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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Building the World’s Smallest Thermal Camera

[Mike Harrison], the mastermind behind electricstuff.co.uk has just finished reverse engineering the Lepton module found in thermal imaging cameras — he then created his own, and perhaps the world’s smallest thermal camera.

He took apart the Flir One iPhone thermal imaging unit and pulled out the magical part that makes it all possible — the Lepton module. It only has a resolution of 80×60 pixels, but in the world of thermal imaging, it’s pretty decent. You can buy it for $250 (for the module) in order quantities of 1000 straight from Flir.

His blog has all the details about figuring out how to interface with the module, and it is really quite impressive. Once he had it all understood he set out to build it into a small thermal camera. The case is machined out of black acrylic, and an iPod nano screen is used as the display, as 80×60 scales up nicely to the 320×240 resolution of the iPod. A home-brew PCB connects to the module, has a voltage regulator and charging circuit for the lithium ion battery — which is then connected to a prototype iPod nano PCB with some of the features removed — he says it was a nightmare connecting it all, and we don’t blame him, that’s some serious hacking skill!

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