How Do Laser Levels Work?

The modern version of the obsolete leveling tools is the laser level. The traditional bubble levels or spirit levels can serve you for small jobs, but modern laser levels are unbeatable for their accuracy level for both small and large-scale jobs. Moreover, the more straightforward set up of these laser levels has made them more popular.

The self-leveling system is another attractive aspect of this ultra-modern device. If you are a DIYer, or a professional contractor, or a homeowner, a laser level can be of great use. These are used extensively in outdoor and indoor projects. You must be wondering how these laser levels work.

These levels generally consist of a spirit level or pendulum. It is available in varieties of sizes and specifications. So the working process may vary a bit from brand to brand or model to model.

Most of the modern laser levels are self-leveling, where three types of mechanisms are used.

1. Wire suspended compensators
2. Pendulum mechanisms using a gimbal
3. Electronic self-leveling.

Wire suspended compensators


This technology follows the starting of leveling technology; the trusty pendulum plumb bob is its base. It is commonly found in auto-leveling dumpy optical levels and some older rotating laser levels.
The principle of its function is first light enters the compensator at the one end and later enters a mirror or prism on a floating surface.

Then the light exits via more lenses. The floating surface moves like a plumb bob due to gravity, and the exiting light always seems level.


Hence, this light can be a laser beam or go into a dumpy level.

Merits and demerits of this mechanism


The first advantage of this self-leveling method is that it is simple. Therefore, there is less chance to go wrong. This method gives very accurate results while well manufactured, and quality components are used. Its manufacturing cost is low. It can self-level within gravity continuously.


There are some demerits too. For example, since the platform is being held by fairly fine wires, the compensator can get damaged or destroyed if it falls down. Or at least recalibration is required.
Next is, the device often has a low self-leveling range. Sometimes it is around 1 degree, while other methods can have about 5 degrees of self-leveling coverage.


Lastly, this mechanism will require regular calibration checks, and it is a must.

Pendulum mechanisms using a gimbal


This technology is mostly found in line and dot lasers and also in some economic rotating lasers. In a pendulum-based system, the laser level has a locking knob during its transition to protect it. Some are continuously floating around, and internal rubber bumpers help to prevent damage.
The principle is that a gimbal-bearing assembly holds a central pendulum on top of it. So, the pendulum can float freely due to gravity to self-level. Both pendulum mechanisms and wire suspended compensators are dampened to slow or stop bouncing. The magnets are usually used to achieve the dampening. Sometimes air dampening methods are being applied. When there is no dampening, then you will see the compensator or pendulum would continue to move for some minutes. However, this movement will stop in just seconds with dampening.

Merits and demerits of this mechanism


The benefits are common to wire suspended compensators. This mechanism is also simple and inexpensive, so that you can rely on them. It is swift at self-leveling and can do this literally within a few seconds and continuously keep self-leveling. This method comes with a more strong mechanism compared to the wire suspended compensator.

Also, it has a more fantastic self-leveling range.
The main demerit is that its accuracy depends on a friction fee bearing. So, its performance can be affected if any damage occurs to this bearing or wear or dust.

Electronic self leveling mechanism


Generally, modern rotating lasers and some larger line lasers are found using this method. The principles are almost the same as the pendulum method. Only the difference is that the pendulum cannot freely float. An electronic sensor is mounted on the pendulum, and motors are used to move the pendulum to the correct position. Since there are two axes for horizontal leveling, two sensors and two motors are used in this mechanism.


With a light detector on one side of the vial and a light source on the other side of the vial, the sensors often act as a simple spirit vial.


The highest amount of light passes through the sensor when the bubble is centered. This shows that the sensor is level and adjusting needs to be stopped by the motor immediately. These axes are at a right angle with each other and usually are referred to as the “X” and “Y” axis. When both axes are leveled, then the whole horizontal plane of 360 degrees is leveled.

Merits and demerits of this mechanism


Its reading comes out very accurately. The mechanism is very resistant to calibration change and long-lasting to knocks and drops. The reason behind this is, it does not depend on friction-free bearings or delicate wires. These electronic devices’ program features are extensive.

Examples are TILT movement warning, switchable between continuous self-leveling or not, Grade/Slope setting, and more.
The main demerit is that it takes more time at self-leveling compared to the other two methods. In addition, the mechanism is complicated to understand and requires both mechanical and electronic components.


So you cannot rely on it if it is not manufactured to high standards. Finally, it is much more expensive compared to other methods.

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