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Equipment Discussions >> Mounts

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russdirks
member


Reged: 07/06/12

iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly
      #5487934 - 10/25/12 12:44 AM Attachment (83 downloads)

Hello all,

Just got the SmartEQ mount from iOptron, upon which I mounted a used NexStar 4GT that I got for cheap. It's my first telescope after being out of the hobby for about 20 years.

Edited by russdirks (10/25/12 12:44 AM)


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russdirks
member


Reged: 07/06/12

Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: russdirks]
      #5487940 - 10/25/12 12:47 AM

The main points of my post are:

  • How I improved the rigidity of the tripod
  • How I addressed the problem of the tripod extensions slipping under weight
  • How I got rid of some slop/play in the RA axis
  • What those 4 nuts/set screws are for on the outside of the drive case


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russdirks
member


Reged: 07/06/12

Wobbly Tripod new [Re: russdirks]
      #5487942 - 10/25/12 12:49 AM Attachment (82 downloads)

Wobbly Tripod

After reading of others who had done the same, I decided to epoxy the plastic couplings that are at either end of the top tube, to the tube itself. The single screw that is present just doesn't provide enough rigidity. The epoxy made a very significant difference. Before the epoxy, I would have given the tripod a 2 out of 10 for rigidity and strength, considering the kinds of loads it is claiming to be able to handle. After the epoxy, I would give it an 8 out of 10.


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russdirks
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Reged: 07/06/12

Re: Wobbly Tripod new [Re: russdirks]
      #5487943 - 10/25/12 12:49 AM Attachment (75 downloads)

...

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russdirks
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Reged: 07/06/12

Re: Wobbly Tripod new [Re: russdirks]
      #5487946 - 10/25/12 12:51 AM

Just a couple of things I found helpful.

  • I glued the bottom coupler on first, after completely removing the bottom sliding tube. This allowed me to clean excess glue that oozed out into the inside of the coupler. A paper towel soaked in alcohol worked great for that. (Alcohol dissolves epoxy when it is still wet.
  • I applied the epoxy to the inside of the coupler, and then inserted the tube. This would push some of the glue further into the coupler, with little left at the end of the coupler, where you want it the most to really lock the coupler onto the tube. So after inserting the tube, I put a glob of epoxy onto the ledge of the coupler and then used a heat gun to warm it (which makes it runny) so it would seep down into the coupler and run nicely around the edge.


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russdirks
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Reged: 07/06/12

Tripod Extensions Slipping new [Re: russdirks]
      #5487948 - 10/25/12 12:55 AM Attachment (71 downloads)

Tripod Extensions Slipping

Others have reported that the tripod extensions collapse/slip under very little weight. One forum member used a clamp, which I'm sure works great. After looking closely at the tripod, though, I determined that the problem with my tripod is that the thumb screws don't have enough thread on them. The shoulder of the thumb screw contacts the lug on the coupler before you can get any decent pressure on the leg extension. The simple solution was to use a sharp knife to remove a couple of millimeters of plastic off the shoulder of the thumb screw. Now I can put much more pressure on the leg, and it doesn't slip near as much. Ie. it's much better, but still not perfect. Good enough for the kind of weight I will be putting on a tripod like this.


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russdirks
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Reged: 07/06/12

Too much play in RA axis new [Re: russdirks]
      #5487950 - 10/25/12 12:57 AM Attachment (94 downloads)

Too much play in RA axis

I hadn't noticed it before, with the tripod being so wobbly, but once I got that fixed up, I noticed that there was a fair bit of play in the RA axis, even with the friction lock on as tight as I could get it. I wasn't sure if it was a natural consequence of nylon gears, or whether some of the gears were a bit loose or out of adjustment. Since I had to partially disassemble the mount to deal with some electronic problems I was (and still am) working through with iOptron customer support (who have been great so far), I thought I would dig a little deeper to see where the sloppiness was coming from. First some disassembly pictures for those that might be interested:

