Introduction: 3D Printed Digital Night Vision (The OpenScope)

I love light, physics, optics, and electronics. I started designing night vision optics a few years ago when I got into playing airsoft with some buddies. After a couple miserable night games, I was inspired to build something better than a flashlight. Since night vision is typically expensive to buy, I chose to build a digital system and it ended up working out great! Thus, my love for building optics (particularly night vision) was born.

You can also check out one of my older digital night vision optic instructables here:

Night vision is actually much easier (and cheaper) to make than you might think and can be done using nothing more than a few off the shelf parts. Since it's a digital system, you don't need a tube or a fancy power supply. Also, unlike real night vision (image intensified), it can even be used in the daytime. There are tons of instructables and other resources about building digital night vision, but it's often hard to make because of the hardware or lack of a cohesive enclosure. With 3D printing, I've been able to solve those issues and experiment with designing a digital monocular that I've named...The OpenScope.

The OpenScope is my attempt to design a simple DIY digital night vision monocular with a 3D printed enclosure. It features an adjustable camera on the front, a 10mm 200mw IR LED for illumination, a removable battery cover, and a lens collar that will fit a flexible eye cup (Ninjaflex works good). The video connection this optic uses could also be plugged into an input or an output to use the optic in other ways, like for viewing FPV drone footage, recording video, using with a wireless camera, and more. Hence the term, OpenScope.

This instructable will show you how to build your very own 3D printed OpenScope monocular.

Estimated total printing time is around 20-25 hours. I used PLA and NinjaFlex for all the printed bits.

This optic is intended for educational and recreational use only.

Please use responsibly and use common sense.

Step 1: The Design

Here's a few features of the OpenScope digital monocular:

  • True 1x magnification for easier use when walking (of course you can change this with a different lens)
  • Adjustable camera alignment to assist in matching the picture with opposite unaided eye
  • Space for a built in 9V battery which powers the optic for about 2 hours
  • Compact form factor
  • Flexible removable eye cup for comfort
  • Built-in IR illumination
  • Modular design to allow batteries, lenses, and parts to swap
  • NTSC/PAL analog composite video for high frame rate and no lag.
  • Video I/O capability for recording, transmitting, or receiving into the optic
  • Possibly use acrylic colored filters for tinting the vision to different colors like red/green/amber/etc.

I used SketchUp for the 3D design. I've been using SketchUp for almost 10 years and know how to make the geometry I need with the tools I have as well as some awesome free plugins like RoundCorner and the STL plugin.

I started off by modeling the bare electronic components I wanted to use for the optic such as the display, camera, 9V battery, switches, LED, etc. After I found the optical axis of the screen, eyepiece lens, and the camera, I started building around them. I used groups to keep the model organized and tidy.

I decided to make the front of the optic a separate piece that uses a ball & socket type system to adjust the orientation of the camera. I'm sure there's other ways to do this, but this was the best solution I could think of at the moment. I did this because I wanted to be able to use the monocular for both right or left eye use and still allow the ability to align the image with natural vision in the other eye. I implemented screw in clamps that tighten over the ball to help secure it in place.

The battery box has enough to fit the 9V and had room to spare for wiring and connections.

The screen and accompanying board were designed to be glued to both sides of a block with grooves to help ensure that it is inserted the correct way.

The eye cup was an afterthought that I decided would give the distinguished look of a optic. I would also say it adds some additional comfort when using it.

Finally, I chose to add the project logo and text labels to the enclosure.

Step 2: What You'll Need

Tools and Equipment:

3D Printer: I use a FlashForge Creator for my 3D printing needs. Any open spool printer that can successfully print NinjaFlex material should work fine for this project. The optic is divided into multiple parts to help with printing size restrictions, support material, and keeping print times shorter. You'll also need the slicing program of your choice to prep the files for printing on your machine.

You can also use a service to print parts if you can't afford a 3D printer.

Soldering iron & solder

Digital Voltimeter: You'll at least need it to check voltage, polarity, and resistance for troubleshooting.

Heatshrink tubing/heat gun or lighter

Needle nose pliers/tweezers/hemostats

Drill bit for chamfering and cleaning screw holes: (I chucked one in a thread tap handle)

Wire strippers/cutters


JST Crimper Tool: If you're using JST connectors, you'll absolutely want this to make solid connections. You can crimp them by hand, but it's a headache and doesn't work as well. (Amazon product link)


NTSC/PAL Camera: (Amazon product link)

This camera comes with a 3.6mm board camera lens and outputs a NTSC/PAL video signal (Note that the IR filter will need to be removed). I used analog video because I didn't want to pay more for a camera that could output serial data and have to process it with a microcontroller board.

