Cheap-Thermocam Gets an Impressive Rehaul


[Max Ritter] is a 21 year old student of information technology at the University of Applied Science at Weingarten, Germany. Three years ago he brought us the DIY Cheap-Thermocam, a tool for thermal imaging that cost <$100. Since then he’s made a few upgrades.

The original Cheap-Thermocam made use of an Arduino, the sensor from a thermometer gun and a few XY servos. In about 2 minutes the XY servos can scan and measure 1344 points using the thermometer’s sensor, creating a heat-vision map of 42 x 32 pixels — not amazing, but it worked — and it was cheap!

The new version (V3) has its own ARM Cortex M3 processor, it measures 3072 points in 2 minutes from -70°C to 380°C with an accuracy of 0.5°C, and it exports its images at a resolution of 640 x 480 –close to commercial offerings! It’s not capable of real-time scanning, but for the majority of purposes you need one of these for — it’s really not that necessary.

Here’s a video from the first generation, which you can get the plans for free from his website.

It’s really cool seeing the development of something that we covered years ago come to market — we wish [Max] the best of luck continuing to advance the Cheap-Thermocam!



  1. Lars says:

    I almost started something like this, but then I got a FLIR E4, hacked into a E8 (320×240) so my thermal camera need is satisfied for now…

  2. John says:

    It would be nice if he did more on the site other than to sell the crap. What has happened to DIY? Everybody doing bussiness these days and running kickstarters left and right.

  3. cube says:

    Wouldn’t using something like hilbert curve for the scanning pattern save some time on the servo returning movements?

  4. Tom K says:

    Very cool, but 640×480 = 307 200, not 3072.
    Is it interpolated from 64×48?

  5. Tom says:

    This type of scanning-type IR imaging is a very interesting approach for large objects.
    With the scanning action, you can get high-resolution images of larges objects, where one pixel corresponds to a relatively big spot on the object.

    However, for many applications you need medium-high resolution images of small objects – like SMD parts on a PCB or wires in an electrical installation.

    And then it looks like this scanning-type camera is not useful. The minimum spot size is just too large.

  6. Paul says:

    Did you mean 307200 pixels? Cause that would be 640 x 480 or does it interpolate x100?

    • Somun says:

      Yes it is really 10x digital zoom. Just like old crappy digital cameras.

      I guess the idea is to lure the potential customer with “better than Flir” resolution :)

      • Whatnot says:

        Makes sense since the problem with the cheap scan is that there is a minimum time to take a reading, and if you increased resolution 100 times it would also increase the time 100 times. And the time issue is not the MCU but the sensor.

  7. kendall14 says:

    That is awesome. It could be possibly made more like those fancy FLIR cameras if he put a mirror on a servo and have the servo move to put the ir senor or the webcam inline with the object so that the images could be stacked with little offset. Just a thought.

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