Technical Innovations RoboFocus

A world leader in manufacturing observatory domes, dome automation equipment, and remote control devices for astronomers - including RoboFocus.

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Company Profile


Learn more about Technical Innovations.
 



 ABOUT US
Technical Innovations was started in 1991 to provide amateur astronomers and schools an affordable, permanent observatory to maximize their ability to view and record objects and events in our universe. Since that starting date, we have placed into service more than 1,200 high quality, reasonably priced fiberglass domes. In keeping with the evolving technology, Technical Innovations also developed and now markets, a line of observatory automation equipment.

Technical Innovations is the registered dba (doing business as) of NetLink Technologies, Inc. The company is owned by Jerry and Cecile Smith of Orlando, Florida. Technical Innovations was acquired in February of 2002 from the founders, John and Meg Menke. The Menkes are serious amateur astronomers and remain active in several groups. We are thankful to John and Meg for the years of hard work and innovation behind the successful market position Technical Innovations finds itself today. Cecile and Jerry are  dedicated to the future strength and success of the company, through strong business practices and continued product development and improvement.  

Customer Service is the number one priority at Technical Innovations. Every effort will be made to answer any incoming telephone call, and to attempt to resolve any question, concern, or problem at that time. If further research is needed, we will get back to you as soon as possible. Email has become an efficient and effective means of communication. We are always online, and monitor and respond to emails throughout the workday. Emails are also checked on a regular basis over weekends and holidays.

 

 

 

 TECHNICAL INNOVATION PRODUCTS
In addition to  RoboFocus, Technical Innovations offers a line of observatory domes and automation equipment.

The following observatory product offerings from Technical Innovations can be viewed in more detail at www.homedome.com 

OBSERVATORY DOMES:

Six Foot Domes -  The six foot diameter Home-Dome observatory offers all the convenience and protection of large observatories, but in a limited space. Its small size, (HD6S), allows installation on almost any building or structure, and is less imposing in communities where neighbors have concerns about the view of your property. The dome sits on a 9" high base ring, for a total height of 3' 10". The HD6S is strong, but very light weight, and can be mounted on a rectangular or circular skirt to simplify the transition to the structure  The stand-alone version, (HD6T), with an inside height off 6 foot 10 inches, provides ample room for the pier/scope while fitting within most residential structure height restrictions. The HD6T comes with a 45" high wall and full access door. Additional floor space can be added with one or more "computer cubbies" molded into the wall sections. Both the HD6S and HD6T have a 74" diameter dome with a 30" wide slot opening and a two piece, up-and-over shutter . Although compact, the 6' dome will easily accommodate a pier mounted 12" SCT, with space for you and a guest. 

Ten Foot Domes - Available in two models, the lower cost HD10 is designed primarily for on-structure installation, while the PD10 can be used either as a stand-alone dome on a structure. Both the HD10 and PD10 can accommodate most Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes up to 16", and Newtonians, on German Equatorial Mounts, also up to 16" diameter. Built to the same high standard, both the HD10 and PD10 have a 5 foot high dome made up of two pairs of "quadrants" bolted together along interior flanges. The dome sits on a 12' high base ring that incorporates the high quality, sealed ball  bearing rollers for dome rotation. A reverse flange at the top of the base ring covers the roller area and keeps the dome safe from wind and weather elements. The shutter opening is a generous 36" wide, extending up to the zenith, and 16" beyond. Two shutters open by sliding up and over the dome, then nest together outside the dome rear cover. As in all of our observatories, two integral, automatic latches lock the shutter together for security and wind protection when closed. Coupled with the included wind restraint system, the domes have been engineer tested for winds in excess of 110 mph. The PD10 also includes a molded semi-door section (which integrates with wall ring sections to provide full height entrance), additional rollers,  soffits, and a key-operated, custom deadbolt lock assembly for security. Wall height of the PD10 can be increased by adding matching 12" high wall rings, each with a molded door section. Because no part of the ten foot dome weighs more than 50 pounds, it is easy to assemble without the use of cranes, even on top of high structures. As with our other dome designs, the HD10 and PD10 must be mounted on a foundation or other solid support structure.

Fifteen Foot Domes - The fifteen foot diameter PD15 observatory will accommodate all but the very largest amateur and professional telescopes, (with associated equipment), and provides room for group use of the observatory. The PD15 uses the same proven design as the PD10 observatory. A unique feature of the PD15 is the 36" wide semi-door entrance which meets requirements for access by disabled persons. The PD15 dome is made up of four quadrants, bolted together along internal flanges. The slot opening is 48" wide, with 24" available past the zenith. The shutter is an up-and-over two piece, automatic latching system. The shutters nest on the rear of the dome when opened. The PD15 includes  an electric drive shutter system and electric dome drive motors. Wall height of the PD15 can be increased by adding matching 12" high wall rings. A PD15 with three wall rings will allow a 6 foot tall person to stand against the inside wall without obstruction. This observatory dome can also be installed either at ground level on its own foundation, or be mounted on a roof-top, tower or custom structure. The 4" wide base ring bottom flange can be bolted to nearly any foundation. The dome turns on 58 precision, seal ball bearing rollers, mounted on the 12" high base ring. The standard PD15 will meet all but the most stringent code requirements. Where needed, minor modifications can be made to meet special requirements. 

