A Better, Cheaper Smartphone Thermal Imager

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For the last few years, the prices of infrared thermal imaging devices have fallen through the floor, down from tens of thousands of dollars a decade ago, to just about a grand for a very high-resolution device. This dramatic drop in price was brought about by new sensors, and at the very low-end, there are quite a few very inexpensive low resolution thermal imaging devices.

The goal now, it seems, is to figure out some way to add these infrared devices to a smartphone or tablet. There have been similar projects and Kickstarters before, but [Marius]‘s entry for The Hackaday Prize is undercutting all of them, and doing it in a way that’s far, far too clever.

Previous ‘thermal imagers on a smartphone’ projects include the Mu Thermal Camera, a $300 Kickstarter reward that turned out to be vaporware. The IR-Blue is yet another Kickstarter we’ve seen, and something that’s actually shipping for about $200. [Marius] expects his thermal imager to cost just $99. He’s getting away with this pricing with a little bit of crazy electronics, and actually designing a minimum viable product.

Both the Mu Thermal Camera and the IR-Blue communicate with their smartphone host via Bluetooth. [Marius] felt radio modules were unnecessary and inspired by the HiJack system where low-power sensors are powered and read through a headphone jack, realized he could do better.

Always the innovator, [Marius] realized he could improve upon the HiJack power harvesting solution, and got everything working with a prototype. The actual hardware in the sensor is based on an engineering sample of the Omron D6T-1616L IR array module, a 16×16 array of IR pixels displaying thermal data on a portable device at 4 FPS.

It’s interesting, for sure, and half the price and quadruple the resolution of the IR-Blue. Even if [Marius] doesn’t win The Hackaday Prize, he’s at least got a winning Kickstarter on his hands. Video of the 8×8 pixel prototype below.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is an entry in The Hackaday Prize. Build something awesome and win a trip to space or hundreds of other prizes.


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Cheap-Thermocam Gets an Impressive Rehaul

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[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.

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$40 Lens Hack Gives Your FLIR Higher Clarity

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[Josh Oster-Morris's] FLIR camera can see a bit more clearly now that he’s hacked it to have its own makeshift “macro” mode. You may remember [Josh] from his power distribution Motobrain project. He’s still improving the Motobrain, and he wanted to better understand the thermal characteristics of the high current draws (upwards of 100amps!)

After reading that the FLIR 4  could be hacked into a better version, [Josh] immediately purchased his own. The FLIR is, however, limited at close-range imaging, because the resolution of the FLIR’s microbolometer is relatively low.  He had fortunately decided to stay tuned in to [Mike's] YouTube channel and saw his follow-up video a few days later on refocusing the FLIR camera with an external lens. [Josh] hit up Amazon for a Gallium Arsenide lens normally used for CO2 lasers, and found one for around $40. He then mounted this lens into a simple paper frame held together by tape and staples, and fitted it onto the FLIR.

After you’ve checked out [Josh's] blog for more examples of how astoundingly clear the images become, check out [Mike's] video detailing the hack below.

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DIY Thermal Imaging Camera

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Thermal imaging cameras – those really useful devices that give you Predator vision – are incredible tools. If you’re looking for heat escaping your house through a window, or just trying to figure out where your electronics project will explode next, they’re invaluable, if expensive, tools. [Kaptein QK] figured out an easy and cheap way to make your own thermal imaging camera using nothing just a few dollars worth of parts.

[Kaptein] based his camera off of a non-contact IR temperature gun. This device is useful for spot checking temperatures, but can’t produce an IR image like it’s $1000 cousins. By taking the thermopile out of this temperature gun, adding an op-amp, an A/D converter, and connecting it to an Arduino Nano with pan and tilt servos, [Kaptein] was able to slowly scan the thermopile over a scene and generate an image.

In the video below, you can see [Kaptein]‘s scanning camera in action reading the ambient temperature and creating an imaging program for his PC. It works very well, and there a lot more [Kaptein] can improve on this system; getting rid of the servos and moving to mirrors would hopefully speed everything up, and replacing the 8-bit grayscale display with colors would give a vastly improved dynamic range.

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Manufacturer-Crippled Flir E4 Thermal Camera Hacked to Perform as High-End Model

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Last month, [Mike] took a look at the Flir E4 thermal imaging camera. It’s a great tool for those occasions when you need the vision of a Predator, but what he found inside was substantially cooler: it seems the engineers behind the Flir E4 made their lives easier by making the circuits inside the $1000 E4 the same as the $6000 Flir E8.

This only means one thing, and [Mike] has delivered. He’s upgraded the firmware in the Flir E4 to the E8, giving it a vastly increased resolution – 80×40 for the E4 to 320×240 for the E8.

The hack itself is as easy as putting the serial number of the E4 in a config file, zipping a few files up, and installing it with the Flir tools. An amazingly simple mod (with an awesome teardown video) that turns a $1000 thermal imaging camera into the high-end $6000 model.

From [Mike]‘s

Hackaday Links: September 1, 2013

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[Anton] has been doing some Commodore 64 Datasette experiments. He managed to connect the C64 audio traces to his smartphone and use it for tape playback.

Not wanting to actually disassemble his Mendel 3D printer, [SteveDC] figured out how to make extenders that increase his build height by about 40%.

We have fond memories of owning an 8088 PC. We did a lot of experimental programming on it but never anything as impressive as getting the TCP/IP stack to run on it. Then again, we’re not sure there was such a thing back when we owned the 10 MHz hardware. That’s right, the microcontrollers we mess around with now days are much faster than that old beast was.

When he goes running at night [Tall-drinks] straps a pico projector to his chest. We guess you’d call the readout a heads-up display… but it’s really more heads-down since it’s projecting on the pavement.

See how things heat up as a Raspberry Pi boots. This video was made using a thermal imaging camera to help diagnose a misbehaving board.

We don’t have very many trinkets on our desk (that would steal space normally reserved for clutter). But be would happily make room for this motorcycle model made from VCR parts (translated).

Repairing a thermal imaging camera

[Mike] got his hands on this thermal imaging camera which is designed for use by Firefighters. As he’s demonstrating in the image above, it clips to a helmet and has a display what will let rescuers see through heavy smoke. But this one isn’t working right so he cracked it open and repaired the damaged board.

The hour-long video (embedded after the break) is quite interesting. He starts with a disassembly of the unit, before diving head-first into trouble shooting. There is a PCB inside that fills the entire U-shaped enclosure. The thermal sensor’s habit of cutting out seems to be a symptom of this design. There is one weak point where the board is very narrow. Flexing or vibrating that section will reset the sensor, and [Mike] ends up replacing a couple of components before the thing is fixed. These include a resistor and a ferrite bead both of which are suspected of having cracks due to that board flexing. The rest of the video is spent with an EEVblog-style look that the components and the construction.

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