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What would be revolutionary in Mounts?

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#1 RealSorin

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 03:39 PM

After reading this thread on current mounts and the whole evolution vs revolution debate, I think it's worth asking - what would you see as being revolutionary in mount technology that would get you to buy a new mount (assuming of course it worked as advertised).

We can only hope that one or two manufacturers may be listening in ;)


The mount I would like to see:
- EQ mount designed for portable AP
- 40-50 lbs payload capacity (real AP capacity)
- Under $3k
- built-in GPS
- Sets it's own alt-azimuth
- Orients itself without user interaction in under 5 minutes.
- controllable via smartphone (built-in wifi)

I'd like a mount I can place on the tripod, orient roughly north, and turn on. It should then orient itself with GPS, set it's own alt-az, and be ready to go in less than 5 minutes without me having to do a darn thing. THAT would in my mind be revolutionary application of existing technology.

#2 blueman

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 05:10 PM

The ability to always be polar aligned and to be able to track any object all night without flipping or the need to plate solve or guide would be revolutionary. ;^) Then if it would weigh only 25 lbs and carry 150 lbs it would be super revolutionary to me.
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#3 hargy

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 05:20 PM

To piggy back off of what you're saying. They could put in sub routines and plate solve for the orientation alignment.
I would like to see them add some sort of gyro scope for better guiding or tracking. I have more computer power in my watch and cell phone than what they had going to the moon. It's a shame that they are not trying to (re-invent the wheel) improve mounts under 5k.

#4 Skunky

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 05:29 PM

AntiGrav... no need for a mount.. you just float your scope in orbit..

#5 psandelle

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 05:37 PM

I still think some sort of encoders on the alt/az axises that would allow one, with a built-in GPS in the mount and built-in digital compass, to polar align in the daytime. Just look at the HC and move the alt until it lines up, do the same for the az. Voila: polar aligned.

#6 A. Viegas

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 05:47 PM

Ultimately the problem with our 'dream list' of functionality and price point (under $5k) is that there are so few buyers at this level that it makes very little sense to mass produce, hence the high price point for the necessary profit margin for frankly anyone to care. I have no idea what it really costs AP or Paramount to create their mounts, nor what the embedded costs are in terms of development and equipment depreciation... but I would bet the profit margin has to be close to 100% for them to remain in business... Meanwhile for Celestron, the CGEpro is probably no more than 30-50% margin given their lower price point, and the lower end VX or CGEM is probably like 20-30% margin...

What would it take to build a really lower cost better mount? Well unless the hobby takes off with record new interest, the outlook is bleak for anything other than high price point, continued low tech and legacy products...

Just my 2c... but ultimately I fear the best price point for mounts will be future used sales given the ageing demographic of the hobby, combined with the robust design of most high-end mounts. Hence, I think we will see more used mounts coming on the market driving prices lower in the used segment and with improved software (sky safari for instance), this suggests waiting to buy used for those who want an AP1100 for under $5k... like wait 2-3 more years and you will see them at that price point...

Al

P.S. I am not bashing the high-end manufacturers, rather I am admitting the high quality in their products, meaning they last a long time and therefore hold their functionality a long time. Like a quality OTA... the great thing about our hobby is that the equipment really lasts a long time, and with improving software it means really stretching the useful life of the top-end mounts or ota

#7 Whichwayisnorth

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 06:03 PM

Cheap high-res encoders. Automatic live error correction. Voice activated go-to. Built in WiFi/Bluetooth. USB 3.0 hubs.

All in a range of mounts that are affordable. 30,60,90,120lb capacity at 2K-6K with all the necessary accessories included.

#8 RealSorin

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 06:13 PM

I would submit that the level of tinkering and even setup and alignment required today has a detrimental effect on adoption for all the people that just get frustrated with it, and put the telescope away into the garage. I was just talking with someone last night that has a Meade LS series scope that she only occasionally pulls out to just manually point at the moon, because the alignment routine always points it onto the ground. After many sessions with the telescope, even I get frustrated at times going through alignment routines.

Unless you are a natural tinkerer and troubleshooter, astronomy hasn't been the hobby for you. Celestron has been making progress on this with products like the forthcoming Cosmos 90 GT Wifi telescope in the mass market, which I hope works well and encourages more people to get involved in astronomy.

