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PIPE LASERS, THE STARTING LINEUP
Precise planning and excavation are essential for constructing underground pipes and tunnels. It is crucial to maintain a consistent grade throughout the length of the pipe system to avoid blockages and slow liquid flow that can result in costly repairs. To achieve the required grade of a pipe run, underground contractors rely on a specialized piece of equipment called a pipe laser.
A pipe laser is a construction laser specifically designed for measuring and determining the correct grade of pipes. It functions as an electronic level by projecting a high-powered beam of light at a specific angle to establish the appropriate grade for the construction project. This guide provides valuable insights into the uses of a pipe laser, its operation, and the various types of pipe lasers available.
WHO USES PIPE LASERS
Pipe lasers are primarily utilized within the underground utility industry by utility contractors, general contractors, and municipalities. These teams rely on pipe lasers for the installation of various underground gravity flow pipes, such as sewer pipe systems, storm drains, as well as the manholes and access points that interconnect them.
HOW ARE PIPE LASERS UTILIZED
In order to comprehend the purpose and functionality of a pipe laser, it is crucial to first understand the concept of pipe grades. A pipe grade refers to the slope or decline at which a pipe is positioned and is represented as a percentage. The grade of a pipe is a crucial factor in managing liquid flow in underground construction projects. To calculate the percentage, the elevation difference is divided by the length of the pipe.
For instance, if a 100-foot pipe section has an elevation difference of 4 feet between its beginning and end, the grade would be 4%. The majority of pipes are set at a low-percentage grade, which is sufficient for liquid flow. The key element is maintaining consistent grade throughout the pipe run to ensure a smooth flow and avoid blockages and reduced capacity.
In the past, land survey techniques required meticulous measurement, calculation, and tracking of the grade using wooden stakes, string lines, carpenter levels, and plumb bobs. This process was time-consuming and required contractors to hire surveyors to establish precise reference points across the jobsite. Any mistake could result in significant issues with grade consistency, leading to potential long-term problems with the laid pipe. Fortunately, advancements in technology have made it easier to set pipe grades accurately, and this is where pipe lasers play a crucial role.
Pipe lasers simplify the process of pipe leveling as they offer an accurate grade reference without the need for manual tools like stakes, string lines, and plumb bobs. This technique replaces manual geometric calculations with basic physics, providing highly precise results through a combination of laser technology and self-leveling compensation. The laser beam is highly visible, making it easy to use on pipes of varying lengths and can be effective over a distance of up to 500 feet when combined with plastic or electronic targets.
Pipe lasers are cylindrical in shape with a laser on one side and a digital display with control buttons on the other. They are typically compact enough to fit inside an 8-inch pipe, but sturdy enough to withstand the demands of a high-activity construction site. These lasers have built-in feet but can also be mounted on stands or adapters to position them at specific heights or locations. Pipe lasers come equipped with built-in self-leveling systems to ensure that the laser beam is always accurate to the desired line and grade.
HOW ARE LASERS USED IN CONSTRUCTION
Laser-powered tools are widely used in the construction industry for various purposes, and pipe lasers are just one example. Here are some other ways that lasers are utilized:
Grading: Construction teams frequently use laser-based display and grade control systems for grading and earthmoving. These lasers provide a visual guide in grading operations where earth needs to be moved to achieve a specific slope. In some applications, the laser beam is a flat plane to visualize the grade and slope desired. Regardless of the specific laser used, these systems provide an accurate guide that can speed up grading operations, improve accuracy, and increase profitability.
Leveling: Laser levels provide a flat reference plane between two points, allowing for better control of level and elevation in a job site. Laser levels are excellent for use in applications where a traditional optical level is insufficient — such as leveling a large surface area or length, like an excavation project or a concrete pour.
Alignment: Lasers are often used as alignment references on job sites in both the horizontal and vertical planes. Lasers are used to align concrete forms, suspended ceilings, and interior walls, and they are excellent visual references for aligning features before placement.
By selecting a laser customized to the specific application's needs, such as a pipe laser, workers can complete projects with the necessary accuracy and efficiency for a high-quality job.
THE BENEFITS OF PIPE LASERS
While pipe lasers are small, they are highly functional. Pipe lasers are waterproof and rugged enough to handle high-activity construction sites, which makes them perfect for full-function leveling in construction applications. If you’re considering using a pipe laser on your project, check out some of the benefits they offer in above- and below-ground applications:
- Speed: Pipe lasers are quick and easy to use. They can go inside or outside a pipe to provide a visual level to ensure the pipe is graded evenly. Using a pipe laser gives you reliable measurements more quickly than using manual methods, which can cut back on project time, save labors costs and improve turnaround speed.
- Accuracy: Because they remove most of the manual measuring process, pipe lasers ensure a consistent and accurate grade for proper pipe placement. The target and alignment system also add accuracy keeping the pipe on the proper alignment from one manhole to the next.
