Mining Point Clouds

A prominent Western Australian surveying firm won a bid for pre-design surveys for a complex mining infrastructure spanning tens of kilometers - but with a tight window for completion.  They chose the Trimble X7 for its ease of use, durability in harsh environments, and automated cloud registration, speeding up not only field acquisition time, but also reducing office processing time.

The Pilbara region in the northwest of the State of Western Australia is remote, arid, and rich in mineral resources.  The region accounts for nearly 40 percent of global iron ore production; local residents joke that in some places you could "weld rocks together."  The mining town of Tom Price is the hub of a complex of dozens of some of the world's largest iron ore mining operations.

Trimble X7 & Perspective wins Gold at New York Design Awards 2020

Trimble is proud to announce that the combined solution of the Trimble X7 3D laser scanner and Perspective software is a Gold winner at the New York Design Awards in the category Product Design - Commercial & Industry.

Products were judged on a set of criteria like Innovation, the Design Challenge, and Sustainability. The winning awards entry from Trimble can be found here:

The award celebrates creative and innovative design for either a component or overall product. Consideration is given to aspects that relate to human usage, aesthetics, selection of components and materials, and the resolution of assembly, manufacturing, and the overall function. The judge's panel members are recognised voices in the design economy sourced from leading studios, industry bodies, and design commissioners.

Project Overview

After extensive market research, Trimble found that customers wanted complete, solution-oriented 3D scanner systems. 3D laser scanners are high-tech, versatile tools that are used in construction, surveying, and forensics. Scanners deliver ‘point clouds’, consisting of millions of measurements, that is the basis for as-built documentation for buildings, civil infrastructure, industrial facilities, topographic surveys, cultural heritage, and reconstruction of accident or crime scenes.
3D scanners are no longer measured on performance alone. Data quality is important but fast delivery of verified results in the field is the key to profitability. Customers need systems that eliminate the guesswork and complexity of scanning, offering automatic registration (linking scans together) in the field. With traditional scanning, results are not known until the entire project is registered back in the office. In case mistakes were made, customers risk cost overruns through return trips to the field. Workflows must be simple and support less experienced users. And compact, lightweight systems are expected for ease of use and portability.
Customers want cost-effective systems with a clear ROI. The overall cost of ownership from the purchase price, maintenance cost, personnel cost, and the ability to reliably capture and deliver projects on time are all part of this equation. The main considerations for designing the Trimble X7 scanning system were known.




The Trimble X7 Scanning System had an international project team of 50+ Trimble employees including product management and marketing in Westminster, Colorado; project management in
Danderyd, Sweden and Jena, Germany; optical instrument design and manufacturing engineers in Jena, Germany; scanning hardware, firmware, and software engineers in Paris, France; and
application engineers worldwide. The accomplished team had decades of experience using and designing scanners, total stations, and application software.

Project Brief

The mechanical design of the system’s center unit would have to drive new technical innovations. Trimble X-Drive technology was born to enable the X7 to be the industry’s first instrument to fully automatically calibrate and level itself before each scan. The protected center unit would need to integrate a survey-grade (an extremely high level of accuracy) servo drive with high-speed scanning, internal tilt sensors for survey-grade self-leveling, a calibrated coaxial camera system for fast image capture, and a laser pointer for georeferencing and single-point measurements.
The system would also need to combine smart, simple workflows guided by the Trimble Perspective field software for a more complete, practical approach to scanning. The combination of automation and simplicity would lower the cost of ownership, increase the return on investment, and boost the efficiency and confidence of users.
Automatic calibration ensures consistent data quality and lowers maintenance costs by eliminating the need for annual calibrations. Self-leveling, automatic in-field registration, and complete project visibility reduce the level of experience required to execute projects successfully. Validating projects in the field before returning to the office would be invaluable.

