I thought that I would post a diary of my new NexDome that I have got operational during the past month, after 13-weeks of assembly.
BOTTOM LINE UP FRONT (BLUF): I'm about 90% happy with my NexDome now that I've got it operable. That number is probably growing weekly as I become more confident that things aren't going to go to pieces. It seems a bit fragile to me in terms of my confidence that everything's going to continue to work as advertised. I was about 10% happy during a long and tedious assembly when at times I thought that I was clinically depressed. Most of my dissatisfaction stems from the extreme difficulty in getting it assembled. NexDome advertising and customer information provides no insight to customers that assembly is technically challenging and perhaps not for the faint-hearted. In fact, the NexDome folks seem sort of glib and unrealistic in their attitude and almost seem surprised that many customers complain of and are frustrated by assembly issues. The attitude when you contact them is that no one seems to have the problems you're having. EXAMPLE: The most glaring example for me was when I was having difficulty with the new extruded aluminum shutter tracks Babak told me that I was the first one to complain. In the next sentence he said they were developing new, "more flexible," tracks and that I could have a set if the replacement aluminum tracks didn't work. QUESTION: If no one was having a problem, why were they developing new, more flexible tracks??? Of course, everyone has been having problems with the new tracks, plastic and aluminum.
CONFIGURATION: My new NexDome has 4-bays and the motorized dome rotation and motorized shutter.
ASSEMBLY: I am a chemical engineer by training. My brother has a double engineering degree (EE and Metallurgical Engineering) and my brother-in-law is a senior heavy mechanic. Between the 3 of us (and an afternoon of help from another friend and his brother (a math major and a Mechanical engineer), it took about 13 weeks to assemble with many issues arising out of the new tracks and wheels for the shutter. I felt a lot like an "alpha-Tester" or at least a "beta-tester" for the new tracks. We could not get the shutter and wheels to work as intended until the 4th set of tracks and the use of some 3M Bondo in the pre-engineered countersinks in the second set of plastic tracks.
Also somewhat problematic was circularizing the dome walls. I believe that it would have been a lot easier without the 4-bays. The bays inject an issue of difficulty in circularizing the dome walls that I would not have guessed or predicted and which NexDome does not allude to. But careful attention to circularizing the dome is perhaps one of the most critical issues for successful dome automation, both dome rotation and shutter opening and closing. Fortunately I was very focused on accurate dome geometry and I spent 2 or 3 afternoons circularizing the walls before we fixed them to the concrete pad.
Ultimately, after 13-weeks, we had successfully assembled all the dome components. The image below was taken a couple of nights ago before an imaging evening.
DOME OPERATION. I have been operating the dome for the past 4 or 5 weeks. Getting the dome operational has not been as difficult as I had imagined. Fortunately, all the thought I had given to dome-telescope-mount-geometry paid off and dome automation seems to work pretty well. I have attached a very blurry photo from this evening that shows my telescope aimed out the dome slit and still well positioned relative to the slit opening after a couple of hours of tracking.
One of my concerns ever since I decided to order a NexDome last year has been dome stability in high winds. My observatory is located on a wind exposed hilltop. This evening I had an opportunity to test its wind stability for the first time. We've had winds all day, up to over 50 mph. This evening while imaging I sat in the dome for about 3-hours monitoring the dome's stability. With the temperature steady at about 32F, winds were steady at about 25 to 30 mph with frequent gusts to over 50 mph for the whole time. It was a little bit nerve wracking sitting in the dome during the strongest gusts. But everything held steady and I got some good images. Winds have subsided a bit and I am still imaging at midnight. I used only the seven L-brackets that NexDome supplies with the NexDome to secure the dome walls to the concrete pad.
I will add to this thread as I discover issues or as I learn more about my NexDome.