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How does a laser level work | Aline Lasers
Learn how a laser level works | Aline Lasers
How does a laser level work | Aline Lasers

​How Does a Laser Level Work?

We break down the different types of construction lasers, how they work (conceptually and in layman's terms) and their basic operational elements.​


There are many different types of 1laser levels and here at Aline lasers, we specialise in rotary 360-degree lasers (in green and red beam), multi-line lasers, cross-line lasers and rotating self-levelling lasers for the building, trades, subcontractor and construction market. We’ll talk here about the fundamental elements of all construction lasers, then get into the nitty-gritty about how they differ.


The Laser


A laser is defined as an amplified, focused beam of light emitted from a solid state device called a diode - similar to what is found in your LED TV. Except that the word ‘LASER’ is actually an acronym for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. So - electrons are stimulated, they make light and mirrors and prisms are used to direct that light into one concentrated direction - resulting in a laser beam. Smaller beams of light are obviously desirable in the context of a construction laser because measurement accuracy is so critical.


So, if you can create a straight beam of light in a concentrated direction, you can use that beam as a line in measurement, provided the laser is level and has a steady reference point from the ground. Below we explain how the laser is levelled using a range of older, and newer technologies.


Laser Levelling Mechanisms:


Manual Levelling

A manual levelling laser requires the operator to manually level the unit by turning the unit's thumbs screws on the mount or tripod, therefore getting the unit level by looking at bubble vials (AKA spirit levels) situated at centre on the top of the laser. This can be tricky, but also is an outdated mode of levelling - and is therefor the method used on the entry level lasers on the market.


Pendulum & Gimbal Self-Levelling

This is the predominant technology found in the majority of line and dot lasers as well as the entry level models of rotating lasers. If your laser has a pendulum system it will either have a locking knob you can use to protect the pendulum device while it's in transit, or there will be some internal rubber bumpers to stop the pendulum swinging around and breaking. Inside the device, the central pendulum is mounted on a gimbal bearing assembly. The pendulum floats freely within gravity in order to self-level - and a sort of ‘dampening’ occurs using either magnetics or an air device so that the pendulum stops swinging more quickly than it otherwise would. Once the pendulum ceases to swing - you’re at level. This is old fashioned technology but very well proven, and still the preference of some surveyors. It was however, susceptible to vibration while in use.


Electronic Self-Levelling or Auto Levelling
All of Aline Lasers and Topcon Lasers use auto electronic self-levelling technology because of how it greatly improves the ease of use of the device in modern construction applications. So the pendulum device described above still exists in these lasers - but it has two electronic sensors mounted on it and two motors that move the pendulum to the position that the sensor tells it to go. The two motors and sensors speak to the X and Y axis, if you will. The sensors are usually just a simple spirit vial with a light source on one side and a light detector opposite. When the bubble is central - then the maximum amount of light penetrates and tells the sensor its level - so the motors stop adjusting.

Most modern lasers omit beeps of different kinds to tell the operator when it's level or not. This is handy so they don’t have to be glued to the LCD screen.


Laser Calibration

If precision is your mission - then you’re getting your laser level calibrated every half year - in accordance with the Australian standards. You might want to do this more regularly, depending on how much punishment you’re giving the device on a daily basis on site. If you drop your laser level - then, you should do a laser calibration test ASAP and get it into the shop as quickly as possible. Many passionate surveyors will tell you that you should be running a calibration test every week or so, and returning your laser to your construction dealer every six months for calibration. Position Partners offers a great, fast clean and calibration service in every major city in the country, that actually can improve the accuracy of your laser level at distance. Click here to enquire.


Laser Receivers & Detectors

Rotary lasers work well inside, provided you have a surface such as a wall or beam to project the laser onto. If you are using a rotary laser outside however you need a laser receiver or laser detector. Laser detectors typically are mounted to level rods and work in the distance to detect the laser beam when you are working outside. Most construction lasers omit beeps and visual alarms that are different for when you are not at level, and when you are at level - so you know when you’re on grade. 