Project Innovation/Need

Trimble X-Drive is the world’s first dual vertical deflection drive system designed by integrating a survey-grade servo drive with a high-speed scanning mirror. A total station vertical drive and angle encoder system is integrated inside the alidade so the complete center unit including the deflection unit and EDM source can be rotated around the trunnion axis in the same manner as total stations. This was the key to enabling features like automatic calibration and survey-grade self-leveling. No targets or user interaction is required to perform full angular, distance, and axis error measurements.
The automatic self-leveling system has survey-grade tilt compensation when the instrument is set up within a working range up to 5° from either side of its vertical axis for upright and upside down scans. Scans are leveled with survey-grade accuracy of < 3” (arc seconds). Leveling guide lights help users adjust the tripod to level the instrument within the tilt range which is much easier than leveling a tribrach within a range of 2° for traditional scanners.
The calibration and the self-leveling process occur automatically before each scan to ensure consistent data quality in all conditions for accurate in-field registration.

Design Challenge

The Trimble X7 automatic angular and distance calibration is similar to how calibration equipment is used on the production line to calibrate standard scanners. The difference is that calibration equipment used in service or manufacturing is very large and can weigh over 200 kg (500 lbs). Calibrations also require technicians and a large calibration range of surveyed targets. The challenge was to miniaturize all of the required components and design a calibration system that would work with no targets or user interaction. For the X7 to be compact and lightweight, new designs were constrained to very tight spaces.
The new center unit design crucial to all of the instrument’s functions had to integrate the scanner EDM, deflection mirror, tilt sensors, laser pointer, and the coaxial camera system. The camera system used three cameras each with a specific field of view to optimize coverage and enable fast image acquisition. The coaxiality of the cameras is made possible by the mechanical design and the alignment of their optical axis to cross the center of the deflection mirror to minimize parallax between images and scans.
Control of the laser pointer had to be implemented in the Perspective field software so the laser could be easily positioned using the scan station view for precision measurements of control points. An IMU also had to be integrated to support automatic scan registration.


The Trimble X7 engineering teams met requirements for a compact, lightweight form factor that can be carried onboard an airplane, avoiding the need to ship it separately. The full system fits in one backpack that contains the scanner, the tablet and batteries, with the ultra-light tripod attached. Only one person needs to travel to the job site.
The scanner uses the same batteries, power supplies, and USB cables as the Trimble S-Series total stations for optimal use of existing accessories. Also, in the development phase, no new suppliers needed to be sourced and visited.
Core parts of the scanner are made of recyclable materials with a minimal environmental impact. The enclosed design helped earn the X7 an Ingress Protection rating of IP55 for dust and water jet protection and an industry-leading operating temperature range of -20°C to 50°C.
As the first scanner with a 2-year warranty and with the ability to perform Field Calibration, there will be no need for annual calibrations to minimise returns to the dealer or the manufacturer for service over its lifespan.
Thanks to its ability to fully complete the job in the field (registration, refinement, export), the user will not need to return to the job site afterward, eliminating costly (time, money, environment) rework and travels.


When the Going Gets Tough

Keeping a close eye on a vital and extensive infrastructure complex in the Northern Territory around the clock and in virtually all weather conditions has become a reality thanks to Trimble technology, UPG (Ultimate Positioning Group) expertise and the foresight of a highly regarded surveying group.

Earl James and Associates (EJA), which was established in 1982, have employed the Trimble T4D system operating with two S9 robotic total stations, supplied by UPG.

The system has enabled automated monitoring of a concrete structure’s subsidence in the Northern Territory since the middle of last year.

The system is configured to measure 70 monitoring prisms installed along the structure every hour around the clock with the results streamed live via the internet. From this, results and data can be viewed from any connected device  for analyses, and configured to send email and SMS alerts should movement be identified that exceeds set parameters. EJA installed the equipment and system which was then followed by UPG’s T4D ‘guru’ Brent Dawson coming to the site to do training and assist with the system’s configuration.

New Trimble® X7 plays its part in Scanning History

Ever since the Trimble® X7 was introduced into the market in Australia, MinStaff Survey has been eager to get hold of one, and that became a reality recently when SITECH Construction Systems’ Chris Reynolds and UPG's Kieran Dinuzzo took their demo unit out for MinStaff Survey to trial.  The results were so impressive they bought one.

MinStaff Survey was established in 1995 as a surveying solution to underground mine development projects throughout Central and Western NSW and for a decade specialised in the provision of surveying services to major mine development projects throughout the Eastern States of Australia.