2.0" TFT LCD display + NTSC/PAL driver board from Adafuit: (Adafruit product link)

This is pricey for a LCD display, but you won't find a better way to output NTSC/PAL composite video at this size unless you plan on hacking a CRT viewfinder from a VHS camcorder. Most of the cost is the driver board since there aren't too many smaller screens that can accept analog composite video.

You can find larger, cheaper screens for half the cost, but they won't fit in the enclosure (Amazon product link).

10mm 200mW IR LED (850nm): (Amazon product link)

180 Ohm resistor (brn/gry/brn/gold): (Amazon product link) This is needed to prevent overloading the IR LED from the 9V battery.

7805 Linear voltage regulator (12 to 5V) (Amazon product link):This is needed to prevent overloading the CMOS camera from the 9V battery.

SPST Toggle switch (Amazon product link)(Digikey product link): I made the access hole 1/2" to fit the one I used. I tried a close match on Amazon and Digikey.

Rectangular SPST panel mount rocker switch (Amazon product link)(Digikey product link): The access hole is 14x20mm. Again, I tried to find a close match on both sites.

Solder, wire, heatshrink tubing, etc.

2 pin/4 pin JST male/female connectors: I recommend these to help with quickly disconnecting parts of the circuit to help with installation and increasing modularity. (Amazon link (4 pin), Amazon link (2 pin))

I did my best to find everything on Amazon. If you have trouble sourcing any parts, I would recommend trying Digikey since they mostly sell electronic components, have a vast selection, will likely have the correct variation or package design that works.

I did my best to find parts that I know work well and are fairly inexpensive. If you're ok with spending a little over $100 for parts, you'll find that this is far more economical than buying a brand new optic. It's also good to be able to customize it to your needs.


Screws (Check your local hardware store):

6-32x5/8" (x8)

6-32x1" (x5)

6-32x1/2" (x2)

6-32x3/8 (x1)

Printing Filament:

PLA/ABS Filament: I recommend Hatchbox black PLA as it has a low transmission of IR light. This helps keep IR light from leaking from the front of the enclosure.

NinjaFlex Filament: This is very hard to print with. Make sure your machine is capable of printing this stuff and go nice and slow. This is used to create the flexible eye cover/cup for improving comfort when using the optic. If you can't use NinjaFlex, there are other eye cups you can buy (Like this one from Amazon) and modify to fit the eyepiece.


Eyepiece lens: For 1x magnification, I use a 38 mm Diameter, 50 mm Focal Length double convex lens (Amazon product link). With the 3.6mm lens on the camera, this should get you pretty close to 1x field of view compared to your natural vision.

Step 3: 3D Printing Parts

Easily the most time consuming (and expensive depending on if you have a 3D printer or not) step of this build, we will be producing our enclosure from 3D printed parts.The STL files for the enclosure can be located here on Thingiverse:

I chose to print my parts in PLA and NinjaFlex. The PLA is relatively low warp and prints easily with fewer failed prints. The parts come out strong and rigid. I used Slic3r to slice my parts for my machine and created pillar pattern supports with 1 interface layer. This way supports do their job and are easy to remove from complicated parts like the main body and the battery box on the optic.

For cleaning supports out of the screw holes, I used the closes drill bit size I could find and chucked it in a hand threading handle.

NinjaFlex is really only needed for the eyecup on the optic to create a comfortable place to rest the optic against your face. It also allows the eyecup to simply be stretched over a lip on the eyepiece rather than need screws or threads to attach it to the system.

NinjaFlex is very challenging to print with. I needed to print an upgraded extruder block to better extrude the filament without binding or jamming. Finally, NinjaFlex requires a direct drive extruder to print. Bowden drive printers require much more work to use NinjaFlex and success is not guaranteed either way. Rubber scope recoil protectors can also make a great alternate substitute for an eyecup.

PLA Settings:

Extruder temp: 220C

Bed temp: 55C

Layer height: .3mm

Feed rate: 30mm/s

NinjaFlex Settings:

Extruder temp: 240C

Bed temp:110C

Layer height: .3mm

Feed rate:15mm/s

If access to 3D printing is a barrier for you, I suggest looking into 3D printing services that allow for FDM (filament) printing. I know that 3DHubs (for example) can connect printer owners with customers locally to print parts and won't break the bank.

Otherwise, printers are always getting cheaper every year, so see what's out there!

