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First established as the surveying and construction division of Spectra Physics, Spectra Precision now brings together some of the biggest names in the Surveying industry:
  • The surveying division of Carl Zeiss AG. First established in 1846 in Jena, Germany, Zeiss is famed for its optics and high technology. Today, our Jena-based R&D center develops world-class robotic optical instruments, EDM distance-measurement modules and digital levels. 
  • The surveying division of Nikon Corporation. Founded in 1917, the Nikon Surveying business is now structured as a joint venture with Trimble (Nikon-Trimble Co. Ltd). The Engineering team from Nikon-Trimble continues to set the benchmark for reliability and design of mechanical total stations, theodolites and autolevels. 
  • Ashtech, a pioneer in the GNSS industry and developer of many unique GNSS technologies, has  R&D teams located near Nantes, France and in Moscow, Russia. 
  • Tripod Data Systems (TDS), the leading independent Survey software vendor in North America. Founded in Corvallis, Oregon, in 1987, our software R&D team continues to refine the market-leading Survey Pro software.


  • 1846 – Carl Zeiss AG established in Jena, Germany, by Carl Zeiss, Ernst Abbe and Otto Schott, three pioneers in the field of optics and precision lenses.
  • 1917 – Nikon Corporation formed through the merger of three Japanese optical manufacturers.
  • 1946 – Carl Zeiss divided into two at the partition of Germany, with the western part being established in Oberkochen and the eastern part remaining in Jena.
  • 1965 – The first commercial laser level was developed by a team at Spectra Physics – the original parent of Spectra Precision –in Dayton, Ohio.
  • 1970 – Sercel, a French electronics company, starts a radiopositioning business using land based UHF transmitters. This is the earliest ancestor of today’s Ashtech GNSS business.
  • 1990s – The Spectra Precision Division of Spectra Physics expands with the acquisition of Geotronics (Sweden), Plus 3 (Atlanta, GA) and Terrasat (Munich).
  • 1987 – Tripod Data Systems (TDS) formed in Corvallis, Oregon. By the mid 1990s, TDS has become the leading independent survey software company in the United States and Canada.
  • 1987 – Ashtech Corporation is founded in California.
  • 1990/1991 – The two halves of Carl Zeiss are reunited following the fall of communism and the reunification of Germany.
  • 1997 – Ashtech merged with the consumer GPS business of Magellan Corporation.
  • 1999 –Joint venture created between Spectra Precision and Carl Zeiss AG to manage the Zeiss surveying business.
  • 2000 – The Spectra Precision optical surveying and laser business acquired to complement Trimble’s successful GNSS surveying and construction divisions
  • 2000Tripod Data Systems acquired by Trimble and augments its established survey software business with a line of rugged handheld data collectors that becomes the benchmark for the industry.
  • 2001 Trimble Jena GmbH – the new name for the Zeiss surveying business – is now 100% owned by Trimble, but continues to this day to operate from the Zeiss premises in Jena.
  • 2003 – Nikon Corporation and Trimble establish Nikon-Trimble Co Ltd, a joint venture. Nikon-Trimble Co Ltd represents both parent companies in the Japanese domestic market; outside Japan, Nikon-branded optical instruments are exclusively sold by the Spectra Precision Division of Trimble.
  • 2009 - Ashtech emerges as an independent entity following the sale of the Magellan consumer GPS business.
  • 2011 - Ashtech acquired and merged into the Spectra Precision division of Trimble.

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Updated: November 10, 2012