Get out more with the right dataflow: Focus on manual total stations (part 3/3)

This is the final interview of a series about modern manual total stations. In the first interview, Hans-Martin Zogg gave us insights about the outstanding flexibility, simplicity, reliability and longevity of Leica Flexline instruments. The second interview with Alvaro Perez-Soto, product expert at Leica Geosystems, covered FlexField field software. This time, Alvaro talks about optimising the data flow between instrument and office by simple means.

Alvaro, what are the best practices, for the data flow from the instrument to the office and back again?
I would like to explain these workflows to you with the help of a simple example.

Imagine the task of building a subterranean gas pipeline underneath a street with an offset of 2 metres from a curb stone edge. As there are no topographic measurement data of the street available, the workflow could be like this:

  1. Doing a topographic survey of the street with the kerb stone edge
  2. Export the data from the instrument and transfer coordinates to the design office
  3. CAD design of the gas pipeline and deliver stakeout points to the surveyor
  4. Transfer the data from the CAD design to instrument
  5. Stakeout of the gas pipeline

Let’s use X/Y/Z coordinates – preferred by many Leica FlexLine users – and codes for our example.

The first step is the topographic survey. In order to ensure a smooth dataflow, what is important to do during the first step?
As I mentioned during our last interview, coding saves a lot time, in the field and in the office. So I do recommend to take advantage of this feature offered by FlexField. During the next steps it will become obvious how these codes are used.


Step 1: Doing the topographic survey of the street with the kerb stone edge


Can you give us a closer look at the second step: Export data from the instrument?
For many users it is often not clear which format is ideal for exporting their measurement data to the instrument. Very often formats are chosen, which have to be re-converted back in the office. Simply a waste of time with a high risk of errors. Additionally – a loss of data will commonly go hand in hand.
I recommend to use the DXF format whenever possible.

With FlexLine TS06plus and TS09plus it is possible to export measurement data in DXF format. DXF files can be directly opened with any CAD software and it is ensured that the coding information is not lost. On the instrument the file is simply saved on the USB-drive. From there it can be saved to a computer and transmitted via email to the design office.

How can users be sure, that their measurements are correct?
Mistakes can happen in the field. One possibility is, to do corrections in the CAD software, but this is troublesome. To check and correct data professionally, I recommend to use the office software Leica Infinity. It is easy to use and extremely time saving.

Let’s have a look at the third step. What is important to know for the CAD designer in the office?
In the design office the big advantage of saving files as DXF directly on the instrument becomes apparent. Conversion steps are obsolete. The same DXF file that was saved on the FlexLine instrument can be opened with any CAD software. The CAD operator will find the curb stone edge as points, indicated with the code “KB”. He can directly start with the design of the gas pipeline with the given offset of 2 metres from the kerb stone edge. I recommend to use a separate layer for the gas pipeline.

 Step 3: CAD design of the gas pipeline. The before measured points of the kerb stone edge are indicated by the code “KB“

Step 3: CAD design of the gas pipeline. The before measured points of the kerb stone edge are indicated by the code “KB“


Now having done the design. What is the best way to transfer the coordinates of the gas pipeline to the instrument in the fourth step?
Very easy – just save the stakeout points (point-ID and X/Y/Z-coordinates) as a DXF file and transfer the file to the field surveyor. He can import the DXF directly via USB-drive to the instrument and start staking out directly from there. Provided, the gas pipeline is on a separate layer, select this layer on the import screen.

That sounds really simple. What, if the CAD operator does not provide a DXF file? Many surveyors have the problem that they get the data in any other format.
In a case like that I would recommend that the measurement professional asks the design office to transmit DXF data whenever possible. However, set the case, there is no other way than getting the coordinates on paper or electronically in ASCII format. If the points are available on paper, the easiest way is to create an ASCII file with a text editor, available on every computer. Other formats can be converted to ASCII for example with tools like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. To FlexLine TS06 and TS09 instruments, ASCII files can easily be imported in the same way as described before with the DXF file. Make sure in the import screen to select the right settings.

FlexField ASCII Import

FlexField ASCII Import Step 4: ASCII import screen. ASCII is a format, if DXF design data are not available.

What is the difference between the newest Leica FlexField versions compared to previous versions?
In previous FlexField versions, DXF observations were exported in one colour, without a clear entity distribution, and no possibility of customizing the exported output data, difficult for a CAD operator to understand.

Since v5.0 FlexField offers a new custom DXF format, it provides the CAD operator with an improved clear view. Point-ID, X/Y/Z coordinates and codes are nicely organised on different layers, making it very simple to work with.

FlexField 4_00-6_00

Left: DXF file exported from earlier Flexfield versions (before version 5.00), shown in a CAD Software Right: Points exported from FlexField 6.0: Different layers in different colours (yellow: Point-ID, green: X/Y coordinates, light blue: Z coordinate, dark blue: Code)

Also new with v5.0, a complete on-board menu provides various customising options like the definition of point sizes, code modifications or colour definitions of coordinates and point-ID colours.

FlexfField 6_0 Custom DXF Menu

Flexfield 6.00 on-board custom DXF export menu

How can the latest version of Leica FlexField – version 6.0 – be obtained?
Customers with a Customer Care Package (CCP) can download the newest version for free from Leica MyWorld. For more details please contact your local Leica Geosystems distribution partner.

Finally, you mentioned Leica Infinity. In which cases is it useful?
Leica Infinity is an office software, offering powerful possibilities to manage and check measurement projects with data sets from different sources like total stations, GNSS antennas and it also can handle point clouds. In regard to manual total stations, Infinity is very helpful to easily correct measurements that were done either

  • with an incorrect prism height,
  • or with incorrect orientation points,
  • or if the orientation of the measurement is missing at all,
  • or if adjusting of a measured traverse is necessary.

With Leica Infinity measurement professionals make sure that their deliverables are correct.


Alvaro Perez-Soto


Alvaro Perez-Soto

Product Expert at Leica Geosystems AG




Want to gain more insights?

This interview is the last of a series giving insights on our manual total station solutions.

Part 1: What do legendary Wild T2 and today’s Leica Geosystems’ manual total stations have in common?

Part 2: Raise productivity with FlexField software

Part 3: Get out more with the right dataflow



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