Step 4: How It Works/Circuit Diagram

Here's how the system works:

Since the human eye cannot see light in the infrared spectrum, using a small camera that can see IR and outputting the video to a small screen creates a night vision system that works like an invisible flashlight.

This low light vision technology is widely used from business security cameras to the rear view camera on your vehicle.

The OpenScope runs off a 9V battery and uses a 12-5V voltage regulator to help protect the camera since it's only rated for a max of 5V. The 10mm IR LED provides the IR light source and is powered from the unregulated side of the circuit along with the screen.

Both the camera and the screen use a composite analog video signal (NTSC) to send and receive the video. The composite signal uses a signal wire and a ground connection to work properly.

I chose to use JST plugs to create connection points on a few parts of my optic so I can assemble, repair, replace, and modify components more easily. I also did this with the video signal and video ground wires to allow me to use other inputs and outputs with the optic.

Step 5: Wiring

The wiring is probably the most difficult part of the build. In the future, it would make more sense if I could find a way to use a PCB board to eliminate stuffing wires inside the housing, but for now it works. I encourage you to look back at the wiring diagram if you need further reference, since the wiring can get a bit dense towards the end.

I started by dividing and conquering. Since I used connectors, I was able to do the wiring in small parts (more like "modules") and connect everything together later. The camera and LCD board already have leads that can be disconnected, which further simplifies the wiring for now.

1.) Clip the ends of both pigtails for the camera and screen, being sure to leave plenty of wire attached to the white plugs that connect to camera and LCD board.

2.) For the battery connector, I connected one lead straight to my JST plug and the other through my toggle switch and to the opposite pin on my main power plug.

3.) I followed a similar procedure for the 10mm IR LED. After checking my polarity, I soldered a 100 ohm current limiting resistor to the LED and attached one lead directly to the JST plug, and the other through my 7mm rocker switch and then to the plug.

4.) I wanted to open up my video input and output, so I used a 4 pin plug and jumped pin 1 to 3 and pin 2 to 4. This allows for a composite video signal and wire to be used with a jumper or used with an alternate plug later to use another input or output.

Step 6: Wiring (Continued)

At this point I had four 'modules' that I could start soldering together.

Before you continue, examine the 7805 linear voltage regulator.

The voltage regulator has 3 pins.
12V (Unregulated) on the left || Common ground in center || 5V (Regulated) on the right

1.) I soldered the positive leads to my screen and LED to the 12V pin on the left and both grounds to the center ground pin.

2.) For the camera, I soldered the 5V+ lead to the regulated pin on the right side of the regulator and the ground lead to the center ground pin.

3.) All that's left is the video and video signal ground connections. Since I used a 4 pin jumper, I soldered the input and output video signal wires to pin 1 and 3 (respectively) since they're being jumped through the jumper plug and connect together. The LCD board pigtail has a white signal ground wire that can connect to the output signal ground pin on the connector.

4.) The camera pigtail does not use a signal ground lead and instead uses the main ground with the video signal, only needed 3 wires. The white lead coming from the camera is actually an audio signal line that uses the main ground as well. Since I wasn't planning on using the audio connection, I clipped it and soldered the remaining signal ground on the jump plug to the main ground pin of the voltage regulator.

By this point, I had a mess or wires and plugs.

Step 7: The LCD Display

The NTSC TFT LCD is the heart of the optic because this is what your eye is looking at when you're trying to see. I needed a separate part to hold the screen and connecting board in place in order to use it with the optic.

This printed part is designed to fit the screen, driver board, and connecting ribbon cable onto both sides of a block that slides into the main body.

I used E6000 adhesive to glue the display and board to the screen block. I'm sure there are other options for adhesives for gluing circuits to PLA plastic, but E6000 worked great for my needs and I had some on hand. I used some toothpicks to spread the glue evenly on the surface and placed some small rubber bands to hold the components flat until the glue set.

Also take note of the small push button switch on the LCD board. This cycles through 12 brightness/contrast levels which can make a big difference in visibility.

Step 8: Connect and Test

After I finished my wiring and the glue set on my LCD screen, I was ready to test the wiring.

Before I plugged anything into my wiring, I first made sure to remove the lens cover on the camera and then used a voltmeter to check that all connections had the right voltage and correct polarity. Try to avoid shorting your power by touching the pins on your meter. I also checked my video signal and video ground connections with an ohmmeter to make sure they were connected. Once everything looked good, I plugged the components into their respective JST connectors.