- Ease-of-use: Pipe lasers are designed for easy single-user operation. Through the use of radio remotes and computerized leveling, modern pipe lasers can easily be used by a single person, allowing labor to be reallocated for maximum productivity and profitability.
- Operability: Pipe lasers offer 30 hours to 50 hours of continuous operating time, which helps maximize productivity by cutting down on interruptions and battery costs.
- Cost: Pipe lasers pose an upfront investment, but they save substantial money in the long run. The technology speeds up the survey and excavation process, saving money on labor, and the accuracy of this technology reduces the potential for costly rework.
Pipe lasers are undoubtedly an asset to any construction project, offering several advantages. However, it's worth noting that a skilled operator is crucial to make the most of these benefits. Although pipe lasers are user-friendly, it's essential to have a skilled professional operating them to ensure precise installation. While manual grading methods require significant calculations and efforts, a laser operator can easily avoid such time-consuming tasks. Moreover, training personnel to use pipe lasers effectively is relatively easy, considering the simplified process.
TYPES OF PIPE LASERS
Pipe lasers are available in various models, each with its own set of advanced features and highly visible green beam laser. While red beam lasers have been available since the mid-1960s, advancements in diode technology have enabled the production of highly visible green beam lasers that maintain clarity even over longer distances and in high sunlight situations.
For those seeking high-end functionality, the Spectra Precision laser is the top choice in pipe laser technology. This laser is specifically designed for challenging job site applications, boasting a large, clear display and a rugged, nickel-plated design. With a grade range of -15% to 40% and programmed with 10 different languages, the Spectra Precision laser is functional for a wide range of users. Benchmark Tool & Supply offers the Spectra Precision DG813, DG613, and DG613G models, allowing companies to choose the features, benefits, and price point that best suit their needs. For short-term projects, Benchmark Tool & Supply also offers pipe laser rentals on a weekly or monthly basis.
HOW TO USE A PIPE LASER
Using a pipe laser in the field can be a straightforward process. Here is a simple guide on how to set up a pipe laser:
- First, choose a location for the pipe laser. Ensure that it is in a safe and stable area where it won't be knocked over or damaged.
- Next, mount the pipe laser onto a tripod or stand to keep it at the desired height and location.
- Once the pipe laser is mounted, turn it on and allow it to self-level. The laser beam should be horizontal and parallel to the ground.
- Set up targets at the desired distance from the pipe laser. These targets can be electronic or plastic and are used to verify the laser beam's height and location.
- Place the targets at the same height as the desired grade for the pipe.
- Adjust the pipe laser's grade until it lines up with the targets. This will ensure that the pipe is set at the correct slope and grade.
- Once the grade is set, mark the target locations and start laying the pipe.
By following these simple steps, you can use a pipe laser to make quick work of grading and laying pipe accurately and efficiently.
Make sure you double-check any calculations before starting work, regardless of the quality of your pipe laser, and compare results with any project plans.
WHAT IS A PIPE LASER BLOWER
A pipe laser blower is a crucial tool for challenging job site conditions that can cause laser beams to bounce or refract. Refraction occurs when the air temperature rapidly changes in the trench or pipe or when there is a large amount of fine dust in the trench, often in extremely hot or cold weather conditions. Since a laser travels through the air, physics comes into play.
Here are some job site tips for using a pipe laser blower properly:
When a contractor prepares to install a pipe, they typically lay it end to end on the ground before lowering it into the trench. As the pipe lies in the sun, the top portion heats up, and when installed into the cool dirt trench, a drastic temperature change occurs, causing laser beam refraction. The same can happen when the air above the trench is colder than in the trench. Lowering a cold pipe into a warm trench can cause a rapid temperature change in the pipe, leading to laser refraction and alignment drift.
To alleviate laser drift and refraction, the contractor can:
Rotate the pipe during installation so that the top facing the sun contacts the dirt trench. This helps even out the temperature in the pipe and reduce drastic drift or refraction.
Install a Spectra Precision Pipe Laser Blower Model 929 at the laser end of the pipe. Use the chart on the blower's face to select the proper fan speed based on the pipe size and length of the run. The blower's unique angled hose end, louvers, and variable speed blower create air circulation that homogenizes the air, alleviating beam bounce. Using just any air blower can cause more refraction. Depending on the pipe size and run, it can take up to 20 minutes of fan circulation to settle the beam back into position.
GET THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT FROM BENCHMARK TOOL & SUPPLY
Pipe lasers are a valuable investment for construction companies, reducing the workload for workers in sewer and underground pipe applications. They provide a precise and easy-to-use leveling method, streamlining the survey process and saving time. Benchmark Tool & Supply is dedicated to helping businesses improve their job success rates and finances by providing reliable construction technology solutions.