To bring that back to the topic, there is a lot of existing, low cost consumer technologies that can be applied to telescope mounts to begin addressing some of these problems (gyros, gps, small size cameras). Obviously the market is limited in size, but application of these technologies can be a growth driver, and most likely have applications for other industries (surveyor's equipment, for instance). I'm still disappointed that existing manufacturers haven't moved more quickly adopting and integrating these available (not imaginary) technologies.

#9 OzAndrewJ

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 07:20 PM

Gday RealSorin

Sets it's own alt-azimuth
- Orients itself without user interaction in under 5 minutes.



I tried that once :grin:
I was tired of trying to mount my scope on a std wedge so designed one that folds down for loading, then folds up for use. Very easy on the back and also much safer to load/unload single handed.
I realised that this design also meant i had long lever arms for controlling the axes positions, and hence I could probably motorise it without too much trouble.
I got it to the point where i could do DEC manually or via motor, but never finished the Az motorisation. ( I was just going to stick a belt drive onto one of the external knobs )
The wedge was designed for a specific location, and has far less total movement than a GEM base or a std Wedge, so you need to get it roughly right for a start position, but after that, using a simple drift align allows a PC to control the motors. I used 1/2" UNEF threads, so the adjustment is buttery smooth.
That said, the far rougher adjustment threads on std wedges/Gems makes this a much harder proposition as motor power would need to rise dramatically, and different mounting methods would be required based on model.
What would be revolutionary ( and have a far bigger market ) is if someone made something like a generic pillar extension that could fit between any tripod and GEM head, and did the align function.
You only buy it if you want it, so keeps general costs down.

Andrew Johansen Melbourne Australia

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#10 calypsob

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 07:24 PM

I think it would be great to see a EQ mount which used no hand controller, relied on a laptop computer. It would have on board GPS, and it would have motorized ALT and AZ motors so that it could polar align by plate solving on the computer, as some others have already posted. this would allow much easier mobile automation of devices. It would also be great if encoder upgrades were made available to any mount, some people are happy with a low capacity mount, but may want more accuracy. Laser based false star autoguiding would be incredible and, well I love the zeq25's Z balance, and I think this concept could be taken even further. Also since we are at it, 3 legged tripods? How about 4. Like an imperial AT-AT, yes 4 motorized legs that allow your telescope to get a head start out to the pasture and be completely leveled and polar aligned a few hours before you get there. Yes that is the future.
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return of the zeq by LMNO Sunset Deluxe, on Flickr

#11 JMW

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 07:40 PM

I bought an AP900GTO a few years ago and still am in love with it. Someday I will be able to use the APCC software but I can do very accurate guided exposures without it.I keep it on a concrete pier so polar alignment is something I only have to do after taking it to a dark site once or twice a summer. I have a camera tracker mount which is a great way to do dark site imaging without having to haul a few hundred pounds of GEM mount, scopes and imaging gear.

I am actually amazed how many new products have been developed in the last several years considering how many people consider astronomy to be a 'dying' hobby. You have to be willing to look around because no reseller has every product, but there are some high quality products available.

I also love that there are quality alt/az mounts such as Discmounts that are very easy to setup and a pleasure to use. I don't set up GEM mounts in the field unless I am doing multi night imaging.

If I had to set up a GEM frequently I would like the following feature: motorized altitude and azimuth adjusters that could be controlled by the software in the mount. The GEM mounts could use something like the Meade LightSwitch technology to auto-polar align and to sync the mount to the current sky model. GPS technology is so cheap, I don't understand why all the mount makers haven't built it into the mount controller. Accelerometers are also inexpensive and would pretty cost effective way to allow the mount controller to know the home position of the mount and how close the mount is limits. Our phones and tablets use this technology to handle screen position changes so it wouldn't be tough for the controller to know which way is up. Think digital clinometer technology. The accelerometers could also give the user precise feedback on scope imbalance issues.

#12 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 08:26 PM

I would submit that the level of tinkering and even setup and alignment required today has a detrimental effect on adoption for all the people that just get frustrated with it, and put the telescope away into the garage. I was just talking with someone last night that has a Meade LS series scope that she only occasionally pulls out to just manually point at the moon, because the alignment routine always points it onto the ground. After many sessions with the telescope, even I get frustrated at times going through alignment routines.



