TCam-Mini: Adding Wireless To Flir Lepton Thermal Imaging Sensors

With how expensive thermal cameras are, why not build your own? This is the goal with which [Dan Julio] set out a while ago, covering the project in great detail. While the ultimate goal is to create a stand-alone solution, with its own screen, storage and processing, the TCam-Mini is an interesting platform. Using the 160×120 pixel FLIR Lepton 3.5 thermal sensor, and combining it with a custom PCB and ESP32 module for wireless, he created a wireless thermal camera called the TCam-Mini along with accompanying software that can display the radiometric data.

The project is available on GitHub, as well as as a GroupGets crowd-funding campaign, where $50 gets one a TCam-Mini board, minus the $199 Lepton 3.5 sensor. Not cheap, but quite a steal relative to e.g. the FLIR One Pro camera add-on module. Compared to the aforementioned FLIR One Pro, there’s a definite benefit in having a more portable unit that is not reliant on a smartphone and accompanying FLIR app. Being able to load the radiometric data directly into a desktop application for processing makes it a closer match to the professional thermal cameras which [Dan] states that he’d like to get as close to in terms of features as possible.

Recently [Dan] has also begun to further characterize these Lepton sensors, in order to see whether their accuracy can be improved from the rated +/- 5-10 °C. For this he repurposed an old in-ear thermometer calibration device. Along with tweaking the ESP32 firmware, there is still a lot that can be done with the TCam-Mini, but it sure looks like a fun project to tinker with if one is into Leptons.

Hot Camera Contest: Build A Battery Powered Thermal Camera

Here’s a challenge for all you hardware hackers out there. Peter Jansen has opened up the Hot Camera Contest on to use a thermal imaging camera in a battery-powered project.

The challenge here is simple. Use a Flir Lepton thermal imaging camera module in a battery-powered configuration. There’s a catch, though: this is a project to use the Lepton in radiometric mode, where the camera spits out an actual temperature value for each pixel. Yes, this is a documented feature in the Flir Lepton module, but so far very few people are using it, and no one has done it with a small, battery-powered device.

The rules for this challenge are to use the Flir Lepton 2.5 in radiometric mode using either the Raspberry Pi Zero W or ESP32. Any software in this challenge must spit out absolute temperature values in a text format, and there must be a demonstration of putting the Flir Lepton into low-power mode. There are two challenges here, one for the Raspi and one for the ESP32; and winner will be named for each.

Getting More from a Fascinating Sensor

The Flir Lepton is a tiny little thermal camera that’s been available to the Maker community for some time now, first through GroupGets and now through Sparkfun. For a pair of Benjamins, the specs are very impressive: the Lepton has a resolution of 60×80 pixels and everything is can be read over an SPI port. The Lepton gives any project thermal imaging, and the PureThermal board turns the Lepton into a USB device.

Peter Jansen is the creator of the Open Source Science Tricorder (yes, it’s a tricorder) which took Fourth Prize in the 2014 Hackaday Prize. You can understand how he became interested in portable, and we’re sure whatever project he has in mind for this battery-powered Flir will be awesome.

This really is a great example of what the community is capable of. The goal here is to create useful Open Source drivers for some very interesting hardware, and there’s some prizes to sweeten the pot. Peter has a $125 Sparkfun gift card on offer for each of the two winners. And the challenge of solving a tricky problem and making designs easier for others is a powerful motivator. Who doesn’t like a challenge?

Dead EBay Thermal Camera Is An Organ Donor

[Damien] wanted to build a thermal camera. He was dismayed about how much a microbolometer costs so he salvaged one from a dead FLIR he picked up on eBay for 75 pounds. That’s about $100, and less than half what a new sensor costs. He selected one that didn’t turn on, which he hoped meant the Lepton 3 160×120 pixel microbolometer would not be the reason the camera failed.

Once it arrived, he pulled the pricey module, connected it to a breakout board and a Raspberry Pi. His gamble paid off; it worked fine. That wasn’t the end of the project, though. He went on to make a portable, self-contained camera with a rechargeable battery and an LCD screen.

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DIY Thermal Camera That’s Better And Cheaper Than A FLIR

A few years ago, FLIR unleashed a new line of handheld thermal imagers upon the world. In a manufacturing triumph, the cheapest of these thermal imaging cameras contained the same circuitry as the one that cost six times as much. Much hacking ensued. Once FLIR figured out the people who would be most likely to own a thermal imaging camera can figure out how to upload firmware, the party was over. That doesn’t mean we’re stuck with crippled thermal imaging cameras, though: we can build our own, with better specs than what the big boys are selling.

