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Laser Meter and Tape Measure Selection Guide – Part 1

This post will be different from other posts on the website, but hopefully it would be as interesting and even more useful. I’ve not said that before, but I’m the technical lead of a FEED (Front End Engineering and Design) startup in Egypt, so we’ve used most of the software and tools covered by the various blog posts on this website.

After our humble start we wanted to upgrade our tools to improve our workflow, and increase quality. In our startup the thing we do the most is taking outdoor measurements for mechanical systems installations.

Our good old tape measure (more on that in another post) wasn’t cutting it for us. They broke every couple of days, they’re heavy and not reliable, so we’ve decided that a laser meter is a must.

In this series, I’m going to share with you our purchasing decision methodology and our experience with the various manufacturers we’ve purchased from.

Decision Methodology

We’ve selected some features that we’ve thought are a must in any laser meter that we decide to purchase (and boy we were wrong), these features were as follow:

  1. Most of our work is outdoors so we need a viewfinder sometimes called a camera.
  2. Range: We needed a long range meter not less than 100 meter (we were naive, or let’s say we believed the product ads and brochures).
  3. Bluetooth: we needed Bluetooth to operate the laser meter remotely when we want to take measurements from an inaccessible location (or so we thought).
  4. Accuracy: We’ve not thought about that we thought it’s laser it must be accurate and oh! boy we were wrong.

Bosch GLM 50C

Before biting the bullet we’ve borrowed the Bosch GLM 50C from a friend to test using laser meter and how they’re going to improve our workflow.

The above mentioned meter was fine for indoors direct measurements and below is what we’ve learnt from using it:

  1. Bluetooth isn’t important for our workflow, we’ve never used it during our testing days with the meter (your mileage may vary).
  2. A laser meter without indirect measurements (e.g. Pythagoras to get height and width, two points height, etc.) is useless, so if you’re like us and design mechanical systems, indirect measurements are crucial to measure ducts interference with cable tray, piping etc.
  3. A laser meter without a camera is useless for outdoor measurements, so if you plan to work outdoors then don’t waste your time with a laser meter that doesn’t have a viewfinder.
Bosch GLM 50C

Bottom Line

Would we buy the GLM 50C for us, the answer was No.

ADA Cosmos 150

Since we are based in Egypt, laser meter are considered a communication device! and they’re prohibited from entering the country or it’s very hard to let them in! So finding ever brand readily available in the local market isn’t feasible.

After a long search, we’ve settled on the ADA Cosmos 150 it was the only one available in the local market with a camera at the time of writing this post), we’ve bought it for nearly $300 (that’s nearly 2.5 times its actual price, but as I’ve said, it’s prohibited so you can’t simply order it from Amazon and ship it to Egypt).

ADA Cosmos 150

The meter has a range of 150 m, a camera for outdoor operation, Pythagoras, a reflector and a pouch. We’ve been using this meter for more than a year now and below is a summary of our experience with it:

The Good

  1. Accurate: The laser meter is very accurate compared to other meters we’ve used (more on that in the coming post).
  2. Camera: The camera helped us a lot in most of outdoor measurements and without it we would be lost. It’s not colored by the way, don’t let the photos deceive you.
  3. Pythagoras: This feature has helped us a lot in knowing for example the depth of a duct mid air (suspended from a ceiling), or the distance between steel structure columns that are not accessible.
  4. Rugged: The meter is built like a tank, it was dropped, washed, worked with it in oil, abrasives, chemicals and it’s still working.

The Bad

  1. Display: The display brightness is very low (though you can adjust it) that will give you a very hard time reading it outdoors in bright sunlight.
  2. Battery life: The battery life on this meter is poor (to say the least), it won’t last for even 1/4 of a day of use, so you need to have backup batteries with you all the time.
  3. Range: Of course what we’ve discovered from this meters and the others we’ve bought that the range stated is for indoors use so the out doors use has nothing to do with the 150 m range, we have found that the meter was capable of measuring up to 45 m in bright sunlight consistently and we’ve even succeeded in measuring 85 m in direct sunlight but that was only one time and we couldn’t repeat that again.
  4. Interface: The interface and functions are some how hidden and not easily accessible

Bottom Line

The meter is good and we would buy another one in spite of the many drawbacks, but its consistency and accuracy was amazing.

The laser meter has positively affected our workflow and decreased the time we needed to take site measurements, so we decided to buy another one focusing this time on battery life and indirect measurements as they were the ADA’s issues we’ve faced. What did we buy next and what did we learn from it, that will be in the coming post of this series.

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