I suggest that your friend has the right idea for her own needs, just the wrong scope, the wrong mount. If you step back from the concept that the mount must track the object, if you step back from the concept that the mount must find the object and instead you recognize that the observer is capable doing both and indeed may prefer to do both, then things can be simpler, easier.

For who are visually observing the night sky, a simple alt-az mount or a simple equatorial mount is an easy setup that requires little or no tinkering. I am not saying this is the right approach for everyone but it certainly is for many. Sometimes more technology is the wrong solution, it compounds the confusion, the complexity.

In your friend's case, it seems like she has the interest and inclination to observe the night sky and that if she had a simple mount with a scope that was chosen for starhopping, it is possible, even likely, that she spend many more hours simply enjoying the night sky.

Jon

#13 Starhawk

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 08:32 PM

A revolution would be onboard support of polar alignment, a complex pointing model, low power usage, complete support for wireless mobile devices, built in support for remote operation and observatory coordination, and even observatory control, and still included in a grab-n-go sized package. If the same control suite worked in larger ones, so much the better.

That would really open things up.

-Rich

#14 EFT

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 09:42 PM

The vast majority of the things mentioned in this thread are already available, but not below $5K and not all in one mount (for example, built in GPS is considered unnecessary by many people and thus is more often available as an add-on rather than another built in component). Some things sought are available below $10K, but most are above that. From this and the other thread that is going on, it appears people do not really want a particular technology that isn't yet available in order for something to be revolutionary, they just want it cheap. Time is the only thing that helps there (and hoping that raw material prices to not go up too much) and if you wait for it, you will never enter the hobby. Thinking that a $15K mount be available used for less than $5K is extremely optimistic thinking and waiting for that will keep you out of the hobby as well. That is easy to see just from looking at the classified.

The profit margins that some people like to assign astronomy equipment is truly amazing. 100% profit margins are reserved for consumer electronics (like computers, TVs, cell phones, etc.) and clothing, they do not exist in amateur astronomy equipment manufacturing (unless you want to fool yourself into thinking that the only cost of producing a product is in the materials used to make it). Retailers generally live in the 10-15% margin range and are luck of very high volume if they get up into the 15-25% range. Some manufacturers may make twice the margin of a retailer, but certainly not all of them and ask any small equipment and accessory manufacture how much they make including some accounting for their time and expenses, and you will find that their time is highly undervalued in their products if they want to keep the prices reasonable and competitive. Just because astronomy equipment can be expensive, I don't understand why people continue to think someone is getting rich. The market simply isn't large enough to support large incomes.

There is one revolution that I see going on in amateur astronomy right now and that is the move toward remotely operated complete systems (i.e., everything from the mount to the observatory). While this trend is certainly aided by the increased availability of "affordable" technology to accomplish the task, it is largely driven by the increase in light pollution anywhere near where most people live. Backyard automation on the other hand is really just moving forward in a slow evolutionary progression and has been available at some level since the introduction of the first consumer level tracking mounts.

#15 Mkofski

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 09:59 PM

Retailers generally live in the 10-15% margin range and are luck of very high volume if they get up into the 15-25% range. Some manufacturers may make twice the margin of a retailer, but certainly not all of them and ask any small equipment and accessory manufacture how much they make including some accounting for their time and expenses, and you will find that their time is highly undervalued in their products if they want to keep the prices reasonable and competitive.


If a retailer sells a $10,000 mount and makes $1,500 on the deal and the manufacturer makes $3,000 on the same sale, so what! It's called profit. If, as a manufacturer, your product is good enough that you can make 30% or more on what you are selling, good for you. If the market decides that your product is over priced, it will tell you. Anyone that has been self employed will tell you that profit isn't a dirty word.

#16 Starhawk

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 10:16 PM

unfortunately, I've done what it took to find out- the high end stuff has a 4%-6% margin for the retailer. The money to keep the doors open comes from those silly little 60mm refractors labeled 600X and eyepieces.

-Rich

#17 EFT

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 10:40 PM

unfortunately, I've done what it took to find out- the high end stuff has a 4%-6% margin for the retailer. The money to keep the doors open comes from those silly little 60mm refractors labeled 600X and eyepieces.