[Max] has been working on his DIY thermal imager for a while now. We first saw it about a year ago, and the results were impressive. This thermal camera is built around the FLIR Lepton sensor, providing thermal images with a resolution of 60 by 80 pixels. These thermal images were combined with a VGA resolution camera to produce the very cool enhanced imagery the commercial unit will get you. There’s also a 1/4-20 threaded insert on the bottom of [Max]’s version, making it far more useful in any experimental setup.

Now [Max] has unleashed his DIY Thermocam on the world of Open Hardware, and anyone can build their own for about €400 (about $425). The components required for this build include a FLIR Lepton sensor easily sourced from the Digikey or GroupGets, an Arducam Mini, a Teensy 3.6, and a mishmash of components that are probably kicking around your parts drawers.

If you want an overview of this project before digging in, [Max] has a project overview (PDF warning) going over the build. This is one of the better DIY projects we’ve seen recently, and the documentation is fantastic. If you’re thinking about buying one of those fancy thermal imaging cameras, here you go — this one is just as good and half off.

Hackaday Links: May 31, 2015

Back in the mid-70s, [Paul Horowitz] (who has an incredible Wikipedia entry, by the way) started teaching Physics 123 at Harvard. Simple electronic circuits, solving problems with silicon; simple stuff like that. His lecture and lab notes started getting a following, and after Xeroxing a few dozen copies, he realized he had written a book. It was The Art of Electronics, and Ladyada interviewed this master of hand drawn schematics. A great interview and great camera work, too.

Like hackathons? How about one at CERN? It’s happening October 2 through October 4. The aim this year is to have a humanitarian and social impact thanks to technology. The projects last year were very good; everything from cosmic ray detectors to a $10 inflatable fridge for field operations.

You want viral advertising for your movie? This is how you do viral advertising for your movie. It’s Hackerman’s Hacking Tutorials, and we’d really like to know how they did the 80s graphics with modern computers. It’s not like you can just go out and buy a Video Toaster these days…

Previously available only through group buys, the Flir Lepton module is now available at Digikey.

We have hit the singularity. We have stared into the abyss, and the abyss has stared into us. There was a kickstarter to fund a trailer for another, bigger kickstarter. Relevant xkcd right here.

The Tymkrs had a lamb roast, and what better way to do that than with a huge lathe? Put some charcoal on the ways, turn it at a low RPM, and eventually you’ll have a meal. Bonus points for the leaf blower manifold, a gold star for carving it with a sawzall.

Real-Time Thermal Projection Saves Your Tastebuds From The Hot Stuff

With another wave of holiday parties about to land on our doorstep, we still haven’t found a great way to stop scalding our tongues each time [Uncle Dave] pours us an enticing cup of boiling cocoa.

Thankfully, [Ken] has both you and your holiday guests covered with a clever trick that takes the data from a FLIR ONE and projects a heat profile onto the surface it’s observing. Here, [Ken] has superimposed his FLIR ONE data onto his kitchen table, and he’s able to visualize 2D heat profiles in near-real-time.

If you haven’t started quantifying yourself recently (and what are you waiting for?), the FLIR ONE is yet another opportunity to help you become more aware of your surroundings than you are now. It’s a thermal camera attachment for your iPhone, allowing you to see into the infrared band and look at the world in terms of heat. We’ve covered the FLIR ONE before, and we’ve seen ways of making it both clearer and more hacker-friendly.

As we tip our hats to [Ken], we’d say he’s a generous fellow. This hack is a clever inversion of the normal use case where you might whip out your FLIR-ONE-enabled iPhone and warn your cousins not to try the hot chocolate for a few more minutes. With [Ken’s] solution, the data is right there on your condiments and in plain sight of everyone, not just for you with your sweet, Star-Trek-augmented iPhone.

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Simple Thermal Imager With A Lepton Module

[Andrew] designed a simple thermal imager using the FLIR Lepton module, an STM32F4 Nucleo development board, and a Gameduino 2 LCD. The whole design is connected using jumper wires, making it easy to duplicate if you happen to have all the parts lying around (who doesn’t have a bunch of thermal imaging modules lying around!?).

The STM32F4 communicates with the Lepton module using a driver that [Andrew] wrote over a 21MHz SPI bus. The driver parses SPI packets and assembles frames as they are received. Images can be mapped to pseudocolor using a couple different color maps that [Andrew] created. His code also supports min/max scaling to map the pseudocolor over the dynamic range present in the image.

Unfortunately the Lepton module that [Andrew]’s design is based is only sold in large quantities. [Andrew] suggests ripping one out of a FLIR ONE iPhone case which are more readily available. We look forward to seeing what others do with these modules once they are a bit easier to buy.