Last week we used the 3D Disto in the field for the first time. A local project that involved steel erection made for a great first test case. The goal was simple: determine the deviation in a bent plate to ensure it meets the construction tolerance off the column grid.

After shooting a few “control points” to establish common points in the field with the model (BIM) back in the office and a few “secure points” for as references for relocating the 3D Disto, we were off and running.

A defining feature we thought was convenient was the ability to use a tablet (or just a standard laptop) to control the instrument remotely. The 3D Disto has a camera that talks back to a Windows 7 or 8 computer via WiFi. This might be the biggest difference between the 3D Disto and a standard issue total station.

The 3D Disto is capable of shooting evenly across a line/plane. Once it was set up, we asked it to shoot the bent plate every two feet. The accuracy of the instrument was impressive — it revealed that the steel was within 1/100 inch of exact design location.It’s always good to have peace of mind, and we learned a lot about what this instrument can do in the process.

RELATED: Learn more about the Leica 3D Disto

You can export a CSV and DXF of all the points captured and send that right back into the federated model (BIM). This is key for verifying where the work was put in place compared with the model. The deviance was minimal in this case, but we're excited to work more with field data captured by Leica instruments in future BIM efforts.

Our next step is to see what we can do with a 3D Disto and BIM for interior applications, both new construction and existing spaces.

Zack Creach is a senior engineer for Holder Construction in Atlanta.