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Pier-Tech Observatory experience?

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#1 meking64

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Posted 17 May 2020 - 05:02 PM

All,

   I am in search of a roll-off roof observatory enclosure that is commercially available. This will be a remotely controlled observatory. I have come across the Pier-tech Telestation-5 and Telesrtation-6 series of products that appear to be a good fit for me. They sell the hardware and roof control software. Has anyone had any experience working with this company Pier-tech or purchased their observatories? They also have piers that I would be considering. Are they a reputable company and are their products sound?

 

Any information based on experience I would appreciate.

 

Thanks,

Mike

 

PS this is their website:  http://piertechinc.c...-observatories/



#2 rpineau

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Posted 17 May 2020 - 05:27 PM

I did look at them too... and stopped as soon as I got the quote. 

They have a good reputation but are costly.

 



#3 petert913

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Posted 17 May 2020 - 05:32 PM

Their adjustable piers are really great.



#4 meking64

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Posted 17 May 2020 - 05:36 PM

rpineau: What observatory model did you price? How much were you quoted for an observatory? They have many different sizes and models...



#5 John Carlini

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Posted 17 May 2020 - 06:21 PM

I purchased a custom sized Telestation-3 (roof assembly) from Pier-Tech in 2017. The lower base was hand-made on a square concrete pad and fitted with a PrimaLuce Lab pier. The roof is 6' square on a 7' square base. It's a small size structure since my goal is to eventually automate the observatory after I put it through the rigors of Wyoming weather. It's seen two winters with manual operation and has held up to the elements. There is enough room inside the building to comfortably accommodate two people. The roof assembly is made of thick, heavy-duty aluminum panels and 80/20 rail components.

 

I worked directly with Vito Rotondi, the president of Pier-Tech, on pre-purchase questions, purchase and shipping. He is a fairly nice guy and we kept in touch all along the process from fabrication to packing and shipping. He sent me a photo of the roof assembly at the factory and emailed me all the paperwork. We did some haggling on purchase price and he provided shipping quotes for transport of my container from the Chicago area to Wyoming. I had to pay a bit more for shipping than expected since I live in the country and had to have a private company haul the crate an additional 70 miles from a major FedEx transport hub.

 

Assembly was fairly straight-forward once you refer to the construction manual online. I was able to do all the work by myself but be prepared to get help with a larger assembly.  In addition, Vito is fairly helpful in answering questions along the way.

 

Overall, although Pier-Tech is expensive, I had a very positive experience.

 

Unloading the 750-lb shipping container:

image.jpeg

 

The finished observatory with roof open:

image.jpeg

 


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#6 meking64

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Posted 17 May 2020 - 06:44 PM

John Carlini,

  Thanks for all of that detail. I am afraid to ask, because their website says "call for prices", you haven't mentioned the price and one other person has neglected to mention the price, but how much does Pier-Tech want for the Telestation-3? What did it cost?

 

  I have never understood why companies are not open about their prices. They could save themselves time by just listing it on their website...



#7 dmdouglass

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Posted 17 May 2020 - 08:02 PM

Meking64...

 

I don't know the prices either, but you could always give them a call, or send them an email, requesting price estimates for what you are looking for....

 

Just a thought.



#8 John Carlini

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Posted 17 May 2020 - 08:47 PM

I don't recall the exact price since that was several years ago. I know my total observatory cost was over $10k for all the materials, concrete, pier and some sub-contracted work. Shipping is really expensive for freight. The 750 lb crate had a lot of empty space so I imagine it could have been packed more efficiently. And, you purchase the fabricated, wooden shipping carton. On the positive side, you get a hand-built, custom assembly that is made in the USA.

 

The process is like buying a car.  When I talked to Vito, he quoted me several numbers depending on size/options and we had some give-n-take in the numbers depending on when I wanted to purchase and how I wanted it shipped. You can probably save a bunch by purchasing a TS-3 and building your own base like I did. Another cost saving, depending on where you live, is to pick up the observatory yourself vice shipping it via freight. I could have probably saved over a $1k by renting a uHaul and transporting it myself.

 

I should also mention that one of the reasons I chose a TS-3 was to custom build an insulated base. I did some extensive research and folks who purchased the walled enclosures, like the TS-2, had moisture condensation issues on the walls. Living in a high-mountain desert, that was probably not an issue but I didn't want it impacting my design.

 

Attached is a photo of the 80/20 rail assemblies pulled from the crate and being cleaned. The thick roof panels, not shown, were packed on top of the rail assemblies. Everything came ok and I had only one screw that came loose during transport.

 

image.jpeg


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#9 rpineau

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Posted 17 May 2020 - 08:50 PM

rpineau: What observatory model did you price? How much were you quoted for an observatory? They have many different sizes and models...

