Thermal Vision HUD Isn’t Only For Fighter-Jets!

In case you weren’t aware, thermal vision units have seen huge price reductions lately. There’s a few on the market for under $300! While that might still seem expensive, remember, it’s thermal-freaking-vision. [Tim] bought a Seek Thermal as soon as it was available, and just recently finished his first project with it — giving his car a thermal HUD for driving at night.

The Seek Thermal is a small thermal imaging unit that has a micro USB attachment for phones. Simply plug it in, and your phone becomes the preview window. But for mounting on your car, you can’t have it behind a window, because most glass is not transparent to heat wavelengths, so [Tim] had to get creative.

He designed and 3D printed a magnetic mount for it to sit on the hood of his car. But in the case any debris from the road hit it, he wanted to protect the lens. So he started looking up thermally transparent materials — turns out they’re really expensive.

The most typical material used for a thermal window on factory equipment is GaAs (Gallium Arsenide) or ZnSe (Zinc Selenide) — both with pretty hefty price tags. So [Tim] started doing some research of his own. It turns out some plastic grocery bags are actually quite thermally transparent — the trick was finding one that was optically clear. He tested everything he could get his hands on, and eventually found a plastic photo sleeve that did the trick — unfortunately it’s not going to provide that much protection…

The future is here.

37 thoughts on “Thermal Vision HUD Isn’t Only For Fighter-Jets!

    1. He’s Canadian which next to United Kingdom is the next in list for shouldn’t be making such mistakes.. Followed by Americans, then everyone else because everyone wants the baby language to be the neutral dialect..

    1. Exactly! Looking to the screen down there might cause more distraction than without using it at all. This information should be an overlay inside your field of view not outside it.
      This is a very good application for augmented reality glasses..

        1. The major concern for most hackers should be whether you can make it work, not if some loser at the state capitol wrote a bad law. That being said, you do have to worry about legality, but I believe it should be mostly from the perspective of getting bad laws changed.

  1. Can this be used for autonomous vehicles? Like a heat seeking missile, have the car follow the other vehicle in front of you while you take a nap or watch the scenery or take a selfie lol.

    Also, they are great for stealing peoples PIN numbers at the check-out counter…or so I’ve heard.

  2. Does it show deer hiding on the woods, waiting for my car to go by? The whistles don’t work, right now I relying on the “magical” protection provided by a piece of horn left behind by one I hit last year…….
    So far it’s kept them away, but I would rather put my faith in some real magic…

    1. I feel your pain, I’ve got ‘roos to deal with. I do the best I can with a pair of spot lamps on the bull bar. Per the video, if the ambient temp is roughly body temp, we’re not going to see our mammals. Perhaps it’ll work better at night.

  3. You might be able to use a piece of silicon as a window as well, a little but tougher and you can make a waterproof enclosure. You will loose some sensitivity since the transmission is not great a the wavelengths they are sensitive at.

  4. I noticed while working at Wescam that many plastics are quite transparent. For instance, a plastic electric fan with white blades was easy to see clearly through with a 3 to 5 micron MWIR camera, even when it wasn’t moving. The windows used for high performance stabilized camera systems are indeed the expensive ones mentioned, but when making a US$250k on up (and WAY up) product, ’tis worth the money. Kudos for finding more personally affordable options!

  5. Thin and PE should do it? PLA is pretty transparent to IR too, but that may be harder to come by in a foil. 3D print (or otherwise) an enclosure with a window that you cover with your foil of choice.

    1. A few thoughts come to mind WRT windows:

      It’s probably worth mentioning that the fresnel lenses used in PIR sensors are made using PE. As a point of interest; a place I worked at was using PE (not much different from cutting board material) to make LWIR/mm-wave fresnel lenses. Doesn’t have to be clear to visible light to work at LWIR…

      My guess is the biggest challenges for a PE “window” are:
      1) getting a decent optical surface finish in such a material
      2) how thick you can be, before the attenuation gets too high for such use

      I’d personally like to try this stuff:
      http://www.edmundoptics.com/optics/windows-diffusers/specialty-windows/infrared-ir-material-windows/2043/?ref=related-products

      Plastics are cheaper than mineral lenses, anyway, and aren’t hygroscopic (and water soluble, lol) like NaCl. Kinda ruins your optical surface finish when that happens :-)

      -N

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