The top cover comes off with 4 screws:


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russdirks
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Reged: 07/06/12

Re: Too much play in RA axis new [Re: russdirks]
      #5487951 - 10/25/12 12:58 AM Attachment (93 downloads)

There are 4 connectors you have to disconnect, then you can set the cover aside:

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russdirks
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Reged: 07/06/12

Re: Too much play in RA axis new [Re: russdirks]
      #5487952 - 10/25/12 12:59 AM Attachment (99 downloads)

The DEC shaft:

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russdirks
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Reged: 07/06/12

Re: Too much play in RA axis new [Re: russdirks]
      #5487953 - 10/25/12 12:59 AM Attachment (81 downloads)

Next remove the 4 screws from the bottom. This allows you to remove the entire DEC head, housing and shaft. Be careful … there are thin washers in between the two parts of the housing. They easy to miss and lose.

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russdirks
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Reged: 07/06/12

Re: Too much play in RA axis new [Re: russdirks]
      #5487954 - 10/25/12 01:00 AM Attachment (88 downloads)

Pictures with the DEC assembly removed:

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russdirks
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Reged: 07/06/12

Re: Too much play in RA axis new [Re: russdirks]
      #5487955 - 10/25/12 01:01 AM Attachment (75 downloads)

another:

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russdirks
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Reged: 07/06/12

Re: Too much play in RA axis new [Re: russdirks]
      #5487957 - 10/25/12 01:01 AM Attachment (83 downloads)

I started looking closely at the shaft with the RA worm gear on it. At first I thought it was one complete shaft all the way from one side of the case to the other, but then I realized there are 3 pieces: the shaft in the middle with the worm gear, and two short pieces that but against the middle piece from either end.

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russdirks
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Reged: 07/06/12

Re: Too much play in RA axis new [Re: russdirks]
      #5487959 - 10/25/12 01:02 AM Attachment (74 downloads)

This just shows the locknut and short segment of screw that is used to sandwich the worm gear shaft.

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russdirks
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Reged: 07/06/12

Re: Too much play in RA axis new [Re: russdirks]
      #5487960 - 10/25/12 01:03 AM Attachment (83 downloads)

By loosening the locknut, you can either increase or decrease pressure on the worm gear shaft. In my case, a slight increase in pressure removed the excess play I was experiencing. I would caution against tightening too much. I found that only a light pressure is needed to remove excess play.

I found a problem though. I was experimenting with different amounts of pressure on the right hand set screw, and found that after a certain point, increasing pressure began to introduce excess play in the gears. At first I couldn't figure out why, but then I saw it. There is a small triangular brace that is too close to the set screw. (See below). As you tighten the set screw, the threads and outer portion of the set screw comes into contact with that brace, driving the whole assembly away from the main gear, creating excess play. I thought about carving a bit of that brace away, or grinding the tip of the set screw a bit, but in the end found that by putting minimal pressure on the right-hand set screw, and using the left-hand set screw to add a bit more pressure, I could get a setup where there was no discernible play in the gears, so I just left it that way. Not feeling too adventurous I guess.


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russdirks
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Reged: 07/06/12

Re: Too much play in RA axis new [Re: russdirks]
      #5487961 - 10/25/12 01:03 AM Attachment (74 downloads)

You can see below that the DEC worm gear shaft assembly has the same triangular brace, except it is on the left hand side. I didn't experiment at all with the tension on the DEC set screws, so I don't know if the same kind of interference exists.

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russdirks
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Reged: 07/06/12

Re: Too much play in RA axis new [Re: russdirks]
      #5487963 - 10/25/12 01:04 AM

So, if you notice any excess play in either axis that you think is coming from the gear assembly, you might want to try loosening the locknuts and checking to see if a little extra pressure cures the problem. The nice thing is you don't have to take anything apart. The adjustments are totally external.

That's all for now.