When power is applied, the screen should light up and show the picture from the camera. Also, if you should see a faint red glow from the IR LED when power is applied with the IR switch. This is because the LED is 850nm wavelength, which is mostly IR but still emits some visible red light. 940nm IR LED's (like in your remote control) are almost completely in the IR spectrum and emit little to no visible light.

If you have issues, turn off power, unplug everything, and check your voltage, polarity, and connections again.

Step 9: Modifying the CMOS Camera

We're not done yet. While you could technically start assembling the optic, you won't be able to see very well with it. This is because the CMOS camera uses an IR pass filter to give block IR light and give a better daytime color image.

Since I didn't care about the daytime color picture because I was planning on using this to see in the dark, the IR filter had to go.

Removing the filter is actually pretty simple. You'll need a small screw driver (ideally magnetized). You'll also want a pair of tweezers or needle nose pliers.

I recommend doing this on a plate or a towel in a clean, dust-free environment.

1.) Use the screwdriver to remove the small set screw on the side of the lens on the camera housing. Put the screw somewhere safe for the moment so you don't lose it.

2.) Unscrew the lens to remove it. Look on the back of the lens and into the camera at the sensor. You should see a orange/blue reflective glass square. This is the IR filter. I've found some on the back of the lens and some covering the sensor inside the camera. I've also destroyed cameras because I didn't look on the back of the lens and mistakenly removed the sensor cover, so use caution!

I recommend examining the photo if you have trouble identifying it.

3.) Using a pair of tweezers or needle nose pliers, carefully remove the filter. If it chips, make sure to discard any glass shards and keep trying. If you're having trouble, you might want to try using a steel sewing pin or needle to pry under the filter and pop it off.

4.) Once the filter is removed, discard it and carefully remove any stray glass. Inspect the area where the filter was for dust, residue, hair, fuzz, or smudges. If necessary, you can try to clean the area with a Q tip.

5.) Replace the lens on the camera, plug it into the wiring along with the screen, and turn it on. While I threaded the lens back on the camera, I used the screen to get the camera picture refocused. If the picture is cloudy or seems obstructed, turn everything off, unplug the camera, remove the lens, and reinspect the lens and sensor.

6.) Hang on to that set screw but don't replace it yet. You'll want to do that after the camera is seated in the enclosure.

Step 10: The Camera and IR Modules

At this point, I was ready to begin the assembly of the optic. I started with the camera and IR LED housing on the front of the enclosure.

The ball/socket design was a solution I discovered while trying to correct the problem of the camera view not matching up well with my other eye during use. This way, I can adjust the alignment and match my view for left or right eye use and it feels natural while looking around.

On the camera housing (looks like a ball), observe the small hole on the side of the outer ring of the part. Once the camera is seated, the set screw hole should be visible and accessible through this opening. Use care if you find you need to apply more force to seat the camera into the housing.

1.) Seat the camera and then used a magnetized screwdriver to replace the set screw through the opening.

2.) Place the camera and ball housing into the front cover as shown in the photos. You should see two screw holes near the opening for the camera ball housing.

3.) Find the two identical retaining clips and seat them over the screw holes with the large part facing up as shown in the photos. I found I had to seat them without the camera ball first to get them to fit better.

4.) Using two 6-32x1/2" screws, snug the retaining clips around the ball to secure it in place.

Step 11: Installation and Assembly

With the camera mounted, it's time to put the rest of the optic together.

1.) Feed the IR LED and LED power connector through the rectangular opening on the side of the enclosure and out through the front. The switch should fit nicely into the rectangular opening.

2.) Insert the 10mm LED into the hole on the front cover next to the camera and retaining clips. I had trouble installing mine, so I used needle nose pliers to push the back of the LED for more force. If the fit is too tight, a drill bit could help widen the hole slightly. If the fit is too loose, some clear adhesive or tape around the LED could help hold it in place.

3.) With the LED installed, use the five 6-32x1" screws to attach the front cover to the main body of the optic.

4.) Plug the camera and IR LED connectors into the wiring.

5.) For the LCD screen, locate the slot in the enclosure that matches the side of the screen block. The screen block should slide into place. Plug the screen connector into the driver board.

7.) Locate the disk retainer (it has a flattened side) and use the single 6-32x3/8" screw to secure it to the bottom of the main body of the enclosure. Tighten until snug, but is still easy to rotate. This piece is designed to rotate and help hold the LCD screen from sliding around.

8.) For the battery box, insert the toggle switch through the round hole on the side of the battery cover. For convenience, I've added text labels next to the switch access for on and off positions. Secure the switch with the included nut and tighten until snug.

