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Service to assemble a PD-15 dome?

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#1 EdM2

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 01:10 AM

Does anyone know of a service that would assemble a PD-15 dome from Technical Innovations on my property in Arizona (other than Observatory Solutions)?  Observatory Solutions is ridiculously expensive.  I am looking for an alternative.

 



#2 TOMDEY

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 07:10 AM

Good question... specialized/experienced services tend to be rare and understandably/appropriately costly. It's not like getting a kid to rake the leaves or wash the windows. The only cheap alternative may be to bite the bullet and do it yourself. And that can be a lot of fun, learning experience, rewarding... and (your required constraint)... cheap!    Tom



#3 rimcrazy

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 07:41 AM

See if you can hire a local building contractor.  A word to the wise having built my own PD-10.  The instructions are simply mild suggestions. Any similarities between the actual fit and construction vs what is written is purely coincidental.  Review your parts before you start because more than likely you have either parts missing, or wrong parts or all of the above.  Above all DO NOT trust their drawings.  Do some pre-assembly on the ground or in a garage to check dimensions and then verify that to your building construction.  I had my contractor build the external dimensions to the drawing supplied by TI.  I called and double checked the dimensions that my building should have in order to fit the square/round adapter.  My building was accurate to +/- 1/8" to the drawings, which is pretty darn good across about 12' square.  This is how far off the fiberglass I received was manufactured.

 

gapinskirt.jpg

 

This is well over a 1" gap.  The skirt sections were WAY smaller than the specified dimensions.  My son has a metal fabrication shop so he made me some stainless steel flashing to cover the gap.  That and about a ton of sealing caulk and it works.  

 

domeflashing.jpg

 

This threw off the fit of the ring.  I made it work and leveled it but I still have issues.  A few things you should add to who ever builds your dome.

 

1) Go to McMaster Carr or a similar place and buy some self adhesive weather proof gasket material and place this between the dome panels. Don't buy it too thick, 1/8" is plenty but if you do this you won't have leaks.  If you don't do this you will spend half your life calking the cracks between the panels.

2) Speaking of the dome panels, go out and buy double the number of bolts to bolt the sections together and when you construct the dome, drill 2x the holes and double the number of bolts.  A chronic problem with TI domes is they collapse under their own weight over time and the low number of bolts holding the panels together contributes to this. If you double the number of bolts it will help stop this.  If not abated, you end up with your shutter failing because the difference in the width of the opening of the slot on the top vs the side/bottom is significant such that the shutter quits working.  This unfortunately for you is most prevalent in the 15' model due to the weight.

3) Don't know where in AZ you live.  My observatory is up in Overgaard in the White Mtns.  In the winter the dome rotation is pretty much worthless.  The design depends upon friction between a sandpaper bottom of the dome and the drive wheels.  Ice builds up on that interface even though it is not exposed such that the dome slips all the time.  It is a royal PITA.  I'm in the process of retrofitting my dome with a gear driven system that does not rely upon the stupid friction design.  I hope you have better luck.

4) Caulk all of your joints and the check with a hose for leaks and after your first few storms go check again for leaks.  I used gasket material every place I could and still had some leaks.  They are a bit of the dickens to find and fix because you may see water in one location but the actual leak is occurring somewhere else and the water is wicking on the fiberglass to were it finally drops inside.

 

Good luck with your build.  Over time I hope to replace both the dome rotation, the shutter mechanical operation as well as the entire control system.  I've already purchase a Maxdome II controller system that I am going to retrofit my dome and toss the TI system.  In Az with our winds I'm glad I have a dome and all things considered a fiberglass dome is nice but I'm not thrilled at all with the quality of the TI system and don't get me started with their mechanical & electrical design.

 

Here is my finished 10' dome

 

FinishedObservatory2.jpg


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#4 outofdark

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 10:30 AM

+10 with rimcrazy, although I took a little bit different approach.

 

I bought a HD10,  I also bought the roof skirt.  I too had built my observatory building to within an 1/8" of the spec provided in the HD manual.  When we started to install the roof skirt it became quickly clear that it was not going to even be close. 

 

For my dome base I built a "perfect" circle using plywood and dimensional lumber.  From the outside corners of my building I found the exact center of my building and from there drew the 133"/119" circle for my dome base.  To make the roof skirt "fit" we trimmed off most all of the skirts drip edge, leaving only about about 1/4" downturn. I bought some 2 x 2" flashing and installed it around the top edges of my roof and fitted the roof skirt inside of the parameter of the metal flashing. 

