Controller Safety Cover


Steve Reilly
 

So it comes back to me that after having had a roof failure and rain on my system a few years ago I had decided I needed to find an alternative mounting location for the controller on my AP1200 to try an give a more protective environment. In fact I had thought that mounting the controller much like the AP3600 on the side with it in a vertical position would give it less chance of moisture getting in and then adding some type of roof over the controller itself similar to the plastic vented locking covers we use to use for thermostats in public areas but never got around to that little project. So rather then reinvent the wheel I thought that maybe I wasn’t the only person to pursue this and it might be prudent to see if anyone has done this already and what they came up with.

 

Of course I also realized the need to re-engineer the roof design and raise the roof and perhaps lower the pier so the telescope could be in any position and safe from a roof closure. The idea of using a elevating pier also came to mind but anything mechanical is subject to fail so….At least with the roof designed in such a  way as to have clearance at all times I could have a rain sensor designed just as an emergency backup to close regardless of any computer program. As long as the roof motor and controller has power, and my longest delay would be 60 seconds as we have a whole house generator and the observatory is covered by the generator, the roof could close at the first sign of rain although in practice the roof should already be closed from the cloud sensor. In my case the scope was safely parked, cloud sensor read very cloudy, and I believe it was in the process of a controlled shutdown but the computer had lost communication with the mount so it just sat there wide open.

 

I was on rescue squad duty as I always ran on Thursday nights for a number of years and thought nothing of letting it run as it has done so for a very long time with automation software. Shoulda, coulda checked on the status as I did have Team Viewer on the home network and on my smart phone but was on fire standby when it started to rain and I was otherwise occupied. Needless to say I haven’t let the system run again when I wasn’t home. Not until I find a reliable way to make sure this type of scenario can’t happen again at least. Of course I realize that everything mechanical is subject to fail I at least can cut down those odds by making certain changes.

 

Luckily for me the only real damage was the indoor/outdoor carpet and padding but worst of all the CP4 had some issue that Astro Physics was able to repair. I was able to check out the rest of the mount because I still had access to the old CP3. Fortunately my STL-11000, Pyxis 3” rotator, and such suffered no damage even though power was still on when I arrived home that morning at 0630 and saw the roof open. There was no sleep that morning to be had even though I’d been up running calls most of the night. Something about the unknown just doesn’t accommodate sleep well.

 

So if anyone has made modifications to their mount for the purpose of protecting the CP3/4 I’d really like to hear what you came up with. This is a bit late, like 2 years probably, but after a close call the other night it brought back all that experience and the urgency to make some changes. As my roof is now when the scope is parked the roof is 6” from the OTA. I have engineered trusses for the roof structure. What I need to do is determine the fullest height the ota gets and measure that so I know how high to raise the roof and how much I can lower the steel pier.

 

-Steve

 


Dale Ghent
 

There is a wide variety of IP-rated outdoor electrical and equipment boxes available on the market. Find one that fits what pier-stationed gear it is that you wish to protect, mount it to the pier, and mount the CP and any other components inside of it. Many come with clear covers or doors. 

On Jan 23, 2020, at 21:54, Steve Reilly <sreilly24590@...> wrote:



So it comes back to me that after having had a roof failure and rain on my system a few years ago I had decided I needed to find an alternative mounting location for the controller on my AP1200 to try an give a more protective environment. In fact I had thought that mounting the controller much like the AP3600 on the side with it in a vertical position would give it less chance of moisture getting in and then adding some type of roof over the controller itself similar to the plastic vented locking covers we use to use for thermostats in public areas but never got around to that little project. So rather then reinvent the wheel I thought that maybe I wasn’t the only person to pursue this and it might be prudent to see if anyone has done this already and what they came up with.

 

Of course I also realized the need to re-engineer the roof design and raise the roof and perhaps lower the pier so the telescope could be in any position and safe from a roof closure. The idea of using a elevating pier also came to mind but anything mechanical is subject to fail so….At least with the roof designed in such a  way as to have clearance at all times I could have a rain sensor designed just as an emergency backup to close regardless of any computer program. As long as the roof motor and controller has power, and my longest delay would be 60 seconds as we have a whole house generator and the observatory is covered by the generator, the roof could close at the first sign of rain although in practice the roof should already be closed from the cloud sensor. In my case the scope was safely parked, cloud sensor read very cloudy, and I believe it was in the process of a controlled shutdown but the computer had lost communication with the mount so it just sat there wide open.

 

I was on rescue squad duty as I always ran on Thursday nights for a number of years and thought nothing of letting it run as it has done so for a very long time with automation software. Shoulda, coulda checked on the status as I did have Team Viewer on the home network and on my smart phone but was on fire standby when it started to rain and I was otherwise occupied. Needless to say I haven’t let the system run again when I wasn’t home. Not until I find a reliable way to make sure this type of scenario can’t happen again at least. Of course I realize that everything mechanical is subject to fail I at least can cut down those odds by making certain changes.