9.) Plug the power JST plug into the rest of the wiring of the optic and connect a 9V battery to the battery clip. Feel free to flip the switch and make sure everything is working before closing everything up.

10.) Carefully pack the loose wiring into the main enclosure body. It's important to keep the metal heatsink of the voltage regulator away from touching the LCD board since this can cause a short since it acts as a ground connection on the regulator. If necessary, you could put heatshrink over the tab.

11.) Use four 6-32x5/8" screws to attach the battery box cover to the main body of the enclosure with the switch facing towards the back. There should be a recess in the main body of the enclosure to give more room for the toggle switch.

Step 12: Installing the Eyepiece Lens

We're almost done!

To help see the LCD screen more easily and magnify the picture to a 1:1 ratio (comparable to natural vision), we'll need to install the double convex lens. I recommend cleaning the lens with a lens cloth to remove any smudges.

1.) Without leaving fingerprints on the lens, drop it into the large round recess on the back of the optic as shown in the photo.

2.) Using the retaining ring, place it over the lens and use four remaining 6-32x5/8" screws to secure it over the lens.

3.) If you printed an eyecup using the NinjaFlex, it should stretch and fit over the lip on the lens retaining ring. Feel free to rotate as needed for left or right eye use.

Step 13: Going Further

Congratulations! You have built a working digital night vision monocular.

If you want to take the project further, there's a few more things you can do.

First, you can can filter the color of the night vision for a more.....convincing viewing experience.

There is a gap in front of the LCD screen block in the main enclosure body. This design feature is intentional and allows for a 50x50mm .118" thick acrylic square filter to be inserted and used. I made one using a laser cutter and some green acrylic (since most real night vision optics are green) to make a filter.

Making a filter:

To install the filter, unscrew the battery cover, rotate the retaining disk, and insert the filter. Rotate the disk back and reattach the battery box cover and your all set for filtered vision!

(Note, the filter won't affect the video signal should you choose to output it since it's just filtering the light from the screen).

If you use a filter, you might notice that after using the optic for awhile, everything you see in that eye will appear a different color without the optic. This phenominon is normal and is called a brown after image. It's similar to staring at an inverted color image and looking at a white surface to see the 'ghost' of the image colored correctly.

The reason for this is the cone cells in your retina use more of the chemicals for the filtered color you're seeing. This briefly alters the color of your natural vision to that opposite of the color filter you use. A green filter makes a purple/pink after image. Red makes a dark teal after image. Amber makes a dark blue after image. ...and so on.

Camera lenses:

The camera takes a 1/3" mount camera lens. The lens I used for 1x magnification was a 3.6mm F2.0 lens, but you can find other sizes as well that will give you more magnification and a tighter field of view or less magnification and a wider field of view. The field of view affects the quality of sight due to the low resolution of the LCD display, so smaller objects might get fuzzier and harder to distinguish. Some varifocal zoom lenses may fit the camera with some modification to the housing to allow adjustable zoom and focus.

This lens has a much tighter FOV and higher magnification for seeing things farther away (Amazon product link).

Video IO:

I managed to make an alternate video plug that uses two RCA jacks for both the output video feed from the camera and the input for the display. With this IO capability, you can input video from another source like a Raspberry Pi, CCTV camera, wireless AV receiver, drone FPV feed, Super Nintendo, etc. Keep in mind the optic has a pretty low resolution, so reading any text might be tricky.

I simply reused the RCA jack that was connected to the LCD pigtail that I trimmed earlier, but I sourced some similar ones on Mouser (Mouser product link).

You can also output the camera feed to a recording device, wireless video transmitter, TV screen, or even another OpenScope! I even managed to run the input and output through an Arduino with a Video Experimenter Shield to overlay text and graphics onto the input video signal to create a crude HUD with the optic.

Step 14: Final Thoughts

I was genuinely impressed by the quality of the night vision and the outcome of the enclosure design and assembly. The wiring is extremely tedious and I might consider using a PCB or at least perf or proto board to help reduce the mass of wiring.

The 200mw 10mm IR LED is a little overkill for indoor use and a little underpowered for outdoor use. Visibility is great so long as you have objects nearby to reflect the IR light back to the camera. It's easy to see IR light from security cameras, remote controls, smartphones, gaming consoles and VR systems, and more. I've found that the camera is pretty sensitive in low light and can see pretty well even without IR illumination.