-Rich


The 4-6% is true because the flat margin does not take into account the fact that there are time and expenses associated with each sale that are not accounted for in the margin made on that sale. When it comes to brick and mortar stores then you enter into a different realm where the low end stuff may become the largest overall profit maker. B&M stores are very difficult today in most areas, even in Arizona where some of the best skies are.

Profit is certainly not a dirty word but it seems that many people in the hobby think it is and also think it is much greater than reality.

#18 bseltzer

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 11:10 PM

Tell you what. If I were in a position where I could pull up stakes (that have been in the ground for 20+ years) and pack it all off to a place with dark enough skies that putting up a permanent observatory were a viable possibility, the equipment I own today would be more than 'revolutionary' enough for my needs.

Unfortunately, I will always be a nomadic imager, and that puts me at the mercy of what I can physically wrestle into submission and the time it takes to precisely enough align the whole works before I can start collecting data. If I had the $$$ to buy the hardware/software needed to minimize the penalty enforced portability inflicts, I would instead spend it on following option one above.

#19 kbastro

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 12:16 AM

a mount without gearing,,, a unit that floats on magnetic field,,, they use them on mono rails,,, technically it should work,,,

#20 GIR

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 02:49 AM

a mount without gearing,,, a unit that floats on magnetic field,,, they use them on mono rails,,, technically it should work,,,


Sounds very much like ASA mounts ...and yes it works ;)

#21 schluterdude

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 09:15 AM

A commercially available mount, offered in kit form!

I personally believe half the fun of a hobby is building and tinkering. It would require a couple of not so special tools, but no biggie. A couple of indicators, v blocks, maybe a force gage... But tools are fun to buy!

Perhaps they could stage the kits a bit, for experience levels.

Bare bones, wiring diagrams, the whole shebang. Solder your own boards, etc.

Electrical assemblies are all set, but still mechanically disassembled.

Electrical + gearboxes built (a mess of sub assemblies. Pretty much how they come now, but more assembly...)

Gear boxes built, but electrical disassembled.

I think that'd be pretty cool!

Not a revolution of the mount itself, rather in how they are sold.

#22 Starhawk

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 09:43 AM

A Heathkit mount?!

-Rich

#23 Starhawk

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 09:59 AM

Ed,
to take it a little further for the audience here, let's say you need to make $4000/ month to keep the business open.

At a 4% margin, that means you would need to put in $100,000 in inventory and sell it every single month, $1.2 million/ year, in order to personally clear maybe $50k for yourself.

Think about it. And understand our vendors aren't here out of greed.

If you don't believe me, and think it's easier to make a living at this than my numbers suggest, all you have to do is contact a couple of the major primes and tell them you want to become a dealer. They'll send you a file with the dealer cost and allowed sale price (and yes, that minimum price is what you will be selling for in the internet age). Divide the sale price by the dealer price and you'll suddenly see the where my 4-6% comes from. Then factor in you will have to sell the lower margin, but expensive, high end stuff to be allowed to sell an annual volume which comes to anything, they want you to pay shipping, and the high margin stuff is so inexpensive, you'll have to ship trainloads of them to make any money, and you'll see why there isn't a telescope shop next to every Starbucks.

-Rich

unfortunately, I've done what it took to find out- the high end stuff has a 4%-6% margin for the retailer. The money to keep the doors open comes from those silly little 60mm refractors labeled 600X and eyepieces.

-Rich


The 4-6% is true because the flat margin does not take into account the fact that there are time and expenses associated with each sale that are not accounted for in the margin made on that sale. When it comes to brick and mortar stores then you enter into a different realm where the low end stuff may become the largest overall profit maker. B&M stores are very difficult today in most areas, even in Arizona where some of the best skies are.

Profit is certainly not a dirty word but it seems that many people in the hobby think it is and also think it is much greater than reality.



#24 Cotts

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 10:33 AM

On the Grab-and-go side of things how about motor drives for the Discmount DM6?

Dave

#25 gdd

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 11:11 AM

How a about a company that did not build mounts but built the component parts in a range of sizes and precision optimized for the needs of the astronomy hobby. Manufacturers could base their mounts on these interchangeable parts and differentiate their mounts with other electonics, style, ergonomics, and so on.

This would allow for more economies of scale for expensive precision key components.

Gale






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