Summer 2016

Summer 2016
Summer in Tsukahara

Spring in Tsukahara

gkimbal's Spring in Tsukahara album on Photobucket

Sunday, March 26, 2017

ScopeDome: Update

ScopeDome has been temporarily repaired and readjusted. I believe the "basic" design of the dome is sound. However, the manufacturer’s assembly instructions are inaccurate and misleading. A permanent repair will be made during tsuyu (rainy season) to prevent any loss of precious imaging time. I will replace the metal lathe with 6061-T6 aluminum. I found that the original aluminum is too soft for what is required. Securing the new lathe will be accomplished using aluminum blind fasteners. The old metal strip will remain and the new strip will be layered on top. All of the seams will be offset to maintain electrical continuity. In the event of the new strip prematurely wearing, I can remove the aluminum blind fasteners. I will also replace the wire connectors going to the lathe and rollers. The crimps are of poor quality and some of the crimps only have one or two thin strands of wire.


I conducted several experiments with the rollers and the metal lathe to determine how much pressure is required to have sufficient voltage to power the shutter. Of the eight rollers, I only needed five rollers to make contact at the same time. The manufacturer requires all eight rollers to make contact at one time. If the dome is slightly out of round, the metal lathe will wear through and fail eventually. Since only some of the rollers need to make contact, this reduces the pressure applied to the metal lathe from the rollers. The dome turns with little friction and the metal lathe remains in good shape. I will also perform regular inspections of the metal lathe to check for any unusual wear. I’m confident that these steps will prevent this failure from happening again.

Lessons learned (reality check): 

1. Don't expect any useful help from ScopeDome if something goes seriously're on your own.

2. ScopeDome will be very quick to point out their warranty information. Be sure to understand the warranty BEFORE you decide to purchase. What that means is that once you give them the money...good luck. If a part is needed, you pay for the shipping costs from Poland even if the dome is brand new. They may or may not cover the cost of the actual part. In my case, they would cover the cost of the metal strip, but not the shipping. The shipping would have been extremely expensive and painfully slow.

3. ScopeDome uses Skype as a way to help troubleshoot a problem. It is a useful tool, but useless if something goes seriously wrong. Make absolutely sure you have the ability to troubleshoot and repair the dome on your own. If not, then you will have an expensive piece of junk sitting on your property.

4. Get used to the fact that something will go wrong. There is an insecure and uneasy feeling about owning a ScopeDome. I gave up on reliability. It doesn't exist when you own one of these.

5. ScopeDome advised me to either tear down the entire dome or drill into the outer fiberglass cover to gain access to the fasteners holding the metal strip. Both pieces of advice clearly shows that something is seriously wrong with the design.

I hope this will be helpful information to someone who is considering purchasing a ScopeDome. There isn't much user information out there about these domes. Maybe they all work perfectly as mentioned by the manufacturer...maybe they don't. Please choose carefully as this is a major investment in the enjoyment of the hobby and reliability is a critical factor.


Monday, March 6, 2017

ScopeDome: ALERT!!!

This is an alert for anyone who has or is thinking of purchasing a ScopeDome.

The problem started with the 8A fuse on the main controller board blowing. The fuse was replaced and then it blew again after several rotations of the dome. The 220VAC power supply also sparked and smoked. If I had not been in the dome at the time, there could have been a fire.

I suspected that the brown and white wires were shorting. I was correct. I removed the covers and exposed the rollers and wiring. I was “horrified” at what I discovered.

The metal plate that the rollers ride against had completely worn through. A piece of the metal plate (brown wire) was touching a metal post (white wire) and shorting together. EEK!!! I managed to cut and break off the existing metal plate where it had worn through.

I sent the photos to ScopeDome. I already knew what the response would be. I was blamed for adjusting the rollers improperly. I adjusted the rollers  to remain in contact with the metal strip, but still allowing easy movement of the dome with one hand. Obviously, that was not the correct way to adjust the rollers. So, what is the correct way?

I was told that ScopeDome has 40 domes of this model around the world and they have never seen anything like this. If that were correct, one in forty is not very reliable for a product of this type. The dome is less than a year old.

I was told that ScopeDome would replace the thin metal strip, but I would have to pay the shipping costs or have one machined in Japan. The problem with that is that the nuts that secure the bolts holding the metal strip are inaccessible. ScopeDome suggested that I cut holes in the fiberglass ring cover to remove the metal strip. That's ridiculous! Not only would that look awful, it would create way for water to enter the dome.

The metal strip should have been secured with bolts and nut plates instead of nuts. I also suggested that ScopeDome make a roller that uses spring tension that rides on top of the metal strip instead of gouging it. That way a customer can not misadjust the roller. ScopeDome responded :

“We realize that the dome is not a perfect construction but it is compromise between functionality and production costs.”

Currently, I have a dome that does not work, and a bad power supply. I do not see a solution except to disassemble the entire dome and start from scratch. This would also require that the telescope and all of the electronics be dismantled.
Please take this into consideration before purchasing a ScopeDome. If something goes seriously wrong, you are in trouble. Poland is a long way from Japan, and ScopeDome was very quick to point that out to me when I asked for help. 

I'll update when the situation changes...hopefully for the better.    George