August 2013

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  • LiDAR Hits the Rails
    LiDAR Hits the Rails

    Positioning Solutions Company Uses Topcon Mobile Scanner

    Posted: 8/28/2013
    LiDAR Hits the Rails Print E-mail
    Written by Larry Trojak
    Friday, 23 August 2013

    Much like the apps that proliferate on our smart phones today, LiDAR is one of those technologies for which the possibilities seem, quite literally, endless. Already proven in a host of survey and construction-based operations, LiDAR has also proven its value in peripheral applications such as mining/aggregate inventory, forensic work, utility line inspection, GIS data gathering, and more. To that list, thanks to an ongoing project for the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad (WSOR), you can now add rail line clearance inspection. As part of a bridge maintenance program TerraTec Engineering, LLC (TerraTec) recently wrapped up the scanning of more than 570 miles of WSOR track using an IP-S2 LiDAR-based scanning system from Topcon Positioning Systems. When the full project is complete, TerraTec will present the railroad with a comprehensive database of potential clearance conflicts, as well as a point cloud scan of the full route (along with corresponding photo documentation) allowing the railroad to improve its shipping and maintenance efforts.

    Progressive Rail Industry
    For many, railroads conjure up mental images of a stodgy, passť form of transportation utilizing outdated technology. In actuality, however, the rail industry is quite progressive, using everything from ultrasonic sensors to detect cracks in wheels, to onboard GPS for fleet navigation and tracking. So, according to Jeff Francis, co-owner and principal with Cedarburg, WI-based TerraTec, it should not be surprising that, when soliciting bids for companies to play a key role in their bridge maintenance program, WSOR insisted that the effort include LiDAR-based technology.

    "The railroad had a very definite plan in mind when they set out to do this," he said. "They wanted proposals for a bridge management project and we won the bid as a sub-consultant to Graef USA, the prime on the job. The overall project is to rate, evaluate and create a management plan for their bridge system, but a major component of it specified that the company chosen had to scan the bridges and the corridor for clearance purposes."

    TerraTec responded to those needs with Topcon's IP-S2 LiDAR-based mobile scanning system which they leased from the Waukesha, WI branch of Positioning Solutions Company (PSC). Other choices available to them included the IP-S2 HD which offers a high-density, long-range LiDAR sensor for maximum visual mapping detail, as well as a host of advanced positioning and mapping features.

    "We were confident that the IP-S2's range of features, including the Ladybug camera technology it offers as standard, were an ideal match for the project at hand," said Francis.

    Scanning Rationale
    While LiDAR scanning is not something the WSOR normally does, Francis said they requested it to help them better understand the clearance envelope within their network.

    "The long-term goal for the railroad was simple: if a shipper calls them with a load size, they want to be able to input that information into a database and immediately be able to determine where conflicts on the system might occur. They felt that scanning was the best way to start making that happen. We took it a step further and proposed creation of a database into which they would be able to input a load parameter to determine where--based
  • Three Common Mistakes With Batteries That Can Cost You Big Money
                    Three Common Mistakes With Batteries That Can Cost You Big Money

    Preventing Service Calls

    Posted: 8/16/2013
    No one likes to pay for service on their equipment. When it is unnecessary, or something simple, it is even worse! These three mistakes are very common, and can cost your company hundreds or even thousands of dollars in repair bills?
    Needlessly paying for repairs remind me of the old joke about the company owner that needed to get his office copier fixed.
    He called in the copier technician to do the repair. The tech was in his office maybe 2 minutes and he had the copier back in service. "It was just this tiny washer" he explained as he handed the owner a bill for $1,000.
    "A thousand dollars?" complained the owner, "For two minutes of work and a little washer.. That doesn't seem right. I demand you fix your bill!" The technician took back the bill. He re-wrote the bill, and handed it back to the owner. The new bill read: Washer $1.... Knowing which $1 washer to use in order to get your copier back in service, $999!
    Follow these three very simple tips to prevent or lessen repair costs for you company.

    Tip #1: Make Sure You Are Using Standard Alkaline Batteries In Your Equipment.
    DO NOT use Heavy Duty batteries! Heavy Duty batteries generally have a much shorter run time between charges than standard alkaline batteries. Shorter run times mean more disruption of work, cost of additional batteries and additional aggravation while out in the field. Standard alkaline batteries are cheaper, last longer and will save you money in both the short and long term.

    Tip #2: Make Sure Your "New" Batteries Are Good!
    If your equipment does not turn on after you install new batteries...Try a new set of "new" batteries before sending your equipment in for repair. Believe it or not, some new batteries are dead right out of the box. Often, it is as simple as putting a different set of batteries into a unit in order to make it work. You are much better off being the one to put in the new battery, than the repair center.

    Tip #3: Make Sure You Install the Batteries Correctly.
    I know, I know?. But service centers see this error more often than you think. Reversing the polarity of batteries is a ?Bad Thing.? By reversing the polarity, you can cause the batteries to leak or even explode inside the units. These mistakes are most often what the repair centers see after the real damage has been done, and they are generally the most costly for your company to fix. Take a few extra seconds when you are changing the batteries, and save yourself this needless expense.

    By following these three simple suggestions, you may save your company money on unnecessary repairs, reduce the wear and tear on your equipment, and eliminate significant damage to your units from leaking or batteries that have exploded inside the equipment.

    Good Luck, and we hope to see you a little less often.