I was also really pleased with how well the video IO works. I might try to see if I can hook it up to my wireless video Tx/Rx module and see through a wireless camera with the OpenScope.

I sincerely hope you enjoyed reading my instructable and that you maybe even consider building one for yourself. If nothing else, the project is great for teaching about electronics, soldering, composite video, IR light, 3D printing, and even a little biology with how humans see. As I keep sourcing better parts, developing parts, finding applications, and reading comments and feedback, I'll do my best to keep this instructable and the Thingiverse page updated.

Thanks for reading, and please consider voting for this instructable!


ethvader (author)2017-06-19

Hello I was wondering if you would make and sell these by any chance? I would like to make one but don't have the ability to do so.

MattGyver92 (author)ethvader2017-07-09

Unfortunately, I would say it's not really something I'm considering since I would be the only person who could repair it if anything broke or wore out. I might someday consider some sort of DIY kit, but that's a long way off and I haven't had much free time lately. Mainly I would encourage people to find a way to learn to build one so you learn how it works and can maintain or modify it on your own.

ethvader (author)MattGyver922017-07-10

I understand hopefully I'll be able to make one love the design and have to say excellent job

SWJoe (author)2017-03-28

How do I do this without 3d print capability?

MattGyver92 (author)SWJoe2017-03-30

I would try 3D Hubs or another printing service bureau if you won't want to invest in a 3D printer. However 3D printers are getting cheaper and better every year and it's a terrific skill set to learn!

SherylinRM (author)2017-03-13

Wow, just wow. Of course I voted yes for you :)

SoLongSidekick (author)2017-03-07

I would love to see a version of the enclosure that allows mounting on a pic rail. This would be outstanding to slap behind an optic for night use. Since you developed this for airsoft, exactly how are you using it now? Just handheld?


Sorry-no mounts yet. It's intended for just handheld use for now.

I can't make any promises for mounts anytime soon.


One thing you could add if you're trying to stay away from potential gun uses is a press-fit tripod fitting.

TefaTBob made it! (author)2017-02-27

The iIncluded supports worked great. I had to add a raft to the main body & battery case to stop warping since I didn't have a heated bed.

MattGyver92 (author)TefaTBob2017-02-27

Nice work. I'm curious to hear how well the modded rubber eyecup worked out. I might simply buy those instead of printing my own with NinjaFlex since it's probably the trickiest part to make! It's probably a little more comfortable too since it looks a bit softer.

TefaTBob (author)MattGyver922017-02-27

Hey, it worked quite well actually. I cut it at the inner ring after two bumps, and that stretched and fit perfectly over the 3D printed eye peice part. The only issue I had overall was the lens I ordered from that link not fitting. I didn't measure it yet, but I wonder if they sent me a size too big.

MattGyver92 (author)TefaTBob2017-03-06

That's great to hear. I actually had one lying around from an older project and managed to try it out for myself and I really like it. It's far more comfortable than the NinjaFlex printed eye cup and much less of a hassle than printing one. However while it's still possible to seat it, it's extremely difficult to stretch the part over the retaining collar. I might design and upload an alternate collar to make mounting the modified rubber eye cups a little easier.


thats a very awsome but complicated print lol.dont think mine could manage

jcduplessis (author)2017-02-19

Beautifull instructable!

Very well explained and documented. Thanks! Some simple ideas I can think of to make this even better (if that's possible!) would be:

- Coat the whole camera in plastic dip or even oogoo for that military style look and enhanced shock protection.

- A simple TV overlay (eg: battery power, digital crosshair, compass direction via accelerometer perhaps and IR on/off etc) can be made with an arduino nano and only two or so resistors and can be placed inline with the camera and the LCD display video feed. ( eg:

- Add a feature to add a telescope to the end and mount this on a airsoft gun's picatinny rail??

- Add a standard tripod mount to the bottom for those long covert night ops....

- Replace battery with a 18650 3.7V Li-ion rechargeable battery, a usb charger board (eg:

and 3.7V-to-5V buckboost board (eg:

Combined they will only be slighly larger than a 9V battery.

Anyway, just some ideas that comes to mind.....

Thanks for this great build.

MattGyver92 (author)jcduplessis2017-02-19

Thanks for the feedback.

I'm interested in the TV Out Arduino capability you mentioned. I figured that was for doing only the text and graphics on an NTSC display through the composite, but are you saying there's a way to combine both the TV Out graphics and the video signal together?

