How To Use a Total Station? - EngineerSupply

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How To Use a Total Station?

Infographic how to use total station

A total station is a type of digital theodolites that integrates the angle-measuring tool with electronic distance measurement functionality. They are almost essential to modern surveying. Understanding how to properly set up and use a total station can help you to get more from your purchase.

Infographic how to use total station

Setting Up for a Total Station Survey

The process for setting up the device is fairly simple. Just follow these ten steps and you will be ready for your total station survey:
  1. Gather Your Equipment: First, you will need to have your equipment ready. In addition to the device, this should include a tripod, tribrach, controller, cables, survey stake or nail and a mallet.
  2. Establish and Mark a Point of Reference:  Establish a point of reference for your project. This often needs to be measured using conventional means. Mark this point with a stake or nail.
  3. Set Up the Tripod at the Reference Point:  Open the tripod and set it over the point of reference. Try to position the center of the tripod roughly over the stake.
  4. Attach the Tribrach and Course Level:  Attach the tribrach to the tripod and course level to the tripod.
  5. Adjust as Necessary:  Using these initial, course instrument, get the tripod as close as possible to be totally level and directly over the point of reference.
  6. Place the Total Station on the Tripod:  Attach the device to the tripod being careful not to move it off-center.
  7. Connect Cables:  Connect the battery pack and controller to the total station using the appropriate cables.
  8. Power On and Start Controller:  Turn the device on and open the fine-level functionality using the controller.
  9. Make Fine Adjustments:  Adjust the device using the fine level to get to directly over the survey marker on the stake. Also, ensure that it is perfectly level.
  10. You’re Ready: You are now ready to begin taking sightings. Using a total station, you can easily capture important measurements for land surveying, construction and many other projects.

How To Stake Our Points

Staking out points is one of the most common uses for a total station. The process for staking out points begins by setting up the device at known coordinates, as described above. Enter the coordinates of the stake point into the device. It will calculate the correct direction for this point (which will become zero degrees).

Turn the total station to zero degrees on the horizontal axis. Position a reflection in the line of sight of the device. Using the EDM functionality, move the reflector until it is the correct distance away from the instrument. This is the point of the coordinates entered into the system. Mark the point with a stake.

With many devices, points can be uploaded from a computer beforehand. This helps to make targeting the point even easier because the user only needs to select the relevant point number on the controller.

How To Stake Out Profile Boards

The process for staking out profile boards uses similar techniques to staking points. Begin by establishing a reference point based on distance from the boundaries of the area. Typically, this is a corner of the building. Alternatively, it may be the center point of the building. Set up the total station at this location as described in the steps above.

Enter the coordinates of your first target building corner. Using the ranging pole, find the correct point for the corner and mark it with a profile peg. If the total station is set up at a proposed corner for the building, you can use the distance measuring and ranging pole to find intermediate points along the wall. This is often used for determining the positioning of supports.

With the total station zeroed on the marked corner, turn it 90 degrees to find the next corner. Mark this again using the ranging pole. Using this method, you can ensure that the profile pegs and board are at exactly the right angles from each other.

Find the Right Total Station for You

Engineer Supply has a large selection of total stations. Explore our catalog to find the right one for you. Whether you need a simple device for basic jobs or an advanced robotic total station, we have the device for you.

Total Stations

Versatile & Accurate Total Stations

Shop Leica, GeoMax Total Stations & more. Measure, log coordinates of specific points & record distances from specific points of reference.


Frequently Asked Questions

Where Can I Order a Total Station?

You can order a total station from Engineer Supply. Our selection includes an array of models with different features and capabilities. We also have other surveying equipment including stakes, tripods and other accessories. At Engineer Supply, you can find everything you need to get the job done right.

What Does a Total Station Do?

A total station is a type of prescription measurement instrument. It features the angle-measuring functionality of a theodolite with the capabilities of an electronic distance measurement tool. This makes the device extremely useful for many different surveying processes. It has become a staple of land surveying and construction profiling.

What Is the Difference Between a Total Station and a Theodolite?

Both a theodolite and a total station are used for measuring angles very accurately. However, the latter adds the ability to measure distance as well. With a theodolite, distance needs to be measured with another tool or calculated indirectly. Additionally, theodolites are sometimes analog, whereas total stations are always electronic.

How Accurate Are They?

These devices are extremely accurate. They are generally considered to be the best way to measures angles in a real-world setting. Typically, the accuracy level is within a few milliradians or seconds of an arc. Additionally, total stations measure distance quite accurately. They can get within 1.5 millimeters of the true distance plus two parts per million over a distance of up to 1.5 kilometers.

What Is a Robotic Total Station?

A robotic total station allows remote control from a handheld device. This allows a single person to operate both the total station and the ranging pole. In other words, this type of device allows fewer people to get more done in less time. However, they tend to be priced at a premium compared to non-robotic counterparts.

Best Total Stations

#1: Leica iCON 5-Second iCB70 Manual Construction Total Station

Best total stations leica-868588

Featuring mobile data capability, this Leica total station will let you transfer construction data between the office and the instrument. This will always keep your project progress and plans up to date, which will make sure you don’t miss any changes in the design. The device is simple and easy to master, so you can finish your projects more efficiently and with minimal training. You can analyze layout points both quickly and accurately, even on complex structures. You can also make fast and accurate as-built measurements, do volume calculations on-site, and work with digital design data (including fully rendered models in IFC format).

#2: GeoMax Zoom90 Series Robotic Total Station Package

Best total stations geoMax-6010321

With this total station, you can minimize the amount of time it takes to perform any survey task, while maximizing your performance and accuracy on the job site. This total station for surveying is the ultimate one-man system with the following features:

  • Up to 20% more automation performance.
  • Extended reflectorless measurement capability.
  • STReAM 360.
  • AccXess technologies.
  • Windows CE open connectivity.
It will scan the entire working area in seconds, so you can find your target quickly. Once it’s locked, the instrument will continue to aim at the target (even if it’s moving). It will also aim accurately at any prism without having to look through the telescope, and measurements are performed automatically with a great deal of dependability.

#3: Leica iCON 5-Second iCB50 Manual Construction Total Station

Best total stations leica-868584

This Leica total station will allow you to go digital, so it’s leading the way to the no-strings and no-tapes approach for a construction project. It’s easy to learn, so you can finish your projects more efficiently and with very little training. This total station will allow you to perform a variety of tasks, which include but may not be limited to:

  • Evaluating layout points and lines quickly and accurately.
  • Evaluating complex structures easily.
  • Quickly performing verticality checks on formwork and structures.
  • Completing fast and accurate as-built measurements.
  • Working with digital design data (including fully rendered models in IFC format).
If you’re looking for one of the best total stations for construction and surveying applications, be sure to pick yours up at Engineer Supply.
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