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*skyguy*
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Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: russdirks]
      #5488313 - 10/25/12 10:17 AM

Great job with the disassembly instructions and images on your Smarteq mount. I just bought one several weeks ago and it's nice to see how easy it is to adjust the drivetrain. After using small GOTO mounts from Meade and Celestron that had excessive amounts of backlash, I was surprised to see how well the drivetrain "slop" was controlled in my Smarteq. Maybe I "lucked out" with a well adjusted mount!

Thanks for the post ....


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Astronewb
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Reged: 09/19/11

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Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: *skyguy*]
      #5489530 - 10/25/12 11:56 PM

Very nice thread, thanks for all the images and explanations, it's very useful. Oh, dont forget to get a 5mm/25mm cap screw or knob for your top mounting plate..I see you have a hole, mine didn't have a set screw in it, had to install a cap screw to remove all the vertical play it caused with an OTA in place.

Clear skies,

Paul


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russdirks
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Reged: 07/06/12

Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: Astronewb]
      #5489586 - 10/26/12 12:51 AM

Just picked up one today, actually! I saw your thread over on the other astronomy site.

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ghataa
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Reged: 06/20/11

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Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: russdirks]
      #5489762 - 10/26/12 06:52 AM

Has anyone tried AP with his mount yet?

George


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*skyguy*
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Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: Astronewb]
      #5489801 - 10/26/12 07:54 AM

Quote:

Oh, dont forget to get a 5mm/25mm cap screw or knob for your top mounting plate..I see you have a hole, mine didn't have a set screw in it, had to install a cap screw to remove all the vertical play it caused with an OTA in place.

Clear skies,

Paul




The new Smarteg Pro shows a knob installed in the top mounting plate:

http://www.ioptron.com/index.cfm?select=productdetails&phid=6650b0b6-9767-494d-b9e6-9e82c223c1a6

I wonder if iOptron will supply them to customers who purchased the standard Smarteq that didn't have a knob installed?


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Astronewb
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Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: ghataa]
      #5497088 - 10/30/12 11:41 PM

Quote:

Has anyone tried AP with his mount yet?

George




Yes George...Ive done some short exposure stuff with it, but my particular mount has some periodic error issues. Basically, 30-40% of my images over 30 seconds exhibit star trailing, like the drive motor is slowing or speeding up at random intervals. I took 40 images and put them in a video for iOptron to see the stars bouncing up and down, they have forwarded it to the engineers...no answer yet.

But here's an image off the mount that only needed short exposures:

[img]http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8052/8117928050_5ceb8e...
M31 Borg 50mm achromat. by Astronewb2011, on Flickr

Hope the info helps,

Paul


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rmollise
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Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: Astronewb]
      #5497268 - 10/31/12 03:36 AM

I would not be at all surprised to hear that a little mount in this class was limited to about 30 seconds. If the motor is speeding up and slowing down randomly, that is NOT periodic error, and you have some kind of problem with the electronics, likely.

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Astronewb
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Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: rmollise]
      #5497379 - 10/31/12 07:40 AM

Quote:

I would not be at all surprised to hear that a little mount in this class was limited to about 30 seconds. If the motor is speeding up and slowing down randomly, that is NOT periodic error, and you have some kind of problem with the electronics, likely.




Very true, not periodic error, my bad. Basically, in a string of 40, forty five second exposures, it will have 3 or 4 perfect images with round stars. The next 2 to 3 will all have severe trailing, then perfect stars again for 1 or 2 images. The pattern is random but basically cyclical. I'm thinking a bad servo motor or 'stiction' in the gear train. Hopefully, iOptron will sort it out.

Thanks for the input,

Paul


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*skyguy*
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Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: Astronewb]
      #5497572 - 10/31/12 10:51 AM

Quote:


I'm thinking a bad servo motor or 'stiction' in the gear train. Hopefully, iOptron will sort it out.