You need different laser detectors for red beam, and green beam lasers - explained below - however red beam lasers are the predominant type of laser used in outdoor applications.

Difference between Green Beam and Red Beam Construction Laser

Red beam and green beam lasers have varied applications - and some surveyors have their favourites - but we must stress that there is no difference between the accuracy or a red beam or green beam laser - it comes down to hardware price, visibility and the physical situation you’re in.

A green beam laser is more visible to the human eye (actually, indeed its visual frequency is 4 times more visible to the human eye than red, and many men are colour-blind to the colour red). Green beam lasers are able to produce a much sharper line for surveyors at longer distances, but the green diodes are more expensive to manufacture, and they use more battery life. So, generally speaking green beam lasers tend to be about 20% more expensive than red beam lasers. Green beam lasers are a favourite of tradespeople such as builders, carpenters, electricians and plumbers who do work indoors or on big internal construction projects.

Red beam lasers are used in external surveying and laser levelling - all of the machine mounted lasers and receivers are red beam technology. All of our Topcon Laser Levels (link to site) use red beam technology.

Just a side note on safety: you need different eye protection when using a red or green laser beam and different laser detectors.

Why Battery Life Matters So Much in Construction Lasers

If you read anything online about construction lasers - one of the top 3 most discussed features between the brands is the alkaline battery life. This is because construction professionals don’t want their onsite productivity hampered by a dying construction laser battery. Above we discuss the difference between green and red beam lasers, and their effect on the battery - but much innovation has gone into lengthening battery life in construction lasers because getting the most out of a laser’s functioning in a work day is a critical concern to the people that purchase them.

Our Aline Lasers have a battery life range of between 6 and 20 hours depending on the product.

How does a Rotating Laser Work?

A rotary laser can be mounted on a tripod or object, and spins at a defined RPM (revolutions per minute) to create a complete 360 laser beam to use that line as a reference around a room or an outdoor space creating a horizontal and vertical plane to create measurements. The speed of the spinning head on the laser determines how clear the laser can be seen - but obviously the faster the spinning head, the more battery life it uses - which is why most of the rotary lasers offer users a variable speed function. 

 You can use a rotary laser for interior building work - such as framing, tiling, windows and glass, slabs and trim work. Externally - you need a laser receiver mounted to a grade rod - and outdoors you can use a rotary laser for survey work during rough and fine earthworks, creating concrete forms, creating trenches or setting up drainage (just to name a few)

How does a Multi Line Laser Work?

Multi-line lasers create many static lines across the vertical and horizontal plane including (in most cases) 4 horizontal lines totally 360 degrees, and 4 x vertical lines spaced 90 degrees apart - or fewer of each depending on what you require - it can be adapted and defined by the operator. The lasers, when used in this way, creates a series of boxes - defining the vertical and horizontal plane. Electricians, tilers, glaziers and plumbers use these devices very regularly undertaking the following tasks (just to name a few):

Shopping centre fit outs

Installing glass windows

Tiling bathrooms or decorative tiling, tiling shop fitouts

Interior fit out of timber stud or plasterboard
HVAC - installing heating, ventilation, air conditioners or cooling devices
Service trays for data cabling

How does a Cross Line Laser Work?

A cross line laser uses a prism to to deflect the laser light 180 degrees vertically, horizontally or both. Builders and tradespeople often swear by using a cross-line laser for internal work, over a rotary laser because the steady state of a cross-line laser makes it more visible, as compared to a rotary laser that is spinning at a defined RPM (and users will spin it at the lowest RPM possible to preserve battery life). 

 There is no question a rotary laser has more range - and has wider applications - but a cross-line laser is often a musts-have device for carpenters, tilers, builders and tradespeople working indoors and wanting an accurate, hassle free laser with high accuracy and visibility. Just a quick note here - that a Multi-line laser can be used as a cross line laser by simply removing some of the lines on the 90 degree plane.


If you are ready to purchase an Aline Laser for your construction project, please visit our Where to Buy Page from the menu above and select your home state. This will provide you with a full list of stockists close to you







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