FocusLynx FT Whitepaper

FocusLynx FT Whitepaper
FocusLynx FT
Smart Automation for the FeatherTouch
Focuser
Introducing a smarter way to automate your FeatherTouch Focuser without sacrificing the fine
FeatherTouch feel. Optec and Starlight Instruments have joined forces to intelligently provide
full digital control of your telescope focuser while allowing both manual and remote operations
from the same controller and motor. Dual focuser control, WiFi and Ethernet network
capabilities, industry standard ASCOM support, and SmartPhone apps combine to provide the
next generation control system for astronomical telescope focusers.
Revision 3 – May 2014
FocusLynx FT with QuickSync
FocusLynx FT Digital Focuser
Smart Automation for the FeatherTouch Focuser
By Jeff Dickerman
President, Optec, Inc.
Optec has been designing and manufacturing high-end instrumentation and devices for astronomers
since 1979, including precision photometers, intelligent filter wheels, multi-port instrument selectors,
camera field rotators, and temperature compensating focusers. We have watched the hobby of
astronomy transition from a visual passion for the stars and wonders of the universe, into a high-tech,
fast-paced and highly competitive industry filled with new electronic gadgets, high end software
products, and automation of disparate parts, products, and software seldom seen in most hobby
industries. Consider that automated telescopes for the amateur were starting to appear as early as
1990.
The skills required to operate a
modern automated telescope may
seem daunting. It is not unusual to
require fluency in electronics,
mechanics, networking, software,
firmware, and optics, just to
assemble a working telescope –
regardless of whether the intent is
visual use or imaging the heavens.
Indeed, it seems today’s astronomer
designing an observatory full of
automated equipment must be as
adept in all these disciplines as any
systems integrator.
Optec has always been on the forefront of automation though we remain essentially an “after-market”
astronomy company. That is, our devices and instruments are almost always used with other excellent
products – Celestron and Meade telescopes for example, or SBIG, Apogee, and QSI camera systems.
199 Smith Street · Lowell, Michigan 49331 · U.S.A.
Telephone: 616-897-9351 · Fax: (616) 897-8229 · Toll Free: 888-488-0381
sales@optecinc.com · http://www.optecinc.com · www.optec.us
FocusLynx FT for FeatherTouch- Revision 2
FocusLynx FT with QuickSync
Optec seeks out the very best products in our industry and tries to make each just a little better. All the
while, we enjoy pushing the limits of technology and automation.
Though generally known for creating devices that operate for years in remote, automated environments
with little human interaction, we have recently been enjoying a renaissance of visual observing. We find
that many improvements can be made for the visual astronomer, as well as the operator of remote
automated observatories. With these thoughts in mind, our engineers looked at an excellent product
competing with our venerable TCF-S Temperature Compensating Focuser – the FeatherTouch© focuser
manufactured by Starlight Instruments.
The FeatherTouch’s great claim to fame is that it is arguably the smoothest manual focuser available in
astronomy today. The quintessential “FeatherTouch Feel” is derived through an elegant reduction
mechanism developed by Werner Schmidt and perfected by Starlight Instruments president Jon Joseph.
Werner’s design is so good that nearly every manual focuser available today has emulated the design in
some way.
Optec TCF-S and FeatherTouch 2-inch focuser
The Optec TCF-S focuser was developed in 1999 by Gerald Persha and remains the most robust and
reliable digital focuser available. However, it was never really designed to be a manual device. Indeed,
the TCF-S is the “go-to” focuser when you need to put a system in Antarctica with perhaps just one or
two visits per year. Optec’s focuser is robust, steady, reliable, and repeatable. While we do offer
manual IN and OUT buttons with our TCF-S focuser, unattended operation remains our primary goal for
the TCF-S and our new TCF-Lynx systems.
199 Smith Street · Lowell, Michigan 49331 · U.S.A.
Telephone: 616-897-9351 · Fax: (616) 897-8229 · Toll Free: 888-488-0381
sales@optecinc.com · http://www.optecinc.com · www.optec.us
FocusLynx FT for FeatherTouch- Revision 2
FocusLynx FT with QuickSync
Because automation is our game, we looked at the problem of adding a motor to an essentially manual
focuser. How do you add the ability to motorize the FeatherTouch without destroying that “smooth,
buttery” feel (as my friend Jon likes to call it)? The FeatherTouch Feel is likely the reason most users
choose Starlight Instruments in the first place. So the problem remains, how do you create a simple
system that allows an astronomer to set up in the field and see the wonders of the universe though an
eyepiece, then transform easily to a photographic setup with fully automated focusing? We’ve
developed a solution to this problem, and the answer is the FocusLynx FT with QuickSync.