As for the airsoft stuff, I totally agree. I could publish a version of the OpenScope in the future with mounting capability for Picatinny rail or a J-Arm for helmet mounting, but I can't make any promises. It would require more thorough research into federal night vision export restrictions due to the mounting capability from the 3D printing files, since some of that stuff is controlled. For the time being, I'm more comfortable publishing the OpenScope as a general purpose optic.

For the power, I've played with buck/boost boards and I couldn't get them to work with the display board from a 3.7V battery. I might experiment with it again in the future.

jcduplessis (author)MattGyver922017-02-25

Hi MattGyver92,

I see my link to the arduino TV out overlay wasn't active. Here it is again:

The i'ble demonstrates a very simple way to generate "on screen display" output for a composite video signal. To combine this OSD signal and your camera's composite video, you can use a LM1881 sync seperator IC. The following open source site explain it well:

It's basically the same idea as the Video Experimenter Shield you mentioned, only one that you can build diy.

Kind regards!

MattGyver92 (author)jcduplessis2017-02-27

I ordered a few buck regulator boards to test as well as got by Video Experimenter shield back that I loaned to a buddy. Tests have been going well. I've been able to successfully modify normal TVout code with VE modified TV out library to work with the shield and overlay with the optic feed. The only problems I have with it depend greatly on the power source I'm using for the Arduino. If it's plugged into my PC, the code typically runs fine.

If I use my portable USB charger for power, sometimes the code will halt and fail to continue the loop. I might try some other power sources to see if those do anything and if so, I'll contact the seller of the VE board.

Also, I'm totally loving the filtered green text, since it's typically white. There is a way to generate gray behind the text which improves readability, but it involves a mosfet and some additional electronics.

iphoneBackup2016 715.JPG

MattGyver92 , You may want to call on the folks at

They are a sporting goods company, but a major part of their business is optics, including night vision (both passive and active). Their sales desk is SURE to know all the restrictions.

Mike Nelson (author)2017-02-26

is there anything special to printing the screen piece? the square piece that holds the screen? it seems to have lots of overhangs? do supports do the job well enough?

MattGyver92 (author)Mike Nelson2017-02-27

Yes, you will have to print supports for the screen block part due to the overhangs. If printing this way is too difficult, I would suggest rotating the part around in MeshMixer and re-exporting.

MrRob0t (author)2017-02-25

love the idea, design and instructions but any suggestions on alternative displays? Adafruit want 40 dollars to ship to the UK!

Any suggestions appreciated thanks

MattGyver92 (author)MrRob0t2017-02-25

The LCD is expensive, but unfortunately I had a lot of trouble finding screens 2" dia. or smaller that could accept a NTSC input. I think most of the cost is for the board that sequences the NTSC video. I've looked into ways of sequencing the video for a serial LCD display, but I didn't have much luck.

They do make some larger screens that are 3.5" which might be more budget friendly (about half the cost).

Here's an older build of mine that uses a larger 3.5 display:

You could also try to find or salvage a detachable CRT viewfinder from a VHS camcorder since that can also take a composite video signal.

Here's KipKay's instructable for using a viewfinder:

Hopefully this is helpful. You can also try using ABS project boxes to go around 3D printing if you don't have access to a machine or service.

MattGyver92 (author)MattGyver922017-02-25

One more thing is you could attempt to use serial to communicate to an LCD using a micro controller. The problem with this is the added difficulty in processing the frames, lower frame rate, difficulty in outputting or input video, and possible latency in the video that may cause nausea from looking around.

texhoma creative design (author)2017-02-24

might be able to improvise with boxes like these

Paulum (author)2017-02-23

Nice presentation. Thanks.

hikeofyourlife (author)2017-02-23

I'm thinking something more Borg-like such as a headset with electronics that go across your eye like a patch and power pack and such maybe off the back like some headlamps

Jim Keefover (author)2017-02-23

That is absolutely fantastic you must be a genius

AndyL86 (author)2017-02-21

Would love to learn how to use an existing hardware to replace the 3D printing portion, since there are not too many folks, like yours truly, who are equipped with a 3D printer. Thanks in advance.

MattGyver92 (author)AndyL862017-02-21

That would be pretty tough to do without the ability to make a custom enclosure. This project is based off of one of my older night vision instructables where I used ABS project boxes for the enclosure. It has no eyepiece however.

^THAT instructable was based off of a project in a book, 101 Spy Gadgets for the Evil Genius and they used a VHS CRT viewfinder instead of a TFT and eyepiece lens.