2006 saw a relocation to Toowoomba in Queensland for the company, where they are still based today and with over 50 qualified surveyors has become a multi-discipline consulting surveying firm offering a full range of surveying services to both private companies (developers, designers, builders, miners, and contractors) and the public sector.

Recently they were tasked with a complete building scan on the Soldiers Memorial Hall building in Toowoomba.  The building has been subjected to numerous extensions over the years and suspected movement detected meant a thorough investigation before new renovations and structural modifications could be implemented.

“When we trialled the system, we completed in one hour a job we initially thought may take about four.  That was the real eye-opener for us,” said Jake Laing, General Manager.

“The X7 is just one of the pieces used on this latest project.  We combined the X7 and T10 with Trimble Perspective, the Trimble SX10 Total Station to geo-reference the scans on a known survey datum and a Trimble Dini for level control and baseline monitoring of the external structure, and of course Trimble Business Center played an integral part in bringing all the data together.”

“We did face some challenges – the building was multiple stories with minimal access and egress points, and we needed to tie the scan data together between floors, as well as capture the interior and exterior data.”  said Jake.  “The field works took us three days with 290 scans, and we completed the office works in one day.”

The Soldiers Memorial Hall was built in three stages.  From 1923 – 1924 the main structure was built, then additions in 1930 and 1957 saw the building completed as a tribute to those who had served in the First World War.  At the time of opening in 1924 the building comprised two stories with a single gable to each side of the roof, together with a small brick building at the rear, possibly used as additional storerooms and a public lavatory.

“When we trialled the system, we completed in one hour a job we initially thought may take about four. That was the real eye opener for us,” said Jake Laing, General Manager.

“Today the structure consists of multiple stories and many small rooms, which all have limited access,” explains Jake.  “In order to survey the vast amount of data required there was only the one option - to provide a point cloud survey using the Trimble X7.  This allowed seamless cloud-to-cloud registration with real-time viewing on the T10 tablet in the Trimble Perspective software.  With the fast scan speeds, we were able to complete +100 scan stations a day with minimal impact on staff who continued to work in the building.  The ability to export a panoramic image of each scan station was deemed extremely beneficial for the client because they now have great quality images of the whole building to add to their archives.”

The team was able to do a closed-loop traverse through multiple levels of the building with scan targets, adjusting the traverse in TBC then geo-referencing the point cloud to scan the targets.  This ensured confidence in the data, that there was no angular swing in the point cloud due to cloud-to-cloud registering misalignment, as well as ensuring no difference in data between levels.

Although fairly new to the team, the Trimble X7 has had plenty of use every week, whether it be from extensive point cloud scans for building design to tenancy lease surveys and as-constructed surveys.  “Final as-constructed surveys can be scanned with a high level of accuracy and detail in only a couple of minutes compared to using conventional survey equipment”, states Jake, “And the benefits we’ve found from the X7 is the ability to complete a full scan with imagery in under three minutes.  This allows for full data capture with minimal inconvenience to any workspace.”

“And the benefits we’ve found from the X7 is the ability to complete a full scan with imagery in under three minutes.  This allows for full data capture with minimal inconvenience to any workspace.”

“Most projects come with strict budgets and time-lines”, said Jake, “But the X7 has improved the amount and the quality of the data we can provide to our clients, all with a much faster turnaround, than had we used the SX10, which would have done the job but taken a lot longer to do.  Or with us undertaking hard measurements for floor plans, which wouldn’t have been feasible in terms of cost, time, and data storage constraints.”

Kieran Dinuzzo, Technical Consultant had no doubts when looking at the project that the Trimble X7 and Perspective Software was a perfect fit based on the ability to have a registered, refined, colourised point-cloud ready to bring straight into Trimble Business Centre, which would instill a lot of confidence in the client in achieving a high-end result.  And, given this project was mid-COVID and no face-to-face training was available SITECH and UPG were set up and ready to run the project remotely.  However, with the simplicity and performance of Perspective, this wasn’t necessary.  MinStaff picked it up easily and were away.