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University of Derby students partner with Topcon to scan Falkirk Wheel

By Eric Van Rees - 15th March 2020 - 10:08

Located in the heart of Scotland, the Falkirk Wheel rotating boat lift connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. The wheel has become a popular tourist attraction as the world’s only rotating boat lift of its kind. Allowing boats coast to coast navigation across central Scotland, performing regular, high-quality scans of the wheel is essential for ensuring that the structure is managed and maintained properly and for avoiding disruption to services.

In May 2019, Civil engineering students from the University of Derby were invited as guests of Scottish Canals to scan the impressive structure as part of their independent studies. The aim of the project was to provide the students with real-life experience of using scanning and verification solutions and preparing them for this type of workflow in their future careers.

To begin, the students were given an outline brief and were instructed to assess various elements of the wheel in order to capture data for the purpose of creating 3D models. When it came to choosing equipment for the project, as part of the University of Derby’s partnership with Topcon Positioning GB, the students were given access to both hardware and software from Topcon’s range of solutions – including four Topcon scanners and MAGNET software.

To scan the main structure of the wheel and the surroundings, the students took advantage of the reliability and precise scan technology of the Topcon GLS-1500. For the asset modelling of the main structure the students used the Topcon GLS-2000 — a multi-adjustable laser scanner that can accurately capture a full 360° scan. To install the primary site control, the students used the Topcon HiPer SR GNSS and IS03 Total Station.

Derek Spalton, programme leader at the University of Derby, explained: “We have an ongoing partnership with Topcon and train all of our students on using Topcon equipment and MAGNET software. This gives us the opportunity to show our students best practice with construction technology, and how these can provide a more efficient and accurate workflow, especially when conducting tasks like a survey of the Falkirk Wheel.”

Performed as a simulated working experience to replicate true-to-life scenarios, the students were given the time to scan the structure, including the wheel, basin, and the connecting aqueduct and associated tunnel. A number of surrounding bridges were also scanned for assessment and modelling, with the variation in structures scanned giving the students lots of valuable experience in choosing the right workflow for different projects.

The students were also asked to prepare health and safety documents and communicate details of the project to members of the general public, as would be the case in real-life.

Andy Givens, Senior Applications Engineer at Topcon Positioning GB said: “Projects like the scanning of the Falkirk wheel are vital for teaching students the importance of continual monitoring of structures in order to ensure they are working to the highest standard. It’s great that through this partnership the students at the University of Derby are able to stay one step ahead using our vertical construction solutions to learn valuable skills for their future careers.”

Derek continued: “Once the students had completed the scan of the structure, we asked them to edit and manipulate the data collected using Topcon ScanMaster v3 software. The software is very user-friendly so it was ideal for the students’ first experience with this technology.

“They all had a great time immersing themselves in this project and even stayed on a nearby narrowboat for the two days it took to complete their work. Thanks to the reliability and efficiency of Topcon’s scanning workflow, the training was a great success and we now have several similar training activities planned with Topcon for the future.”

Read More: 3D / 4D Education & Research

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