How Do Laser Measuring Tools Work? | Engineer Supply - EngineerSupply

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How do laser measuring tools work?

infographic how do laser measuring tools work

Laser measuring tools have been on the market for a number of years. They’re based on how lasers reflect off of surfaces. To measure distance, the device sends out a pulse of laser light in the object’s direction. The time it takes for the beam to get there and back determines the distance measurement. Tools that are based on this technology are called “laser distance meters,” and they’re part of a category of tools that don’t need to make contact with the point being measured. They were preceded by ultrasound meters, which date back to the 1990s and were based on the reflection of sound waves. But they didn’t allow users to target their desired point and were not very precise.

The Principles Behind Laser Technology

The word “laser” stands for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation,” and the measuring tools that use this technology calculate distance by measuring the “time of flight” for very short bursts of infrared light. It’s different from more traditional survey equipment, which measures “phase shifts” by comparing the incoming wavelength with the phase of outgoing light. Any solid object will reflect a certain percentage of the light energy emitted from a particular point, but even a small percentage of reflected light can be picked up by a detector or laser tape measure.

Because the speed of light is constant, you can use the time it takes for a laser beam to reach the target and back to measure distance with a great deal of precision. A simple computer inside a laser distance meter can calculate the target’s distance. And because of the high speed at which the pulse can travel and it's level of focus, it can be very accurate over distances of feet or miles. In fact, this method will allow you to measure the distance from Earth to the mood within a few centimeters, but it will become less accurate over much closer or farther distances.

Because lasers are highly-focused, intense beams of light (which are usually of a single frequency), they travel through the atmosphere at a fairly constant rate and at much longer distances before divergence (which is the weakening and spreading out of a beam of light) reduces the effectiveness of the laser tape measure. Lasers are also less likely to disperse than ordinary white light, so it can travel much farther without losing their intensity. And unlike white light, a laser pulse will keep most of its original intensity when it’s reflected off a target. This is very important when it comes to calculating the distance of an object.

Advantages of Laser Measuring Tools

Using a laser tape measure will come with several advantages, which can include but may not be limited to:
  • Immediacy of measurement.
  • Ease of use.
  • The ability to perform single-person measurements at any distance.
A laser distance meter can measure points that would otherwise be inaccessible, which can go a long way toward worker safety. When it comes to measuring existing structures (both indoor and outdoors), laser measuring tools are invaluable. That’s why they have become indispensable for the following people:
  • Engineers
  • Architects
  • Surveyors
  • Installers
  • Real estate agents
Laser tape measure is even used for private individuals who need this tool for home use. And aside from measuring distances with a great deal of accuracy, it can also calculate perimeters and volumes. Almost all laser distance meters can make indirect measurements (such as the height of a facade or floor) while keeping distance from the building itself.

Limitations of Laser Measuring Tools

The accuracy of a laser tape measure will depend on the original pulse being reflected back to the device. While laser beams are very narrow and have a great deal of energy, they’re affected by the same atmospheric distortions that affect normal light waves. This can make it harder to get an accurate distance reading, which is especially true if an object is near greenery or is more than a kilometer away in desert terrain. Different materials will also reflect light at varying degrees. They can even absorb or scatter light (called diffusion), which can reduce the chance of the original laser pulse to be reflected back for an accurate calculation. If the target has diffuse reflection, laser measuring tools that use a “phase shift method” will give you the best results.

To ensure reliability, a laser distance meter will have some way to minimize the amount of background light because having too much can interfere with the measurement accuracy. If the sensor mistakes some part of the background light for the reflected laser pulse, it can lead to a false distance reading. Laser measuring tools that are built for Antarctic conditions (where intense background light is more common) will have a combination of narrow bandwidth features, split beam frequencies, and a smaller iris that will block out as much interference from background light as possible.

Applications of Laser Measuring Tools

Laser measuring tools can be used in a variety of applications — from surveying to sports. They can be used to make maps of the ocean floor or topography maps of areas that have been cleared of vegetation. Engineers and designers will use a laser distance meter to build 3D models of certain objects. They’re also used by the military to determine the exact distance of a target, which can be an advantage for snipers and artillery gunners. Even archers, hunters, and golfers use laser range finders to measure the distance of a target.

If you’re looking for one of the best places to buy laser measuring tools online, be sure to look at what we have at Engineer Supply. We have a broad selection from some of the best manufacturers in the industry. So if you’re ready to purchase a laser distance meter you can use for your next project, be sure to browse through our inventory. We’re sure you’ll be able to find a product that will meet your specific needs.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a laser tape measure?

A laser tape measure is a device that uses a laser beam to measure the distance between two objects. Each one will have an accuracy and range that it can cover with its laser beam, but you should always pick a model that will give you better accuracy while giving you the best range for a variety of applications.

How does a laser tape measure work?

A laser tape measure can calculate distance based on the “time of flight” for the beam being sent out to a specific object. This method is different from more traditional surveying instruments, which measure “phase shifts” by comparing the incoming wavelengths to the phase of the outgoing light.

What are the different types of laser measuring tools?

There are many types of laser measuring tools on the market, which can be used in a number of applications. So, you want to choose one that will best serve your specific needs. Feel free to look at what we have in stock, so you can find a laser tape measure that’s right for you!

How does a laser distance meter work?

A laser distance meter measures the time it takes for a pulse of laser light to reflect off a target and go back to the device. This is known as the “time of flight” principle, which can also be referred to as “pulse measurement.” Because laser light travels at a fairly constant speed, a simple computer can calculate the distance to a specific target with a great deal of accuracy.

Can I use a laser distance meter outdoors?

All laser distance meters can be used outside, but it can be a bit of a “hit and miss” affair. It sends out a short laser pulse, which reflects off the surface that it needs to measure. The important factor is where the laser hits. And to know what you’re measuring, you need to be able to see the dot. There are laws that limit the brightness and output of lasers, which is the same anywhere in the world. So, the brightness of one device will be about the same as another. If you’re outside and in full sun, you won’t be able to see the laser pulse if you’re more than about 30 feet away. And in some cases, you won’t be able to see it past nine feet of distance.
If you’re looking for a place where you can find a variety of laser measuring tools from top-rated manufacturers, be sure to look at what we have in stock.
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