 

Luckily for me the only real damage was the indoor/outdoor carpet and padding but worst of all the CP4 had some issue that Astro Physics was able to repair. I was able to check out the rest of the mount because I still had access to the old CP3. Fortunately my STL-11000, Pyxis 3” rotator, and such suffered no damage even though power was still on when I arrived home that morning at 0630 and saw the roof open. There was no sleep that morning to be had even though I’d been up running calls most of the night. Something about the unknown just doesn’t accommodate sleep well.

 

So if anyone has made modifications to their mount for the purpose of protecting the CP3/4 I’d really like to hear what you came up with. This is a bit late, like 2 years probably, but after a close call the other night it brought back all that experience and the urgency to make some changes. As my roof is now when the scope is parked the roof is 6” from the OTA. I have engineered trusses for the roof structure. What I need to do is determine the fullest height the ota gets and measure that so I know how high to raise the roof and how much I can lower the steel pier.

 

-Steve

 


Joe Zeglinski
 

Hi Steve,
 
    Here is a VERY simple, inexpensive fix for the CP4 lack of water-proofing.
 
    I had TWO CP’4’s drown (probably) from dew rolling off my OTA during several sessions, most likely as it slewed across the meridian position – and in both situations, my CP4’s were attached to the top of the AP-1200 axis – just as the original CP3’s were. This should not be done.
 
    I eventually discovered that he water leak access point on the CP-4 “case” is ONLY along that fairly large spaces surrounding the ETHERNET housing. It was easy to  stick two business cards into the crack. Pointing this out over a year ago, AP’s only advice was NOT to position the CP4 on top of the mount. The early User Guide was then revised to add the warning that the CP4 is not waterproof, only water resistant.
    Now I see you have the same problem with your CP4,  even being mounted vertically to the pier side.  That is good information, since I now have my replacement, THIRD CP4 - “supposedly safely” attached - to the side of my own pier, hoping any sudden rain, or dew,  would simply dribble  straight down,  past that connector’s  sides.
 
    There are in fact TWO REMEDIES to drowned CP4’s – even without being rained upon:
  1. Make sure you have pulled out the TWO black rubber plugs from the lower edge corner holes of the CP4 case – they are NOT just rubber feet !!!
        For some reason AP installed these plugs into the case DRAIN HOLES during shipping, and didn’t mention it to anybody. So, most of us thought they were just rubber bumpers. I think they were originally intended to prevent “large bugs” getting inside. In fact, if moisture does manage to enter the CP4 case, possibly accumulating over weeks, these “water drain holes” will help prevent the inevitable corrosion of the internal circuit pins on the circuit board bottom inch or so,  and subsequent shorting out. In fact, I noticed that the water inside my CP4 case, actually created a rust line  over time, from corrosion of that cheap metal connector housing, causing a short circuit path between powered pins.
    *
  2. Hearing about your circumstance, I intend to also apply some black SILICONE SEAL, pressed in around all 4 sides of the Ethernet connector, to keep the moisture from entering, in the first place. You could use “clear” rubber sealant, but I bought a small tube of the black one,  to blend in with the panel colour on the third one.
    e.g.  PERMATEX Adhesive Sealant BLACK SILICONE,  automotive grade RTV.

    That mostly  prevents moisture from rain, or condensed dew, getting in through the Ethernet connector sides. It can also seep in through the small center part as well, but with much more difficulty, if the square recess well in that connector keeps fills up – e.g. with a long rain storm, as in your situation. Perhaps that drainage is a good thing, and should be left open, to prevent the Ethernet plug spring contacts from corroding – the case corner drains should prevent any subsequent internal build-up, if moisture still gets in.
    Others who bought the early run of CP4’s – which still had the traditional WHITE cases, as the CP3’s did –   had no water drainage corner holes,  due to a production oversight,  so the case gradually filled up.  My early CP4 case had to be drilled, after its  second drowning.
 
    The good news is that it seems that ALL of the other connectors on the CP4 case are higher quality,  bolted down tightly from behind, and their socket pins are probably high Military Grade,  well-sealed, quality,  so even that potential moisture access point is unlikely.
Only the ETHERNET connector is soldered to the circuit board,  and is “free-standing” through the slightly oversized square panel cut-out, completely unsealed around its sides.
 
    I would also say, that the (later production) BLACK  painted CP4 cases likely do have those drilled drain holes, but may still have rubber plugs when they arrive. Hopefully, after my two disasters,  AP now seals the Ethernet connector. But, if you have an earlier production run, it would be prudent to apply those two solutions,  as I have done.
 
    It should then be safe from drowning,  with drain holes present, their rubber plugs removed, and with the Ethernet connector sides sealed, on a “VERTICALLY mounted” CP4.
 
Joe Z.


Michael Hambrick <mike.hambrick@...>
 

Another simple fix I recently implemented was to loosely wrap the base of the mount with a lightweight space blanket to keep dew from condensing on everything. The key phrase is "loosely wrap". Once I get the scope pointed at the object and center it in the camera, I wrap the space blanket around like a bath towel and fasten it together with clothes pins. This is sufficient to hold the blanket in place while the mount is tracking, but not so rigid as to put anything in a bind.


Best Regards

Michael Hambrick
ARLANXEO
TSR Global Manufacturing Support
PO Box 2000
Orange, TX 77631-2000
Phone: +1 (409) 882-2799
email: mike.hambrick@...