty good for the work we do. I am trying to justify the need to buy one also my local rep also does monthly rentals.
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Old 02-13-2015, 08:48 PM   #9
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Re: Total Station


I'll have to see if my local reps have one that I could rent to try out. It's a large investment to only have small demo to decide on. At least with excavators and loaders, its easier to test them out and get a feel for them.
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Old 02-18-2015, 10:43 AM   #10
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Re: Total Station


just curious if any of you have hired an engineering firm to come in and gps all your corners in?

locally, it'd be my guess 90% of the basements/foundations are staked that way. they show up, pin the corners to dig, you dig, they come back and pin the actual corners in the hole itself.

i never did hear what it cost. maybe it's prohibitive where you're at?
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Old 02-18-2015, 10:58 AM   #11
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Re: Total Station


I've never had it done on a basement, but I have had it quoted for small commercial projects. For three days on-site, one before excavation, one to set the corners, and one to verify the forms, it was around $5k. Only takes a few projects at that cost to pay for a total station. Unless it t&m...then its better to pay the surveyor.
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Old 02-18-2015, 11:05 AM   #12
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Re: Total Station


For the guys that have the total stations, do you have AutoCAD so you can import drawings directly from the engineer/architect and load on to the total station? Do you perform as-builts with the total station?

I personally have no experience with CAD but am willing to learn. One of the engineers we work offered to help. Trying to expand my capabilities on the technology side of things. Actual dirt work is the easy part.
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Old 02-18-2015, 04:10 PM   #13
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Re: Total Station


I can only speak for the Hilti product, it allows you to import a cad file directly to the software for the total station, it is called ProFIS.

I've not done the importing of a CAD file, I prefer to draw it myself, it allows me since I have drawn it to know the project better. Like blueprints, if I draw them, I know them better in my mind.

As for the GPS layout, I have found most surveyors rely on it too much and make errors without checking there work. Twice we were present when the surveyor was there plotting building corners, we found errors, brought it to there attention, first guys attitude was he was using a $ 40,000.00 piece of equipment and it doesn't make mistakes...even with us pulling string lines and using tape measures and using my old theodolite transit to show him the error, the second time the guy couldn't figure out what was wrong, both times we made our own adjustments to fix the errors.
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Old 02-18-2015, 07:53 PM   #14
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Re: Total Station


Check it
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTBWxAbOhmg
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Old 02-18-2015, 07:57 PM   #15
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Re: Total Station


Redundant post, but one thing that is super cool with the hilti is that once you shoot a point and are working your way down the list.. it will actually tell you how much to swing the head to get in the perfect side to side location and you just have to focus the head and measure the distance.
If you are doing offsets too it will show you right on the head the offset and once you are within a few inches it will show you where to move it to focus it to 0.. The picture has that shown on the screen.. if you can see it.
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Old 02-18-2015, 08:06 PM   #16
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Re: Total Station


the hilti is badass. import data and off you go. lease it it's the way to go.
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Old 03-17-2019, 12:46 AM   #17
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Re: Total Station


I see this is an old post, but I'm doing a large commercial foundation and need to purchase a layout tool. I'm looking at a hilti unless someone tells me otherwise.
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Old 03-17-2019, 10:24 AM   #18
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Re: Total Station


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I see this is an old post, but I'm doing a large commercial foundation and need to purchase a layout tool. I'm looking at a hilti unless someone tells me otherwise.

Not exactly sure what you're looking for in a layout tool, but the Stabila 180L is pretty slick for squaring walls and foundations.
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Old 03-17-2019, 05:51 PM   #19
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Re: Total Station


we are about to start a 100,000 sqft foundation with at least 60 gridlines, I'd like to stay on top of layout without hiring survey crew 20 times
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Old 03-17-2019, 05:54 PM   #20
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Re: Total Station


In that case - go get yourself some Trimble gear. Hire your surveys for a couple of control points and you never have to see them again. Was talking to my Trimble rep about a setup 2 weeks ago. Runs about $15k for a setup that'll do that.


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