DIY Thermal Imaging Done Low-Tech Style

DIY thermal imaging heat map

[Niklas Roy] has always wanted to try out thermal imaging and saw his opportunity when he received one of those handheld IR thermometers as a gift. But not content with just pointing it at different spots and looking at the temperatures on the LCD display, he decided to use it as the basis for a scanning, thermal imaging system that would display a heat map of a chosen location on his laptop.

DIY thermal imaging system
DIY thermal imaging system

He still wanted to to be able to use the IR thermometer as normal at a later date so cutting it open was not an option. Instead he firmly mounted a webcam to it pointing at the LCD display. He then wrote software on his laptop to process the resulting image and figure out what temperature was being displayed.

Once he got that working, he next put the thermometer on a platform with servos connected to an Arduino for slowly rotating it in the horizontal and vertical directions, also under control of the software on his laptop. Each time the thermometer measures the temperature of a spot, the software decodes the temperature on the LCD display and then tells the Arduino to use the servos to point the thermometer at the next spot to be measured. Each measurement takes a little time, so scanning an entire location as 70×44 spots takes around a half hour. But the end result is a heat map drawn on the laptop, done by a device that is low-tech. [Editor’s Snark: Because attaching a webcam and processing the images is “low-tech” these days.] He can overlay the heat map on a normal photo to see at a glance where the hot spots are.

The software he wrote is available on GitHub and the video below shows it in action. We’ve got to admit, it’s pretty awesome to watch. You can even see the heat map being filled in one measurement at a time.

[Niklas] is somewhat of a regular here on Hackaday and his projects span an impressive range of creative ideas. Check out his massive music construction machine, or his RC beer crate delivery robot, or his supersized DIY pinball machine. Whatever you do [Niklas], keep those creative juices flowing!

15 thoughts on “DIY Thermal Imaging Done Low-Tech Style

  1. Seems like you could improve the perception of speed by making a low-res/big step pass at the scene and then interpolating. Would probably take marginally longer to get the full resolution, but would give a usable image quickly. Brainfart prevents me from recalling proper term – early web used interpolated gifs, pov-ray has a mosaic rendering mode, that kind of thing.

  2. The black and decker IR thermometer I have uses a color shift light to show warmer or cooler areas. I thought about just recording that for a similar effect.

    No time, but this is proof of concept for what I wanted to do. Nice job.

  3. Nice idea & well carried off.
    Occurs a variant of this applicable to fire-fighters on the
    sides of their support tender to drive ahead scanning for hot spots etc.
    Did a search of several patent variants, all covered it seems…

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