I own a good number of motorized equatorial mounts and the iOptron Smarteq has ... by far ... the strangest sounding drive of them all ... and loud! I find it very disconcerning to hear a loud "groan" then a soft "groan" then another loud "groan" then a soft "groan" .....! The mount certainly tracks well ... even at high powers ... with no discernible problems, at least for visual use. However, I do find the drive noise very strange ... or should I be kind and say "very unique?"


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russdirks
member


Reged: 07/06/12

Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: *skyguy*]
      #5498049 - 10/31/12 04:30 PM

skyguy, I noticed the same thing. After taking the above pictures, I disassembled a bit more to where I could see the stepper motor and attached gears. The motor has a shaft coming out both ends. On one end is the usual drive train, and on the other end was a type of sprocket with about 15 square'ish looking teeth, which I'm guessing is some kind of optical encoder. I powered up the mount and watched it operate. I had a good view of the encoder sprocket. During the relatively silent periods inbetween the "groans", as you put it, the sprocket was rotating in a nice uniform way. But during the "groans", the sprocket vibrated back and forth very rapidly, by about 10 - 30 degrees of rotation, all the while maintaining a somewhat regular rotation rate. So, in other words, it would advance one way a certain amount, then back-up the opposite direction, and so on, but always advancing more than it backed up. Mind you, the vibrations were faster than what the human eye can resolve, so I'm guessing slightly as to what was happening. I would assume it is a solid shaft going through the motor, which means the gear sets on the other side are being exposed to the same intense vibration. Over time I would think that could lead to some early failures of the gear sets, not to mention the motor itself. My guess is there is somekind of software/firmware bug in the driving algorithms. Hopefully iOptron is aware of this and can provide a fix eventually.

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Astronewb
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Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: russdirks]
      #5499101 - 11/01/12 09:51 AM

Quote:

But during the "groans", the sprocket vibrated back and forth very rapidly, by about 10 - 30 degrees of rotation, all the while maintaining a somewhat regular rotation rate. So, in other words, it would advance one way a certain amount, then back-up the opposite direction, and so on, but always advancing more than it backed up.




Wow, nice diagnosis Russ, what you observed seems to perfectly match up with what I see when imaging. Putting 40 images into a video at 1 sec each shows the star field moving up and down (with corresponding star trails) just as you described the gear doing.

If the 'groaning' occurs at 1 1/2 to 4 minute random cycles, then my issue seems to be explained. First chance I get I'm going to duplicate what you did to see it first hand and time it.

Thanks..........!

Paul

Edited by Astronewb (11/01/12 09:53 AM)


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orlyandico
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Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: Astronewb]
      #5499157 - 11/01/12 10:27 AM

it's not a stepper motor, it's a servo. and if the optical encoder on the other end has only 15 slots.. that's one low-resolution encoder (even worse than the old Meade DS).

if it has a tendency to stall / go forward/backward sometimes which causes trailing, that sounds like a problem in the servo control loop. Hopefully something that can be fixed in software....


by the way, Paul, your M31 is really darn impressive coming from an achromat, this mount, and 30-second exposures. You must have really dark skies, i'm envious


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Astronewb
scholastic sledgehammer
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Reged: 09/19/11

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Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: orlyandico]
      #5499198 - 11/01/12 11:00 AM

Quote:

by the way, Paul, your M31 is really darn impressive coming from an achromat, this mount, and 30-second exposures. You must have really dark skies, i'm envious




Thanks, I live in a Bortle Orange zone. The skies are pretty good, but I have several street lights in the East which makes imaging in that sector a challenge. Long dew shields and a Baader ND filter helps a bit in that respect.

Best,

Paul

Edited by Astronewb (11/01/12 11:01 AM)


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EFT
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Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: orlyandico]
      #5499255 - 11/01/12 11:30 AM

The problem could also be mechanical. The metal shafts stuck onto the end of a plastic worm assembly are very unlikely to be straight and could easily cause the worm to be binding during part of its rotation at which point the motor starts to strain which may in turn be triggering an electronics issue in regard to the power being supplied to the motor. I honestly can't believe that metal and plastic worm assembly. A cheap brass worm would have been far better, even with the plastic worm wheel.

