Hexagon Metrology Inc. announced its latest product today at Quality Expo South in Charlotte, North Carolina—the Leica Absolute Tracker AT401, the industry’s first wireless, battery powered laser tracker.
See It Live
Or something. We got a sneak peak at the Leica AT401 earlier this week. First, it’s… well… tiny isn’t really the word, but it certainly looks that way compared to other trackers. The unit weighs less than 18 pounds, including the controller, and is less than 11 inches tall, making it the lightest and smallest tracker around. The unit isn’t just small, it’s Wi-Fi capable and completely battery operated, providing up to eight hours of use. And if you can’t get the job done in eight hours, hot-swap batteries enable the operator to install fresh batteries without powering down the system.
All of this isn’t just small for small’s sake. The unit’s intended market are those who need to do large-volume 3-D measurement or alignment in environments where portability is a must.
“Our target customers are tool and fixture builders in nearly any industry—aerospace, automotive, rail, and heavy equipment to name a few,” says David Armstrong, product manager for portable products for Hexagon Metrology Inc. “Machine builders are another big target, both in terms of building the machine, and on-site layout and installation. This product will be especially useful for automotive transfer line installations in new factories where the fact that you don’t need a power source is a huge advantage. The advantage of the combination of Wi-Fi and battery power means you will be able to squeeze this unit into compact places where you wouldn’t have been able to locate a tracker before. Other industries include particle accelerators, shipbuilding, energy, satellite, and antenna.”
The fact that the AT401 is also the first laser tracker to offer a certified IP54 rating for ingress protection against dust and fluids also points to Hexagon’s intended market. The work environments for rail and heavy equipment require a large degree of protection, as do outdoor environment such as shipbuilding, antenna, or energy.
If only for the new product’s portability, you might be suitably impressed, but somehow Hexagon has managed to pack some whopping range and impressive accuracy into the same unit. The AT401 range is spec’ed at 80 meters (160 meter diameter) with a maximum range of 160 meters (320 meter diameter). The ADM (absolute distance meter) has an accuracy of 10 microns throughout the 80-meter certified range. System accuracy is ±15 μm + 6 μm/m. The ultra-long measuring range, 360º horizontal sweep, and full 290-degree vertical sweep (±145º) deliver an unheard-of measuring volume for a tracker.
“This is simply the smallest, lightest, ultra-long range laser tracker in the marketplace today,” says Armstrong. “The 10-micron distance accuracy specification over the entire measuring volume is unprecedented in the tracker industry.”
So, with the specs of this product bettering not only its competition but its own flagship tracker, the Leica AT901, will the AT401 take the place of those products? It depends on what your requirements are. Remember, this is not an all-purpose tracker. It is aimed at a particular type of user. According to Armstrong, the AT401 fills a specific niche just above the Leica TDRA6000 Total Station and below the Leica Absolute Tracker 901 series.
“This product was specifically designed and packaged for applications ideal to this segment.” says Armstrong. “It is not intended for high-speed dynamic tracking applications, and it will not support the six-degrees-of-freedom T-Probe (for probing hidden areas) or the T-Scan (for large-scale laser scanning). However, there are many applications where dynamic tracking is unnecessary, and the small size and extreme portability of the AT401 present a huge advantage, such as jig and fixture building, machine installation, and field work. This is the first tracker that you can safely and easily use outdoors due to it being impervious to water and dust and being battery powered. The price point of the AT401 also makes it extremely attractive.”
Armstrong sometimes refers to the AT401 as an “entry-level tracker,” however, it does carry over many of the features of Leica’s AT901: the Powerlock feature, which automatically finds and locks onto any moving reflector within a field of view of ten square feet at a fifteen- foot distance; infinite rotation in both the horizontal and vertical axis; Automatic Target Recognition (ATR); weather station; maintenance-free Piezo drives; and a survey-grade precision level to gravity sensor.
The unit can also be conveniently hand-pointed toward a target object without disengaging the motors. When access to Wi-Fi is restricted, the Leica AT401 can be outfitted with a power-over-ethernet box to receive both signal and power within a 100-foot range using standard CAT 5 cable. The laser tracker can also be operated with an infrared remote control.
If all these specs sound pretty cool and you want to get a closer look, you can see the AT401 at the Hexagon booth (1505) at Quality Expo South in Charlotte, North Carolina, April 28-29.
If you want to see it in action measuring a large aerospace tool, sign up for the free live video presentation. On Thursday April 29 at 11 a.m. Pacific Time, Quality Digest will present a live video broadcast from Coast Aerospace Manufacturing in Southern California, where we will be measuring a 20-foot long tool. Don't take our word for what the AT401 does, ask questions live during the presentation.