Re: [ap-ug] AP future


I just posted your comments on the CN thread in question.


From: "chris1011@... [ap-ug]"
To: ap-gto@..., "ap-ug" <ap-ug@...>
Sent: Wednesday, December 14, 2016 2:46:36 PM
Subject: [ap-ug] AP future


Hello Astro-Folks,

Recently there has been a thread on Cloudy Nights regarding the future of Astro-Physics Inc, and whether we are here for the long run. Here are two of the posts:

One area of concern I have with AP is its aging owner and staff.   I'm on a wait list for a scope since 2007 and I was told by AP that I might want to look elsewhere.  Not my words, AP's. This isn't a slam on Roland, George, or Howard.  They always provided me with good customer service, but it was one of the reasons I sold my 1600.  I just don't know if there will be an "heir apparent" to take over operations.  Having owned an rcos scope, I know how it feels to see a company close its doors.  Just my opinion, but it is something that has been discussed and weighed by others that I know."

"I've always thought that the retirement of Roland *might* mean the end of the AP scopes, but that the mount business doesn't require him (and is the major source of AP revenue at this time).
 I would definitely want to find out more about this. Next year (on a milestone birthday) I will very likely be buying a mount--either AP or SB. The possibility of the mount not being serviceable a few years down the road will definitely weigh on my decision. There is a long tradition of astro companies going out of business (Starmaster anyone?)"

Since none of us here at AP can post anything on Cloudy Nights to clarify our position, I am posting my response to this group. If any of you are on Cloudy Nights and want to pass on my thoughts, you are welcome to do so.

First a little background of why I did enter the telescope making business in the first place. Back in the early '80s there was little or no choice if you were a refractor nut. They were either quite small or very expensive or they did not have the high color correction that we find in refractors today. I felt that I could make a difference in amateur astronomy by offering an affordable option to those who wanted such an instrument, and thus took a huge gamble by leaving the stable world of electrical engineering and starting a full time telescope company. The demand for refractors grew and others entered the market, some very successful and thriving today. Early on it became obvious as we developed more scopes for imaging that there was a need for a stable accurate mounting that could be controlled by the emerging electronic guiding systems being developed by SBIG. Thus the AP mount product line began and grew into a major part of our company.

Over the years my optical crew and I have made many thousands of refractor and reflector scopes from 90mm to over 400mm aperture. That said, the mount portion of our product line is now the primary product that we are concentrating on. Over the past couple of years we have invested a huge amount of money to develop the latest mountings along with software and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The fact that we are not making as many telescopes today that we made in the past has nothing to do with our mount production, which is increasing and expanding. There is no reason to equate the two and worry that because I am not making your favorite scope any more and that this somehow has a bearing on our mounts.

We have invested in a large CNC machining operation here, we have a great crew of machinists and assembly people. We have on our staff a world class telescope and mount designer with all the advanced Cad-Cam design software at his disposal. We have probably the best customer service people in the business, who are dedicated to helping all users of our equipment (even those who don't read the manual ;^). A fair number of our staff are amateur astronomers themselves and understand your needs. We also have a number of independent software developers that do work for us, as well as advisers among the amateur community that help us in many countless ways. Besides introducing new telescope equipment, we also make a great effort to retain backward compatibility for all the mountings and scopes that were sold in the past.

Yes, I am not personally making a lot of telescopes today, but there is no reason to worry. You have so many great scopes to choose from today that if I stopped cold turkey, it would make no dent in the available products. That said, I just finished approximately 60 of the 12" F3.8 Honders Astrographs and am also finishing the first of the 130 F6.3 GT triplet refractors of this next production run. When I am done I will have made almost 800 of just this size alone. On top of that we are planning to introduce a couple of unique scopes next year for imaging and visual use. These scopes will represent the next level of performance for their size - that's all I can tell you right now. 

The mount production pretty much runs itself with almost no input from myself. If I were to retire today (which I am not doing btw) it would make zero difference in the future of our mountings. I do spend the majority of my time in the optical shop with making the lenses and mirrors. I have a great crew that makes the mechanical parts and helps with the assembly of all the bits and pieces. I also spend a fair amount of time developing ways to make optics in a more deterministic way that requires less of the old school techniques and uses more advanced processes that can be done by people other than myself. So, I am passing down my knowledge as time passes, and you will eventually see AP scopes being offered with optics by other top world class opticians. And yes, we are also very much making plans to develop new leadership of this company in the business end of AP.

Roland (Rolando) Christen
Astro-Physics Inc.

P.S.  And for the fellow that asked about a scope since 2007 in the Cloudy night's post above - yes, consider purchasing a scope from the many fine instruments available. I probably won't get around to making your scope ever, and that is not a bad thing. There are so many choices now that you should never wait if you really want a scope.

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