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russdirks
member


Reged: 07/06/12

Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: EFT]
      #5499362 - 11/01/12 12:33 PM

Paul,

Skyguy didn't specify for his mount, but on my mount, each 'groan' only lasts about 1 second, with about a 0.5 second of quiet inbetween. It's very regular ... sounds like someone snoring. So I don't know if that explains your tracking problem. Does your mount make any such noise, or does it run quietly?

orlyandico : You're right. Servo, not stepper motor. Should have caught that from the previous posts.


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*skyguy*
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Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: russdirks]
      #5499443 - 11/01/12 02:41 PM

My mount also "groans" at approximately 1 second intervals. As you slew the mount at progressively greater rates, the "groans" get faster until they blend together at the highest slew rate.

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EFT
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Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: *skyguy*]
      #5499453 - 11/01/12 02:46 PM

Quote:

My mount also "groans" at approximately 1 second intervals. As you slew the mount at progressively greater rates, the "groans" get faster until they blend together at the highest slew rate.




If you can run it with the cover off so that you can watch the gears turning, you will likely see a wobble in the worm or spur/transfer gears that corresponds to this groaning.


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russdirks
member


Reged: 07/06/12

Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: EFT]
      #5499461 - 11/01/12 02:53 PM

I can't do any further testing with my mount for a couple of weeks, as I had to send it back to iOptron to fix an unrelated problem. It should be in their hands next week, and I am definitely going to press them to examine this tracking issue in addition to fixing the original issue.

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Astronewb
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Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: russdirks]
      #5499502 - 11/01/12 03:16 PM

Quote:

Paul,

Skyguy didn't specify for his mount, but on my mount, each 'groan' only lasts about 1 second, with about a 0.5 second of quiet inbetween. It's very regular ... sounds like someone snoring. So I don't know if that explains your tracking problem. Does your mount make any such noise, or does it run quietly?

orlyandico : You're right. Servo, not stepper motor. Should have caught that from the previous posts.




To be honest, in slewing, it sounds like a Swiss watch, very pleasant. I never really paid attention to the noises it makes when tracking..?

I posted the video of the tracking issue on Flickr, it's only 40 seconds long, but if you put your cursor on the larger star in the starfield it's obvious there is a problem. Full screen the video for the best effect.

Not a problem for visual observers granted, but even wide field AP'ers are going to have some issues with this going on...:)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/astronewb2011/8145500655/


Oh, just a note, I posted a comment in the iEQ45 mod thread about the polar scope. To remove all the funky play in the polar scope focuser, just wrap the threads with Teflon Pipe tape...it takes all the play out of it and makes it enjoyable to use.

Best,

Paul

Edited by Astronewb (11/01/12 03:18 PM)


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orlyandico
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Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: Astronewb]
      #5500167 - 11/01/12 11:26 PM

Ed, I was going to comment on that plastic worm gear but you beat me to it.

Maybe it is one of these new structural plastics... could be better than the horrific worms and wheels put on EQ-1's and EQ-2's.


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EFT
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Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: orlyandico]
      #5500257 - 11/02/12 12:36 AM

Quote:

Ed, I was going to comment on that plastic worm gear but you beat me to it.

Maybe it is one of these new structural plastics... could be better than the horrific worms and wheels put on EQ-1's and EQ-2's.




There are some great plastics out there and some are very slick requiring very little lubrication. But fast wear and poor accuracy can be immediate issues if not done right and done with the best materials. It is good that the metal shaft goes all the way through the worm apparently. It is not good that the worm appears to be slid onto the worm and then jammed onto some grooves to lock it in place. It would be much better to form the plastic worm over the metal shaft and then hobb the worm right on the shaft. In addition, I would image that it is very likely that the worm wheel is simply molded platic where you would really want machined plastic, just like metal.

