Review: Mini AMG8833 Thermal Camera

In our ceaseless quest to bring you the best from the cheaper end of the global electronics markets, there are sometimes gadgets that we keep an eye on for a while because when they appear they’re just a little bit too pricey to consider cheap.

Today’s subject is just such a device, it’s a minimalist infra-red camera using the 8 pixel by 8 pixel Panasonic AMG8833 thermal sensor. This part has been around for a while, but even though any camera using it has orders of magnitude less performance than more accomplished models it has remained a little too expensive for a casual purchase. Indeed, these mini cameras were somewhere above £50 ($70) when they first came to our attention, but have now dropped to the point at which they can be found for somewhere over £30 ($42). Thirty quid is cheap enough for a punt on a thermal camera, so off went the order to China and the expected grey parcel duly arrived.

The interface on this camera is about as simple as it gets.
The interface on this camera is about as simple as it gets.

It’s a little unit, 40 mm x 35 mm x 18 mm, constructed of two laser-cut pieces of black plastic held together by brass stand-offs that hold a PCB between them, and on the front is a cut-out for the sensor while on the rear is one for the 35mm OLED display.At the side on the PCB is a micro USB socket which serves only as a power supply. It’s fair to say that this is a tiny unit.

Applying power from a USB battery bank, the screen comes up with a square colour thermal picture and a colour to temperature calibration stripe to its left. The colours adapt to the range of temperatures visible to the sensor, and there is a crosshair in the centre of the picture for which the temperature in Celsius is displayed below the picture. It’s a very straightforward and intuitive interface that requires no instruction, which is handy because the device has none. Continue reading “Review: Mini AMG8833 Thermal Camera”

Hands-On Review: TCam-Mini WiFi Thermal Imager

A thermal camera is a tool I have been wanting to add to my workbench for quite a while, so when I learned about the tCam-Mini, a wireless thermal camera by Dan Julio, I placed an order. A thermal imager is a camera whose images represent temperatures, making it easy to see things like hot and cold spots, or read the temperature of any point within the camera’s view. The main (and most expensive) component of the tCam-Mini is the Lepton 3.5 sensor, which sits in a socket in the middle of the board. The sensor is sold separately, but the campaign made it available as an add-on.

Want to see how evenly a 3D printer’s heat bed is warming up, or check whether a hot plate is actually reflowing PCBs at the optimal temperature? How about just seeing how weird your pets would look if you had heat vision instead of normal eyes? A thermal imager like the tCam-mini is the tool for that, but it’s important to understand exactly how the tCam-mini works. While it may look like a webcam, it does not work like one.

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Pinephone Gets Thermal Imaging Backpack

When you buy a mass-market mobile phone, you’re making the decision to trust a long list of companies with your private data. While it’s difficult for any one consumer to fully audit even a single piece of consumer technology, there have been efforts to solve this problem to a degree. The Pinephone is one such example, with a focus on openness and allowing users to have full control over the hardware. [Martijn Braam] is a proud owner of such a device, and took advantage of this attitude to add a thermal imager to the handset.

The build is not a difficult one, thanks to the expansion-friendly nature of the Pinephone hardware. The rear of the phone sports six pogo pins carrying an I2C bus as well as power. [Martin] started by modifying the back cover of the phone with contacts to interface with the pogo pins. With this done, the MLX90640 thermal imager was attached to the case with double-sided tape and wired up to the interface.

While the 32×24 output from the sensor isn’t going to help you build cutting edge heat-seeking missiles, it’s an affordable sensor with good performance for low-end thermal imaging tasks. We’ve featured teardowns of thermal imaging hardware before, too.

A Thermal Camera With A Vintage Twist

Nowadays we often value the superb design of vintage technology. It is, therefore, laudable when a broken piece of old electronics is given a new purpose. These types of builds are exactly [Martin Mander’s] cup of tea as he confirmed by turning a 1979 Apollo microwave monitor into a thermal camera (video embedded below).