I got a quote for 8x7 TS6 , base price was $21562, motor option (dual motor, one for each half) $4500 , Optional color touch screen controller with ASCOM $4200, Crate $1500, Shipping TBD depending on you location.



#10 meking64

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Posted 17 May 2020 - 09:40 PM

All,

 

I did email Pier-Tech directly yesterday. No word back from them yet on prices.

 

Wow, if they want $21,562 just for the building they are really making a huge profit and pricing themselves out of the market for many amateurs. You can buy a 12' X 26' steel garage for $3,300 and huge metal barns for $13,000. You would need to alter the roof to make it a roll-off but it would be worth it if Pier-Tech is selling them for that much.



#11 John Carlini

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Posted 17 May 2020 - 10:09 PM

I'd be interested to hear what you get in a quote if you choose to share...

 

Pier-Tech sells mostly to professional and government organizations. Sounds like the prices have gone way up since I did my transaction with Vito (maybe 2x). Of course shipping and crating will vary with model size. I believe my crate cost was around $400 and base freight shipping was just over $1,200.

 

BTW, here is a photo of the TS-3 rail assembly on the factory floor:

image.jpeg



#12 Tim

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Posted 18 May 2020 - 09:18 AM

I have pier tech pier and 10x10 building with peaked roof for snow load. The pier and building are incredible. Strong well built industrial. My shed hasn’t leaked or had any issues. Roof opens and closes in the middle of winter coldest of night minus -30 sometimes. Very happy with it and highly recommend. The prices are expensive I was very lucky to get a used one in excellent shape. I talked to Vito a few times seems like a nice guy and responds in a day or two to emails. I asked about adding ability to remote open and close roof and also make adapter for my mount. It was shockingly expensive. I went in a different direction for pier attachment and still manually turning the button to open the roof. Buy once cry once you will soon forget the price and be very happy with product. My understanding is he assembles each one at his shop then takes it apart and ship it to you. Provides excellent instructions for assemble requireS only a few simple tools.
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#13 Tim

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Posted 18 May 2020 - 09:27 AM

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#14 Tim

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Posted 18 May 2020 - 09:29 AM

70E9869C-602A-40AF-8E6C-41797BC96493.jpeg


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#15 Tim

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Posted 18 May 2020 - 09:33 AM

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#16 Tim

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Posted 18 May 2020 - 09:40 AM

2BD93694-F53D-4FB7-94DB-DC49383FA511.jpeg


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#17 meking64

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Posted 18 May 2020 - 10:13 AM

John,

    Thanks for all the info. The pictures are very helpful too. If you have any more I would love to see them.

 

I know what you mean about a company selling to government organizations; they are willing to pay substantially higher prices for products that can be produced very cheaply. I used to work for the US government and I know from experience that they overpay for almost everything. It might be difficult for Pier-Tech to straddle the boundary between being a government supplier and a supplier for the amateur astronomy market. A company dealing with government organizations has to master the large administrative burdens and slow payout times typical in government contracting. If they sold to individual amateur astronomers at a lower price they could possibly generate a larger sales volume, get paid more quickly and improve their cash flow.

 

I was wondering what other observatory options you considered since you said you did extensive research before deciding on Pier-Tech. Specifically, I am considering using Faztech Systems which sells custom-built extruded aluminum structures, which is essentially the same technology that Pier-Tech is using. You send sketches of your project and their technician will produce dimension-ed drawings (free for up to 4 hours of computer drafting work), a BOM and an accurate quote to build as a kit or have them build it in their factory or on-site. Sounds like a very flexible approach to me. I am sure there competitors to the Faztech System too, although I haven't looked into it.

 

Did you consider any other custom built aluminum structure systems?



#18 meking64

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Posted 18 May 2020 - 10:34 AM

Stargazer_Tim

 

Thanks for the photos. So far, I noticed most people who bought from Pier-Tech went for small Pier-tech enclosures, I guess because of the price.

 

Have you had any condensation issues in the summer inside the enclosure? I am intent on imaging. Has your Pier-Tech height -adjustable pier been adequate for imaging when extended? That would be a concern I have for that type of pier. Is it stable enough to do imaging?



#19 RussD

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Posted 18 May 2020 - 11:26 AM

I like that building.  I really like the type of setup John has in Wyoming.  A few years ago when I had my remote observatory built, I looked closely at the Pier Tech buildings.  The smaller setups were expensive but think about what you get for the price...a building that can be disassembled and transported and it is delivered to you as a kit....  And they have done all the hard work of designing and troubleshooting for you.  I am a pretty handy guy so I priced out the cost of the 80/20 hardware and thought hard about doing it myself. I would have saved a bit of money, but not that much in exchange for the time it would take to work it out myself.  Every time I start a project like that it takes me 3x longer and costs twice what I thought it would.  The aluminum extrusion is not very expensive, but the connectors are pretty pricey and the costs add up fast.   So I ended up having an observatory builder make a more standard roll off.  That was still cost quite a bit more than I initially thought too.  There are ways to save if you are handy but as with any product, you are paying for much more than the cost of materials, and I think the Pier Tech buildings have their niche pretty well figured out.  