 

The skirt  fit to the dome base was still off, but usable with many tubes of caulking.  In order for the skirt to sit flat the skirt corners had to be pulled down from the inside and fastened to my building with plumbers tape.  All my joints we sealed with silicone caulking.  We've had plenty of snow and rain since I've sealed the skirt and dome and have not seen any leaks.

 

I also agree with rimcrazy, preassemble your dome on the ground.  I paid for the pre-drilling service which gets you half way there.  You still have a lot of drilling and figuring to do.  It's important to get the base diameter correct.  I found the tolerances on the done to be much better than the roof skirt.  Shims and duct tape are your friend! Especially when you are installing the dome on your building!

 

After I found the size issues with the roof skirt I did call Jerry.  I sent him pictures and measurements, he was understanding and good to work with.  I hope he does work out the fit of the roof skirt.  He was extremely fair with me in working out a discount.  During my install he made himself available to answer any questions that came up, even on weekends..

 

If you are, or have, an experienced builder the dome will go together without too much difficulty.  Though, as I found out, you will need to punt occasionally.  Don't have an extremely tight schedule as you'll need twice as much time as you estimate.  If you can hold off your final roof framing until you get your dome you can frame to fit, rather than fit after the fact...

 

Since winter has closed in I still have yet to install my motors.

 

Oh!  when installing the dome.  Even though I preassembled the dome on the ground I built a temporary ceiling on my building.  It is a well enforced plywood and mostly a 2 x 6 structure, with a heavy center post, that we could stand on during the dome installation.  I have one opening that gives me access up to the dome, and will leave it in place until I get my dome motors installed.  Having a solid floor to work on made things so much easier and safe.

 

At some point I will start a thread with pictures.

 

Good luck with your build!

 

len


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#5 rimcrazy

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 11:12 AM

 

After I found the size issues with the roof skirt I did call Jerry.  I sent him pictures and measurements, he was understanding and good to work with.  I hope he does work out the fit of the roof skirt.  He was extremely fair with me in working out a discount.  During my install he made himself available to answer any questions that came up, even on weekends..

Yes, Jerry is nice and can be helpful but I find their absolute refusal to update and correct their documentation after numerous (myself included) people have shown them what needs to be corrected quite inexcusable.  They have not touched their hardware/software in over a decade.  The world has moved way past RS232 interfaces to USB, USB3, Ethernet and WiFi.  Operating systems are all 64 bit now but they have touched nothing.  Yea I get the "If it ain't broke don't go fixing it" at least partly but they force their entire user base to keep trying to support hardware and software that past obsolete years ago and now is heading into the "good luck" department if it breaks category.  We've all had significant issues with the fit of their fiberglass and again.... crickets in terms of fixing the issues.

 

Chris Erickson, one of the CN moderators has posted exhaustively on the failings of their electrical and mechanical design.  I don't need to cover this ground again but as an electrical engineer myself, what Chris says is 100% spot on.  IMHO, for what TI charges they should update their design, correct the failings which have been pointed out to them by numerous customers and basically support their product.  To me they give the impression of, this is what we got, we ain't fixing it, buy it or not, we don't care.  For all of us with observatories we really don't have a huge selection of vendors and just reading the numerous posts in this section in particular, unless you have an Observ-a-dome or an Ash Dome, we are pretty much left with slim picken's all of which have some real issues.  It is what it is.  Pick your poison, know what you are getting into from the start and if you feel you can overcome the challenges at a cost that works for you then go for it.  Kinda sad but that is the state of amateur observatory domes these days.


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#6 outofdark

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 03:24 PM

Hi rimcrazy

 

Maybe this is an opportunity for an open source project? 

 

Do you know if they did DDW in house?  Probably not much chance, but if they would open the source there is an entire community out here.  I wonder if they still sell copies?

 

len



#7 PastorBillV

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Posted 09 December 2019 - 08:53 PM

Ditto what "rimcrazy" said!  I'm just finishing a PD-10.  UGH!  I had them do the pre-build ($2500, I think) and that helped and hurt me.  They didn't build it to the diameter/circumference in the manual!  I now have quite a few extra holes in my deck from figuring out that my circumference was bigger than the manual!  AND, there are two manuals if they pre-build.  The full build manual and an "assembly" manual for us who did the pre-build.  You need them both!  PLUS, these manuals AREN'T fully sync'd with the accessory manuals, so you have to backtrack when you find you should've done something earlier!  The manuals use different terms for things in different places too, so that's confusing.  