Intrigued by its unique design, [Martin Mander] picked up the original microwave monitor at a secondhand sale, although the device was not exactly in mint condition. Supposedly this type of detector was used to monitor the exposure of personnel to microwave radiation in an industrial environment.

After removing all the guts, he replaced them with a Raspberry Pi Zero W, Adafruit thermal camera, 1.3″ TFT display, and a USB battery pack. It is especially nice that [Martin Mander] was able to mount all the components without relying on 3D prints but instead, he hand-carved some custom panels and brackets from waste plastic.

The software is based on Python and automatically uploads the captured images to an Adafruit.IO dashboard. With 8 x 8 pixels the resolution of the sensor is not great but by using bicubic interpolation he was able to convert it to a 32 x 32 image which was enough to take some interesting pictures of his cat and other household items.

It is also worthwhile to check out some of [Martin Manders] other retro-tech mods like his cassette Pi IoT scroller.

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Giant LEDs, Ruby Lasers, Hologram Displays, And Other Cool Stuff Seen At Maker Faire Rome

Hackers from all over Europe descended upon Rome last weekend for the Maker Faire that calls itself the “European Edition”. This three-day event is one of the largest Maker Faires in the world — they had 27,000 school students from all over Italy and Europe attend on Friday alone.

This was held at Fiera Roma, a gigantic conference complex two train stops south of the Rome airport — kind of in the middle of nowhere. I was told anecdotally that this is the largest event the complex hosts but have no data to back up that claim. One thing’s for certain, three days just wasn’t enough for me to enjoy everything at the show. There was a huge concentration of really talented hardware hackers on hand, many who you’ll recognize as creators of awesome projects regularly seen around Hackaday.

Here’s a whirlwind tour of some of my favorites. On that list are a POV holographic display, giant cast-resin LEDs, an optical-pump ruby laser built out of parts from AliExpress, blinky goodness in cube-form, and the Italian audience’s appreciation for science lectures (in this case space-related). Let’s take a look.

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A Visual Infrared Thermometer That Runs Off Your Laptop

A common measurement for circuits is heat dissipation inspection. While single point thermometers do the trick, they can be quite annoying to use. Meanwhile, a thermal imaging camera is often out of the budget for hobbyists. How about building your own visual thermometer for cheap? That’s what [Thomas Fischl] decided to do, using an infrared thermal sensor array (MLX90640) connected through a PIC16LF1455 to a host computer. The computer handles the temperature calculation and visualization of hot spots, gathered from data collected by the IR pixel.

The interface board, USB2FIR, has full access to MLX90640 memory and can handle bulk transfer for faster data transmission of the raw sensor data collected by the pixel. A USB driver is needed to access the board – once the data is fetched, the visualizations can be created from a Matplotlib and TKinter GUI showing frame data and a real time heat map with minimum, maximum, and central temperature.

The hardware isn’t complicated, since the board relies on several ICs for processing the sensor data and immediately sends over the data to be processed externally. With some modifications – a 3D-printed enclosure, for instance – this can easily be made into a discreet tool for heat detection.

Hackaday Podcast 037: Two Flavors Of Robot Dog, Hacks That Start As Fitness Trackers, Clocks That Wound Themselves, And Helicopter Chainsaws

Hackaday Editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams take a look at the latest hacks from the past week. We keep seeing awesome stuff and find ourselves wanting to buy cheap welders, thermal camera sensors, and CNC parts. There was a meeting of the dog-shaped robots at ICRA and at least one of them has super-fluid movements. We dish on 3D printed meat, locking up the smartphones, asynchronous C routines, and synchronized clocks.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (60 MB or so.)

Continue reading “Hackaday Podcast 037: Two Flavors Of Robot Dog, Hacks That Start As Fitness Trackers, Clocks That Wound Themselves, And Helicopter Chainsaws”