 

Russ


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#20 Tim

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Posted 18 May 2020 - 11:34 AM

I haven’t had inside condensation issues. Previous owner insulated it 1/2” hard foam type insulation I think that helped. I also have my shed off the ground a little and pressure treated boards for flooring some cracks in between with fine mesh screens under to keep out any creepy crawlys. I think this all helps with air flow. I also was given two red heat lamps from the previous owner who did use them Likley can have some condensation issues. I haven’t had that experience.

I was afraid of the pier and imaging so far no issues. I have only imaged with it up and longest focal length 960 mm. I do want to go with longer focal length 2000-2500 haven’t decided what OTA yet.

Before buying I inquired about different sizes and just buying roof top assembled and building my own walls. Really wasn’t much of a price difference.

I leave my dew heater on all the time low setting never worry about dew and the optics. Likley a good idea to plan for gentle heat source to be on part of the year.

#21 meking64

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Posted 18 May 2020 - 12:55 PM

Here is what Vito (Pier-Tech) quoted me for the TS5 that I would like (which can house three piers):

 

 

The 10x15 TS5 is $25,125
optional motor system (dual motors) is $5,600
Optional Color touch screen controller is $5,200

 

The 12.5 x 20 TS5 is $30,400
optional motor system (dual motors) is $5,600
Optional Color touch screen controller is $5,200

He did not quote the shipping cost but the separate shipping cost is going to be more than $1,000 probably about $2,000.

 

A turn-key system is going to be expensive...



#22 meking64

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Posted 18 May 2020 - 02:18 PM

Russ,

   I am interested in the final cost you arrived at by estimating the extruded aluminum system and building it yourself. According to your estimate how much would the materials cost you? What size of an enclosure did you estimate the cost on?

 

The more I think about these aluminum frames the more I like the idea. They are strong, lightweight and easy to install. They are not going to decay like the wood in the conventional ROR systems. The roof is light in comparison to a conventional roof, which allows you to get by with a smaller motor and roof drive system.

 

I am planning to do a cost estimate on the Faztek aluminum system and compare that to the Pier-Tech offerings. The 80/20 Inc. company sells a similar aluminum "erector set" system. I will look at them too. Did you look at the Faztek system for your parts estimate?

 

Mike


Edited by meking64, 18 May 2020 - 05:58 PM.


#23 John Carlini

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Posted 18 May 2020 - 06:43 PM

Mike,

 

When I first started looking at observatory options my main goal was to have an automated system so I could stay inside and image from the comfort of my house. That's still my eventual goal. I looked at a variety of options like small domes (Ash, pods and others), RORs and specialized systems such as the Technical Innovations Robodome. In the end, I really liked the ROR concept since I wouldn't need to control the dome pointing and I'd have more sky visible during manual operation. For me, the Pier-Tech design stood out and I read several reviews from other users before buying. At that time, Pier-Tech had only a couple of models (TS-2 and TS-3). I initially wanted a TS-2 but felt I could do better on the base since some users had wall condensation or bad door seals. So, I went with the TS-3.

 

My base has an insulated frame with Fabral metal sheeting on the outside and TNG wood on the inside. I put rubber mats on the concrete floor to mitigate damage should I drop gear. Attached is a photo showing how the TS-3 roof attaches to the base. The roof has a number of attachment points and there is a layer of sil-seal between the wood and aluminum frame. I used a CG-4 mount on the PrimaLuceLab pier for preliminary testing.

 

image.jpeg

 

A typical Wyoming winter with antelope grazing near the observatory.

 

image.jpeg


Edited by John Carlini, 18 May 2020 - 06:59 PM.

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#24 Tim

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Posted 18 May 2020 - 08:18 PM

 Nice looking walls And beautiful to see the wildlife. 



#25 RussD

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Posted 18 May 2020 - 09:00 PM

Hi Mike,

Seeing those current prices is a surprise.  If my memory serves, the price has gone up. I dont recall the final cost I came up with to be honest for the 80/20 parts.  I did go as far to take a lot of pictures of a smaller pier tech observatory I had access to and got a good idea of how things were put together.  At the time I was thinking of a 7'x7' building like my home observatory and that evolved into a 12'x16' building. I liked the idea of an 80/20 roof structure quite a bit for the small building.  Seems really manageable, but not so much as the building got larger in my mind.    Seemed like standard construction for larger buildings is a better way to go to me.  Once I realized I could make a larger observatory and avoid the bother and time of designing and building it myself, including transporting it cross country, I found a contractor who could do a great job on site. (My observatory is over a thousand miles away from home)  He used steel I-beams for the rails integrated into the building itself. Otherwise pretty standard construction.  

 

Russ




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