Riegl VZ-400 3D Terrestrial Scanner

Mounted on a tri-pod, the Riegl VZ-400 3D Terrestrial Scanner translates thousands of coordinates into 3D images. 

MANSFIELD -- Shortly after Cypress Hill Winery owners Rick and Carol Taylor began renovations on their new property, the former National Electric Supply building at 51 E. 4th St., they uncovered a secret that has captivated the community.

Rumors exchanged by Mansfield residents of caverns below 4th St., and a suspicious crack cutting across the alley behind the property, led the curious business owners to conduct their own investigation. Several hours later and a hole 20 feet deep, Taylor and the small group he enlisted for help found the legendary stone caverns.

As an entrepreneur, Taylor immediately began to envision potential uses for the unique underground space. But first inspections needed to be done and blueprints needed to be drawn; the space was far from functional. For surveyors, a project like this poses unique challenges. Covering uncharted and difficult to access spaces is no easy task.

Yet, K.E. McCartney & Associates, Inc. saw the project as a way to integrate new technology into the field. The company recently purchased a Riegl VZ-400 3D Terrestrial Scanner (Static) which uses Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology. In layman’s terms, the local surveying company now has the ability to do 3D scans of any site. The scanner uses the same imaging technology as Google Earth.

Brian McCartney, president of K.E. McCartney & Associates, Inc., is a firm believer in keeping up with the growing technology available to engineers and surveyors. A friend of McCartney’s, David Bodo Jr. of the surveying company David Bodo & Associates in Carrolton, Ohio, introduced him to the scanner.

Mounted on top of a tri-pod, the 22-pound scanner looks like a droid, straight out of a Star Wars movie. The scanner even has its own wireless connection enabling Chad Owens, K.E. McCartney Survey/Engineering technician, to control the device from an app on his phone.

With a few calculations and the press of a button, the scanner slowly spins around using light technology to pick up everything in its path — even objects 3,000 feet away. In one scan that Owens did of the outside of the building, one can see the former Chase Bank building, several blocks away, looming in the distance.

“It’s kind of like when you drive a car; you understand the general process and the end result, but the whole science behind it is … ,” Owens trailed off as he marveled over the complex technology.

Before they had the Riegl, a project like this would easily take Owens and his team 40 hours of manually plotting coordinates and recording elevations. With a project this size, they’d end up with around 15,000-25,000 coordinate points, roughly only 12-17 percent of the data they’d actually need.

With the Riegl scanner, they were able to record 184 million points in just four hours of field work. This not only saves Owens and his team considerable time, it also saves the client money. Office time spent interpreting and dissecting the scans is a lot more affordable than field work.

On his computer monitor, Owens can zoom out and look at a 3D replication of the entirety of the two caverns beneath Taylor’s property. The image looks like a mold of two cylinders but as he zooms in, taking the viewer inside the tunnels, the outlines of stone and brick begin to take shape.

Interestingly, Owens' attention detail notes a difference in patching along one wall, evidence of another entrance that may lead to more tunnels.

The scanner records so much detail that even aspects Owens didn’t intentionally scan are revealed.

For example, after returning to the office, Taylor asked for information about the finished floor (above ground). Normally, they would need to go back out to the site to plot the information. But now the new technology allows Owens simply to return to the scans of the outside of the building, move his cursor through the structure's open doorway and suddenly he has access to the necessary data.

Owens is excited to see what Taylor will do with the space, and glad the property has fallen into such "capable hands." For Owens, one of the joys of surveying is seeing the humble beginnings of great businesses. 

For K.E. McCartney & Associates, Inc., the 3D scanner is a game changer. The company is already coming up with creative uses, like mounting the scanner on top of a four-wheeler in order to get images from higher vantage points. A few weeks ago, McCartney sent Owens to a national conference in Florida to learn more about utilizing the 3D capabilities. 

“I’ve been in civil engineering for 18 years and it’s amazing to see how much it has changed,” Owens said.

Yet, the aspects he loves — the tangibility of the work, the behind the scenes design processes, and the front row seat to watching raw spaces evolve into polished businesses — still remain the same. It’s these passions that drive Owens and his co-workers to serve their clients and community with the best technology and resources available.

Read more about the tunnels and what the Taylors have planned for their new location. 

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