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FARO’s Speed and Accuracy aids Rail Project

The use of a FARO Focus3D X 330 Laser Scanner helps to ensure the delivery of precise precast concrete structural elements to the Ordsall Chord project, part of Network Rail’s £1bn+ railway upgrade plan for the North of England.

A joint venture between Skanska BAM Nuttall is currently involved in delivering the Ordsall Chord, part of the Great North Rail Project to improve railway services. The project will help to increase connectivity across towns and cities and enable the Government’s so-called Northern Powerhouse initiative to boost economic growth in the North of England.


Since October 2015, work has been taking place on the Ordsall Chord.  This new section of track will create a link between Manchester city centre’s main train stations; Victoria, Oxford Road and Manchester Piccadilly, for the first time.  However, for this vital piece of track to be fitted, a huge amount of preparatory work needs to take place.  This includes realigning existing track-, building new bridges, removing disused arches and restoring Grade I listed structures related to what is a section of the world’s first passenger railway.

The delivery of incorrectly sized precast concrete elements had the potential to cause long delays to the Ordsall Chord project and to disrupt road and rail travel. To help eliminate this possibility a fool-proof system of laser scanning the critical structural elements has been adopted.

Dan Binney, Skanska BAM, Senior Engineering Surveyor explained. “Work on the Ordsall Chord involves reconfiguring the existing railway between Eccles and Deansgate, Eccles and Manchester Victoria and Deansgate and Salford Crescent stations. Other work includes the installation of two new bridges, the renovation of an existing bridge, the widening of a viaduct and establishing a new track lay out.

“The track changes will allow the 300 metre chord, a brand new section of railway, to connect with the new layout. As part of the project, a range of large, precast concrete, structural elements are manufactured off-site. Although we are able to make on-site adjustments to accommodate very minor size discrepancies, the delivery of precast structures that fall outside our specified dimensional tolerances would render them useless and cause massive time delays.

“Even though our precast concrete subcontractors were chosen for the quality of their work, the time delays and potential financial consequences of the delivery of out of out of specification precast elements, meant that we needed to find a very accurate method of guaranteeing their measurements.

“We decided to source a non-contact measuring system that was portable enough to allow us to bring it to our subcontractors’ sites, and enable us to verify precast elements’ critical dimensions prior to shipping.

“Having searched for a suitable system we considered that the advanced Focus3D X 330 Laser Scanner from FARO to be the ideal solution. The Focus3D X 330’s compact size and light weight means that we can easily bring it to our subcontractors. On arrival, it helps that it is quick to set-up and easy to operate. Given the sheer size and complexity of some of our precast elements, whilst we are at our subcontractors, the use of our new laser scanner enables us to rapidly gather all of the required accurate dimensional data related to our soon to be delivered precast elements. On returning to the Ordsall Chord site we are able to quickly integrate the FARO data into an existing workflow.

“Although we currently have relatively bulky and heavy equipment that could have delivered similarly precise results it would have taken approximately 8 hours to measure a single structural element. In contrast, the compact and more portable Focus3D X 330 Laser Scanner performs these high precision tasks in less than 30 minutes.

“When this current project is concluded, the accuracy and flexibility of our new FARO equipment will ensure that we find many other applications for it.”

The advanced FARO Focus3D X 330 is a high-speed 3D scanner that boasts an extra-long range, enabling the scanning of objects located up to 330 meters away, even in direct sunlight. As a result of its integrated GPS receiver, the laser scanner is able to correlate individual scans in post-processing, making it ideal for a wide range of surveying based applications.

With its increased range and excellent scan quality, the FARO Focus3D X 330 considerably reduces the effort involved in measuring and post-processing. Gathered 3D scan data can easily be imported into all commonly used software solutions for architectural, civil engineering, construction and land surveying applications.

Ideal for use with the Focus3D X 330 and other FARO laser scanners, FARO’s SCENE 3D laser scanner software is specifically designed to process 3D point clouds. SCENE processes and manages scanned data easily and efficiently by using automatic object recognition as well as scan registration and positioning. SCENE can also generate high-quality coloured scans very quickly, while providing the tools for automated target-less or target-based scan positioning.

The user-friendly registration software enables the efficient completion of tasks from simple measuring and 3D visualisation to 3D meshing and allows exporting into various point cloud and CAD formats. Added verification steps now allow users to confirm if a scan registration result is contextually correct, adding an additional level of confidence to their data quality.

The latest version of SCENE 6.2 provides a powerful large scale meshing tool for automatic modelling of free form shapes. Meshes can be calculated, viewed and exported into various standard formats.

Once the scan project is complete, scan data can be published on a web server at the touch of a button. With SCENE WebShare, Cloud laser scans can be easily accessed and viewed with a standard Internet browser. The new version also allows the viewing of multi-layer overview maps.

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