FocusLynx FT prototype with QuickSync motor for FeatherTouch
Introducing FocusLynx FT with QuickSync
Optec is proud to announce the marriage of Optec’s digital automation and Starlight Instruments
FeatherTouch feel. Combining the FocusLynx Controller Hub with a new motor housing featuring our
QuickSync engagement system, the FocusLynx FT offers the best of both worlds.
FocusLynx Controller Hub
Optec has been developing and testing the next generation controller for the TCF Temperature
Compensating Focuser for over two years. The design goals were demanding and all encompassing.
With a nod to the future, we were able to incorporate every design goal requested:
199 Smith Street · Lowell, Michigan 49331 · U.S.A.
Telephone: 616-897-9351 · Fax: (616) 897-8229 · Toll Free: 888-488-0381
sales@optecinc.com · http://www.optecinc.com · www.optec.us
FocusLynx FT for FeatherTouch- Revision 2
FocusLynx FT with QuickSync
Design Goals
 Robust mountable case – no plastic
 Dual focuser capability
 Ethernet and WiFi connectivity
 Smartphone compatibility and control
 Simple serial connectivity for the hobbyist
 Pulse-Width Modulation control of stepper motors
 Higher focuser resolutions
 Higher torque for heavier payload capacity
 Temperature compensation
Nuts and Bolts
The FocusLynx system consists of several components that can be purchased individually or as a
complete package.
FocusLynx Controller
The basic FocusLynx controller is a small, all aluminum case measuring 5 x 3 x 1-inches. On the bottom
are well labeled connections for power, network, hand control, and serial cables. On top are two
connectors for the focusers to be controlled. All cables are standard off-the-shelf cables with the
exception of Optec’s proprietary USB/Serial cable which is included in the package.
FocusLynx Options
Out-of-the-box, the FocusLynx controller will provide digital control for one focuser stepper motor. A
second stepper board can be easily added to convert to dual focuser control. Dual focuser kits are
available providing everything needed to get started.
Also available in kits or as user-installed options are a WiFi add-on board for smartphone and laptop
access and an external Hand Control for users desiring push button ease and digital read-out.
Software Control and ASCOM
The FocusLynx system was built from the ground up to be fully compatible with ASCOM focuser
standards and allows multiple connections from multiple ASCOM clients. That means you can connect
up through the FocusLynx Commander (included), Maxim D/L, and FocusMax simultaneously without
having to disconnect and reconnect. Automation programs like ACP, CCD AutoPilot, and CCD
Commander can access the dual FocusLynx focusers with ease, regardless of the physical connection.
199 Smith Street · Lowell, Michigan 49331 · U.S.A.
Telephone: 616-897-9351 · Fax: (616) 897-8229 · Toll Free: 888-488-0381
sales@optecinc.com · http://www.optecinc.com · www.optec.us
FocusLynx FT for FeatherTouch- Revision 2
FocusLynx FT with QuickSync
Whether you choose serial, USB, Ethernet, or WiFi connectivity, all ASCOM
clients connect up easily, every time. Calibrating and aligning your
FeatherTouch focuser is as simple as entering the actual focuser position
and clicking the Sync button.
Android and iPhone Control
With the optional WiFi module direct control of both focusers is available
from your SmartPhone. Free applets are available from the Google Play and
the Apple Store.
199 Smith Street · Lowell, Michigan 49331 · U.S.A.
Telephone: 616-897-9351 · Fax: (616) 897-8229 · Toll Free: 888-488-0381
sales@optecinc.com · http://www.optecinc.com · www.optec.us
FocusLynx FT for FeatherTouch- Revision 2
FocusLynx FT with QuickSync
FocusLynx FT for FeatherTouch
While the FocusLynx system will control any unipolar stepper motor including the original TCF-S and
MicroTouch© motors, the PWM control circuitry really achieves peak performance with bi-polar motors.
When considering a replacement for the unipolar MicroTouch motor, Optec engineers considered the
most important needs for digital focusing today. Among the most significant:



High Resolution using smaller step sizes
More Power for heavier camera payloads
Temperature Compensation for fewer re-focus adjustments
With new information revealing the Critical Focus Zone is smaller than originally thought, higher
resolution and smaller step sizes are essential. The FocusLynx FT offers the highest resolution currently
available with 1-micron steps. As camera and instrument packages continue to become heavier, the
focuser must be able to move these heavier loads without slipping. Lab tests with a FeatherTouch 2.7inch focuser pushed 35-lbs. vertically without hesitation. FocusLynx FT incorporates a temperature
sensor at the telescope, where it belongs, and produces a much more reliable temperature
compensation algorithm for accurate automatic temperature adjustments. An easy-to-use Temperature
Compensation Wizard makes determining the system TC (temperature coefficient) simple without loss
of imaging time.