RoboDome - The first small, affordably priced, completely robotic observatory introduced to today's astronomy marketplace. The RoboDome is shipped fully assembled and ready to setup and install telescope. The dome is fully motorized and includes all hardware and software needed to remotely open and close the shutter, rotate the dome, and slave the dome to telescope position. Communication between the control room and observatory can be via RS232 cable, phone, network or internet. The RoboDome is secure against leaks, withstands winds over 100mph, needs no external hardware, and requires little or no maintenance. The shutter opening is a wide 24", with clear views from the horizon to 5" beyond zenith, and can accommodate telescopes and mounts up to a 10" SCT.    

DOME OPTIONS and ACCESSORIES:

Electric Dome Drive Systems - All Technical Innovation observatories can be equipped with electric drive systems (12vDC) to open/close the shutter and rotate the Dome. (The PD15 and RoboDome come standard with electric motor drive systems).

Custom Colors - All Technical Innovations observatories can be produced in nearly any color. The user provides a color sample (paint chips are an easy source), which will be computer analyzed for pigment addition to the standard resin and gel-coat materials used to product the "fiberglass" sections of the dome. This provides color throughout the material and thus is not a "coat" that would require maintenance.

Pre-Assembly Service - Pre-assembly is available for all Technical Innovations domes and equipment. This service costs an additional 15%, and includes everything ordered. A pre-assembly specialist will completely assemble, (and test as a "working observatory), your dome at the plant prior to crating for shipment. All holes will of course be properly located and drilled, and as many items as possible, (while still allowing safe shipping), will be left in place. All seams are carefully marked and assembly notes posted where beneficial. Final assembly is significantly simplified and the time to do final construction greatly reduced when the pre-assembly option is chosen. 

Security Systems - Security features, such as deadbolt lock assemblies, which are standard items on some domes, are available as options on all others. Technical Innovations is happy to work with buyers, on an individual basis, to identify security needs and help development a security plan to be put into place.

 OBSERVATORY AUTOMATION:

Dome Works - All Technical Innovation observatories can be equipped with our Dome Works package to rotate the Dome in conjunction with telescope movement. It is a family of instruments that allow local remote control of your dome's rotation. Because it will work with any scope and requires no computer connection, Dome Works may offer you the right level of automation at a moderate cost. Dome Works does not provide shutter control, but does provide both rotation control and azimuth data back to the user. Dome Works is made up of three components:   Dome-Trak - Uses infrared beams to sense whether the shutter opening is in front of the scope. If it is not, a microprocessor operates relays to turn the dome to the correct position;  Dome-Go - Hand control to manually operate relays and rotate dome. May be used with cabling up to 400 feet away;  Dome-Dial - Uses a special sensor to measure the azimuth position of the dome, which is then sent to a digital display unit. This unit can also be placed at distances up to 400 feet. Push buttons on the display operate the Dome-Go function.

Digital Dome Works - Digital Dome Works meets the astronomers need for an easy to use, low price system that automates all functions of the dome through a computer connection - either direct wired or via remote communications. Digital Dome Works (DDW), includes PC based software that presents all control and operating data to the user. DDW includes dozens of services for the user, both inside the observatory or at a remote location. Foe example, a "smart" hand control inside the observatory, allows the user to turn dome slaving on/off or return the dome to the home position and close the shutter with a single button push. Built-in interlock features automatically close the dome if communication links are broken, or after a fixed time if you end the session but forget to close down the dome. In fact, DDW will even shut off the drive on many telescopes when the dome closes, thus protecting against "wire wrapping".

The DDW control module, located inside the observatory, contains two microprocessors which control the observatory motors, sensors and other devices. The control unit connects via an RS232 communications line to the controlling personal computer running the DDW Control Program, (DDWCP). The DDWCP is included in the DDW System package and includes access to all future versions and updates at no additional cost. The DDWCP source code is "open" and available to any DDW owner for custom modifications and interfaces. DDWCP now also includes a complete set of external ASCOM drivers and selected "plug-ins". The control program provides a "human" interface with a complete set of command buttons ("OPEN", "HOME", "GO TO", "SLAVE TO TELESCOPE", etc.) and visual displays of dome/telescope positions, shutter status, and operation progress. A "SHOW DATA" feature displays data streams of al input/output commands and data responses. A complete configuration sub-systems allows user input compensation data for factors such as observatory location, pier positioning, telescope/mount type, and other software package interface.

A weather monitoring interface allows DDW to inform user of current remote weather conditions, and to support interlocks to prevent observatory operation in bad weather. Other remote operation add-ons to DDW include the Remote Power Module, Auto-Reboot Module, and of course the RoboFocus System.