Building a Cheap Thermocam

Check out this project to build your very own thermographic camera.

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Well, we are back from Maker Faire and (at least partially) recovered. We hope that if you were able to make it you swung by our booth and joined us for a soldering workshop (or three). We had an amazing time hanging out with some of our customers, exploring NYC, and checking out all the cool projects at Maker Faire. We'll have a full recap with photos and videos coming up in the next couple weeks. In the meantime, let's talk about a cool project - the Cheap Thermocam.

The Cheap Thermocam is a home-built thermographic camera that uses an Arduino UNO, a large and a medium servo, a laser card module, and a few other parts to create a DIY camera that is capable of taking themographic images. As you can see in the video above, it works very well for a thermographic camera that costs right around $150.

Right now the developer is working on a 3D model for a custom case from Ponoko so the project can be enclosed in a nice, finished design. Best off, the developer's website has detailed instructions, code and information to build your very own thermocam. Great work!

Comments 30 comments

  • Calif / about 13 years ago / 1

    It's always those few other parts that get you, expecially the $66 one.

  • UNTEngineer / about 13 years ago / 1

    Wonderful! I can totally use this, except without all the servos and motion controls. Open Source FLIR, baby. :)

  • SOISentinel / about 13 years ago * / 1

    The images look pretty good there. Best I've seen from similar imagers are thermopile array imagers $100 to $600 in 100pc quantity for 8x8 and 32x31 resolution respectively (as ordered cost, no markup).
    (Edit: And that's just the sensor, but you could use an arduino to interace without issue.)

  • pearmaster / about 13 years ago / 1

    Maybe I'm missing something, but what is the laser used for?

    • BB / about 13 years ago / 1

      I think it's to pin-point where on the image the heat is being sensed from.

  • vertikar / about 13 years ago / 1

    Looks like the site's down...

  • ChipC / about 13 years ago / 1

    This is cool, but I guess I got my hopes up thinking it was going to take the picture all at once. I'm dying to see someone develop a low-cost thermal imaging camera, even with low resolution...

    • Lowlight / about 13 years ago / 1

      So is Darpa.
      (so am I).

      • ChipC / about 13 years ago / 1

        Great article. If DARPA is pushing it then it might just happen. And then hopefully it'll quickly trickle down from the military... I'm looking to see it in the fire service. Personal thermal imagers are waaaaay too expensive...

      • Blacklab1 / about 13 years ago / 1

        I can see that being missed used quick! Already they are trying to prevent cam corders from using night vision with normal light blocking lens (I forget the correct name for the lens- but it was reported on Local News)- it lets you see under people's cloths. It makes you wonder why they are not using this at the airport security already. LOL.

  • hazmat / about 13 years ago / 1

    Essentially this project is in my neverending queue of in-progress projects- instead of using the very expensive Melexis module, I was planning on using a solar "cigarette lighter" - a small parabolic reflector, with a (lots cheaper version, SEN-09570) Melexis sensor at the focus.
    I'm not an Arduino fan- I was planning on using a PIC32, but the developer's GUI definitely looks like something I can leverage.

    • Why not try the best of both worlds then. The new PIC32 based Arduino boards. Faster, more memory, more features and what's more, less expensive than the Atmel stuff :-)

      • Member #220272 / about 13 years ago / 1

        If your capable of programing a pic why would you use a pic based arduino?

        • Sorry I thought that was obvious. If hazmat wants to try Arduino he can. If then decides it's not for him, the board can be configured for Pic32 only use. Simple really

          • Drod / about 13 years ago / 1

            In fact, being able to use these "duino" boards with other compilers it's a great thing. Here in Brazil, ready to use boards are more expensive than Arduino...

        • Drod / about 13 years ago * / 1

          Maybe because it's a free PIC32 compiler?

          • So is the light version of the MPLAB C32 compiler. (Free that is.)

            • Drod / about 13 years ago / 1

              Isn't it "non profit" only?

              • hazmat / about 13 years ago / 1

                No, it's not. I just looked over the license, as far as I can tell, the only usage restrictions are related to dangerous applications: "DANGEROUS APPLICATIONS. Licensee warrants that Licensee will not use Software in a dangerous [...] without the express prior written consent [...]"

                • Drod / about 13 years ago / 1

                  Well, if it's not, I'll give it a try, hehe
                  Oh! And great news! The new "Arduino Due"!!!

                  • Speaking of the "Due" I feel a pun coming on...
                    Arduino's embracing the 32bit community with 'Open ARMs'

                    • Blacklab1 / about 13 years ago / 1

                      I know this is a newbe question but: What does that mean for all the shields that are already out there on the market? does that mean we have to get new sheilds for our pet project if we go over to the new Arms? from what I can see on the new board it's not like the Mega.

                      • Ben121 / about 13 years ago / 1

                        Massimo has promised to continue placing pins crooked until the bitter end. Your shields are safe.

  • Myself / about 13 years ago / 1

    So it's a single-pixel IR thermometer, scanned across a plane to build up an image. Cool, but I don't know if I'd call it a camera. An imager, perhaps, but as there's no focal plane I don't think it counts as a camera.

    • BB / about 13 years ago / 1

      That's splitting hairs. Is it really different than a CCD array that you have to shift data serially from? In this case the pixels are performed in a sweep, much in the same manner, only over a greater amount of time for a fixed subject. There are also other single sensing-elements cameras, as MIT has shown in their single pixel camera designs. You can even do it yourself with a matrix of light-source blocking elements and solving for the pixels from the measured values intensity.
      The only difference between a traditional "camera" is that the latter exposes all sensing elements for the same amount of time. In some ways that can be a detrimental limitation brought on by the limitations of hardware.

      • TimZaman / about 13 years ago / 2

        That's not splitting hairs at all. I think it's really cool that he manages with such simplicity, and the software looks good too. But it's not an "IR" camera, more an IR scanner.

        • The "cameras" on the Viking Mars landers used oscillating mirrors to scan a single photodetector.
          I remember a group picture of the crew that built it with some crew members repeated. Theose on one side of the group had run behind the camera and posed again on the other side while the camera was scanning.

      • I'd tend to agree with TimZaman. Cameras typically have a focal point, unlike imagers and scanners.

        • Ben121 / about 13 years ago / 1

          In the classical historic sense, no question.
          Camera Obscure is a single lens through which an image is reversed and focused.
          But things move forward, and any means to recreate the effect approaches the definition.
          This is a 2d scanner.
          I worked on a 3d scanner (with focus you can measure distance.)

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