FocusLynx FT Motor Assembly
What really makes the FT motor assembly unique is QuickSync - a smooth clutch mechanism that allows
simple manual engagement of the focus motor. Rotate the QuickSync motor housing forward to engage
the motor and control the focuser electronically, then rotate the motor housing backward to disengage
the motor and resume manual fine focus.
QuickSync - Simple, elegant, and beautifully implemented.
The FT QuickSync motor assemblies are available in three sizes packaged with the FocusLynx controller,
power supply, and all required cables. The FT QuickSync motor assembly is also available separately as
an add-on for a second focuser package.
199 Smith Street · Lowell, Michigan 49331 · U.S.A.
Telephone: 616-897-9351 · Fax: (616) 897-8229 · Toll Free: 888-488-0381
sales@optecinc.com · http://www.optecinc.com · www.optec.us
FocusLynx FT for FeatherTouch- Revision 2
FocusLynx FT with QuickSync
FocusLynx FT QuickSync with FeatherTouch Focusers
199 Smith Street · Lowell, Michigan 49331 · U.S.A.
Telephone: 616-897-9351 · Fax: (616) 897-8229 · Toll Free: 888-488-0381
sales@optecinc.com · http://www.optecinc.com · www.optec.us
FocusLynx FT for FeatherTouch- Revision 2
FocusLynx FT with QuickSync
FocusLynx FT Package Options
FocusLynx FT is available in three models to match the various FeatherTouch focuser sizes.



FocusLynx FT20
FocusLynx FT30
FocusLynx FT40
- fits the classic 2-inch Feathertouch focusers
- fits the 2.5-inch, 2.7-inch, and 3-inch Feathertouch focusers
- fits the large 3.5-inch and 4-inch Feathertouch focusers
The FT20, FT30, and FT40 packages include the FocusLynx controller, power supply, cables, software,
and FT motor housing. A complete solution right out of the box, hardware and software installation
takes less than 10 minutes.
FocusLynx Package Contents
199 Smith Street · Lowell, Michigan 49331 · U.S.A.
Telephone: 616-897-9351 · Fax: (616) 897-8229 · Toll Free: 888-488-0381
sales@optecinc.com · http://www.optecinc.com · www.optec.us
FocusLynx FT for FeatherTouch- Revision 2
FocusLynx FT with QuickSync
Backward Compatibility for MicroTouch©
What if you already own a MicroTouch motor housing and want to continue using it? For owners of
existing MicroTouch motors, Optec offers a special low cost cable option to control the unipolar motor
of the original Starlight Instruments MicroTouch. While you won’t enjoy the higher resolution, higher
torque, and QuickSync convenience the FocusLynx FT offers, the FocusLynx controller can drive the
MicroTouch unipolar motor quite well with no other loss of performance.
Resolution remains at 6.5 microns per step for FeatherTouch classic Crayford focusers and 0.26 microns
per step for SCT Micro focusers.
A simple MicroTouch motor control cable can be made from any Ethernet Cat5 cable. Optec offers
complete packages which include the FocusLynx hub and this motor cable, or a full temperature probe
kit to allow temperature compensation with the FocusLynx controller and MicroTouch motor.
FocusLynx Controller Hub configured for MicroTouch motor.
(Shown with FeatherTouch MPA/TRF pinion assembly on Takahashi TOA-130)
199 Smith Street · Lowell, Michigan 49331 · U.S.A.
Telephone: 616-897-9351 · Fax: (616) 897-8229 · Toll Free: 888-488-0381
sales@optecinc.com · http://www.optecinc.com · www.optec.us
FocusLynx FT for FeatherTouch- Revision 2
FocusLynx FT with QuickSync
FocusLynx FT Webpage
Android Google Play
Apple iPhone App Store
© FeatherTouch copyright Starlight Instruments, LLC.
© MicroTouch copyright Starlight Instruments, LLC and Starizona.
199 Smith Street · Lowell, Michigan 49331 · U.S.A.
Telephone: 616-897-9351 · Fax: (616) 897-8229 · Toll Free: 888-488-0381
sales@optecinc.com · http://www.optecinc.com · www.optec.us
FocusLynx FT for FeatherTouch- Revision 2
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