 

I've only had one piece that didn't fit (not even close) and I'm going to have to do a MAJOR cut job on it.  But, it's not an essential piece.  

I was saved by finding some web pages that they have showing their build process.  That helped me know what parts went where.  Like rimcrazy said, their drawings are bad.  It's crazy that they don't have photos, as well as online photos and videos to do this.  

I was also saved by Eagle Rock Observatory's web site! (http://www.eaglerockobservatory.org/).   He probably wonders who racked up all the hits on his construction photos (especially the interior for electrical).  It was me.  I owe him "big time" as they say.  

I'm over six months behind and down to electrical.  But, winter has now hit me in Northern California. My dome rotates fine when I manually turn it, so I should be fine when the motors do it.  I'm not looking forward to trying the electrical shutter! Oh my.  

Good luck!  I know you're doing a 15 and I did a 10, but if I can help let me know.  I tried several methods to get the whole foundation ring circular and that's what put me months behind.  It also turned my hair from gray to white.  At least I didn't lose it...

Bill


Edited by PastorBillV, 10 December 2019 - 07:11 PM.


#8 drprovi57

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Posted 10 December 2019 - 09:06 PM

I understand that assembly of the TI Home/Pro Domes can be challenging.  My experience of the TI dome was different from others - I built a DIY building to hold my HD10 dome that also included the rectangular skirt.  The DIY assembly does reqiure some challenging construction - but I found the instructions and some TI support sufficient to properly assemble and operate my HD10 dome.  I have successfully operated the HD10 dome for more than 10 years without incident - fully automated rotation and shutter using DDW system.  I agree strongly with others that assembly of the dome on the ground is critical to ensure an accurate assembly, then dissemble the dome for installation on your building or base.  

 

About a year ago I decided update my observatory with an 12.5ft Ashdome  - a more robust design and operation , but with a much larger cost.  

 

I have included a photo of my HD10 TI dome:

 

IMG_0655.jpeg

 

Best

jason

 



#9 Bigwalker

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Posted 12 December 2019 - 07:17 AM

After reading the above posts i’m now nervous

my PD10 ships next week, i opted to use their rings instead of constructing a building so im not adding to a secondary structure

ill start a seperate thread on the observatory thread once more progress is made



#10 cmaier

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Posted 12 December 2019 - 11:16 AM

After reading the above posts i’m now nervous

my PD10 ships next week, i opted to use their rings instead of constructing a building so im not adding to a secondary structure

ill start a seperate thread on the observatory thread once more progress is made

I agree with all the above posts. With this product you have to be creative in re-engineering.  We've made several parts with a 3D printer to get the shutter working properly. In four years I've had to replace/respool the shutter cables a couple of times and  replace glide strips but not much else.  This said, I've used the dome every clear night, stays dry, can withstand almost any storm,  DDW- no issues. I've always been able to talk to Jerry or his son for help/parts. With the  PD10 I was able to assemble it by myself and had my sons help lift the dome parts onto the rings. 



#11 EdM2

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Posted 12 December 2019 - 12:32 PM

Thank you all for your insightful comments.  It seems there are some serious problems with the assembly of the PD-10 and the PD-15.  Has anyone had a "good" experience assembling these domes?



#12 Bigwalker

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Posted 12 December 2019 - 05:26 PM

Thank you all for your insightful comments.  It seems there are some serious problems with the assembly of the PD-10 and the PD-15.  Has anyone had a "good" experience assembling these domes?

 

Are you using technical innovations stand alone rings and then attaching the dome, or are you building a square building to attach the the dome?

if you are using the rings for stand alone i would believe there should be no fit up issues since it is all factory provided and the only interface is to a base platform 
automation is a different story and there are experts here who can help im sure

have you ordered your dome yet?

mine delivers next Tuesday and if the weather improves i will start assembly and let you know



#13 EdM2

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Posted 13 December 2019 - 02:51 AM

Are you using technical innovations stand alone rings and then attaching the dome, or are you building a square building to attach the the dome?

if you are using the rings for stand alone i would believe there should be no fit up issues since it is all factory provided and the only interface is to a base platform 
automation is a different story and there are experts here who can help im sure

have you ordered your dome yet?

mine delivers next Tuesday and if the weather improves i will start assembly and let you know

Actually that is a very good question because it seems that a lot of the issues I am reading here involve the matching of the dome to a separately built building.  In my case I plan to just use the rings provided by TI.  That will probably make the build less prone to assembly issues.  