It's possible to do a lot of things with plastic now, but many things are simply made like the cheap plastic toys that have been made for years rather than manufactured with high-tech machinable plastics. Just wait until they start using 3D printers to make telescope mounts.


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*skyguy*
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Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: EFT]
      #5500610 - 11/02/12 09:45 AM

Quote:

Just wait until they start using 3D printers to make telescope mounts.




Is that like "wait good" or "wait bad"?


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tango13
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Reged: 03/16/11

Loc: Rome, Italy
Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: Astronewb]
      #5645543 - 01/27/13 07:06 AM




Yes George...Ive done some short exposure stuff with it, but my particular mount has some periodic error issues. Basically, 30-40% of my images over 30 seconds exhibit star trailing, like the drive motor is slowing or speeding up at random intervals. I took 40 images and put them in a video for iOptron to see the stars bouncing up and down, they have forwarded it to the engineers...no answer yet.




Hi Paul, nice to see you here too

After so many days of bad weather I finally managed to test my new SmartEQ Pro mount under the stars (well let's say under my almost fully illuminated urban sky... )

Unfortunately, it hasn't been a very pleasant first test because I had quite a few problems, the worst of them being an awful tracking.

Has there been any answer from iOptron that solved your problem with your mount?
I'm asking because my mount seems to show exactly the same problem as yours, I've assembled a short video with a string of 40-second shots and I can see that the stars bounce back and forth forcing me to discard a whole lot of frames before stacking

I hope I can fix all the issues with my mount and enjoy using it in the future because it is hardly usable in this state...

Thank you.
Piero


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hectar
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Reged: 12/24/12

Loc: Ontario, Canada
Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: EFT]
      #5645962 - 01/27/13 12:25 PM

Quote:

The problem could also be mechanical. The metal shafts stuck onto the end of a plastic worm assembly are very unlikely to be straight and could easily cause the worm to be binding during part of its rotation at which point the motor starts to strain which may in turn be triggering an electronics issue in regard to the power being supplied to the motor. I honestly can't believe that metal and plastic worm assembly. A cheap brass worm would have been far better, even with the plastic worm wheel.



I would agree to that it could be mechanical problem. Either worm/spur shafts are not straight (bent) or gears are machined poorly. (noise is cyclic).
In the real world, if gears/shafts are large enough and you can access them easily, I would shut down the power, set a dial indicator on the shaft and check TIR's (Run out). It must not be more than 0.001"-0.002". You must take account of bearing play as well.
I would also check the back lash of each gear at 4 spots (set the dial on the teeth of one gear's teeh perpendicularly, jam/hold the other/opposite gear, then move/wiggle the first gear(with dial on it) back and forth, tiny bit, till you feel the stop. and read the dial). Repeat/rotate 90 degrees, do the same process again, and every reading must be consistant. say if you are getting 0.004", it should be same at every 90 degrees of rotation. If not, your gears are eccentric or teeth are worn out (or machined poorly if new).
ps: you can buy cheap dial indicators with magnetic base at local tool shops @30-40 bucks. They are good for larger gears, smaller ones like used in here will require additional extensions/setup.


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Jeff2011
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Reged: 01/01/13

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Re: iOptron SmartEQ Mods and Partial Disassembly new [Re: hectar]
      #5649462 - 01/28/13 11:12 PM

I was interested in this mount for a light weight portable mount for a DSLR and light refractor. I am not encouraged by the feedback y'all are providing. However, I noticed that the pro version comes with metal gears. Does anyone have the pro version and are you having the same tracking issue?

Jeff


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sgtcombs
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Reged: 11/18/12

Loc: Portland Oregon
Re: Too much play in RA axis new [Re: russdirks]
      #6384553 - 02/19/14 11:53 AM

Quote:

This just shows the locknut and short segment of screw that is used to sandwich the worm gear shaft.




I recently up graded my sEQ to the pro spec and the one issue I had was that there are little bearings on the end of the worm shafts, it took a spot o grease and a mr quickster to get it put together correctly. Did you have any issues?


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