 

I visited Jerry in Orlando a couple months ago and saw a PD15 that he was working on at the time.  Jerry was very helpful and explained a lot to me about the dome.  I am now in the process of having a builder build a pier and pad for the dome.  After that is successfully built I will order the PD15 and assemble it when it arrives.



#14 rimcrazy

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Posted 13 December 2019 - 07:25 AM

I agree with all the above posts. With this product you have to be creative in re-engineering.  We've made several parts with a 3D printer to get the shutter working properly. In four years I've had to replace/respool the shutter cables a couple of times and  replace glide strips but not much else.  This said, I've used the dome every clear night, stays dry, can withstand almost any storm,  DDW- no issues. I've always been able to talk to Jerry or his son for help/parts. With the  PD10 I was able to assemble it by myself and had my sons help lift the dome parts onto the rings. 

Bingo!  I plan on completely re-engineering the rotation mechanism.  That is the plan for 2020 and then rework the shutter mechanism next.  Got a new Prusa3D printer which has a large enough print volume for my plan.  Going to basically print a 10' round linear gear that will engage with 3 rotational motors split 120 degrees apart. With a geared mechanism I will not have any slip and for emergency stalls the motors have clutches on the drive gears.  Using annealed PETG gear slices it is actually pretty easy to do.  Drilling the holes to mount the gears will probably be the most work.  I have a Maxdome II controller to replace the DDW.  3D print technology is just the bomb these days for solving issues like this.  It's a DIY dream tool.  I'll post this on my website which I'm putting back together over the holidays to show how I did it, issues (Murphy always works overtime), success if anyone is interested. 



#15 EdM2

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Posted 13 December 2019 - 12:46 PM

Bingo!  I plan on completely re-engineering the rotation mechanism.  That is the plan for 2020 and then rework the shutter mechanism next.  Got a new Prusa3D printer which has a large enough print volume for my plan.  Going to basically print a 10' round linear gear that will engage with 3 rotational motors split 120 degrees apart. With a geared mechanism I will not have any slip and for emergency stalls the motors have clutches on the drive gears.  Using annealed PETG gear slices it is actually pretty easy to do.  Drilling the holes to mount the gears will probably be the most work.  I have a Maxdome II controller to replace the DDW.  3D print technology is just the bomb these days for solving issues like this.  It's a DIY dream tool.  I'll post this on my website which I'm putting back together over the holidays to show how I did it, issues (Murphy always works overtime), success if anyone is interested. 

3D printing sounds like an excellent solution, but how to you get the plan/design for the Prusa printer to print?  How do you create the design for the part needed?



#16 rimcrazy

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Posted 14 December 2019 - 02:33 PM

3D printing sounds like an excellent solution, but how to you get the plan/design for the Prusa printer to print?  How do you create the design for the part needed?

I'm an electrical engineer.  My son is a mechanical engineer and owns and uses Solidworks.  He's the bomb at mechanical design and while his day job is in software design he still owns his metal fabrication shop.  Helps to have the right toys, tools and disciplines in the family!  Whats so cool about 3D printing is you can easily make custom parts, ie, I fully expect one part to not be the same length as the rest as Murphy just says an exactly even integer number of pieces, while highly desirable, probably won't happen in real life but with a 3D printer, who cares.  Not an issue.  I'm actually thinking of making a smaller scale model if for no other reason to work out any kinks with the MaxDome controller.  Motor is a motor.  I can make a 1' diameter model with smaller motors and as long as I can simulate the interface correctly I should be able to debug the system on my desktop.  For me this is important because my observatory is 130 miles away and I'm not always there full time.  Without a model then I have to rush and fire drill testing and setting up.  This way I can do it a little more leisurely in my office and probably smack down 90% of the bugs before I build there real thing and then just do the cleanup on the real deal.

 

When it is all done and working I will publish my 3D files so people can use them.  They won't work exactly on probably most people's setup but with some modifications they would probably work.  I don't see that happening until about a year from now but that's the plan.  




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