Rance (author)MattGyver922017-02-22

I think I'm going to take this idea and run with it, I've always wanted a good night scope for my airsoft sniper so if I just mod the case design to allow for a rail mount and upgrade the screen to a 4k res to get the most out of the camera along with a camera lens for zoom and this thing will be a bigger beast.

BonnieK20 (author)2017-02-22

I want my husband to make this for me in the worst way. So many critters roaming around our property in the night makes me curious to see them. Thanks

DarenS3 (author)2017-02-21

Replace the 7805 regulator with an automotive USB charger. The 7805 turns the extra 4v from the battery into heat. Most usb chargers use switching regulators which will be end up being about twice as efficient.

MatthewR13 (author)DarenS32017-02-21

With the amount of current being drawn from the cam it isn't going to matter what you use the power dissipation is going to be minimal at best.

sparaski1 (author)2017-02-21

You gave me idea of taking a surplus Russian hand held, printing a new case with Picatinny clamps for night time rodent plinking.

Wyattonline (author)2017-02-21

3D CAD and printing kills this project for me, immediately. Admittedly a pretty advanced project at that.

MattGyver92 (author)Wyattonline2017-02-21

Entry level 3D printers are continuing to
decrease in cost every year as new models are released and there are
also several good printing services out there that might be a better
option for you.

3DHubs might be one to consider:

Since there's a lot of folks who don't own a printer, I added this information to the 3D printing step so others can learn more about other options if they want to build an OpenScope. :)

Man Up (author)Wyattonline2017-02-21

Look for the Tronxy P802 printer on FleaBay. They're pushing the $155 price point. They're basically a Prusa I3 with the Repetier firmware, and they deliver pretty good results on a budget. I'm already printing parts to make a RepRap Morgan (another 3D printer) - made this gear last night in one hour from PLA filament.

DavidB1146 (author)Wyattonline2017-02-21

3d CAD can be done online for free at 3d printing can be done at a printing company.

murfmv (author)2017-02-21

Great job. Best tutorial ever. Looking for marine version with 1/4 mile capability.

Will Andy biker comment below give more range?

MattGyver92 (author)murfmv2017-02-21

The visibility depends on how much IR light reflects back into the camera, since the OpenScope has no light amplification ability like an image intensifier tube and relies completely on reflected IR to see. If you had a massive IR torch or spotlight (or a regular spotlight with an IR filter), you could see much further.

Also at 1/4 mile away, you will not have very much clarity (even in the daytime) without a lens with a tighter field of view/higher magnification.

MattGyver92 (author)MattGyver922017-02-21

If you're serious about range, I would recommend checking out my instructable on building a starlight scope with a cascade image intensifier tube:

arcmatt (author)2017-02-21

Could the same thing be done with a Raspberry Pi Zero and a Raspberry Pi noIR Camera? Dang! I guess I am going to have to find out. Thanks for the great project and the ideas!!!!

JoeM3 (author)2017-02-21

The people nixing this project because of the 3D printing should be aware of 3D printing services that will do the job for minimal cost! You do not need a printer -- just a service.

Man Up (author)JoeM32017-02-21

3D printer prices are dropping fast - you can get a Prusa I3 clone for about $155 if you're willing to wait, $165 if you want it in a week. The types of plastic filament available are also growing - not just PLA and ABS anymore. It is well worth it to invest in one.

EricK106 (author)2017-02-21

I am using a cheap i3 knockoff and while it is a little harder to set up I have no problems printing with TPU once the setup is complete. I use blue tape on the heat bead, heat bed set to 65 and extruder set to 215. Flow rate set about 10% THe knoabove normal. Also lower the print bed a little for the first layer,

Robert Gomes (author)2017-02-21

Well done, great job! I would recommend putting a small 100nF ceramic capacitor between pins 1 and 2 of the 7805 to filter undesirable noises though.

michaelb2 (author)2017-02-21

If not building from the same salvaged camera, may I suggest checking sensor/LED compatibility. Some LEDs are near Infrared (slight glow) and some are far Infrared. Some sensors are very selective. The ones with the slight glow tend to be more powerful. To be truly stealthy, use the far Infrared.(with campatible sensor)

TedRobotBuilder (author)2017-02-21

Please add IR or infrared to your title. I thought this was a star-light scope until I dug into your text. You have a very nice IR cam with a screen here. Thanks! :)

TyroneM7 (author)2017-02-21

Great instructable! Well written and very thorough. As soon as I get a 3D printer I'm going to build this. Thanks so much for sharing what you have learned. This really inspires and motivates me to build and share.

About This Instructable




Bio: I work in architecture visualization and love art, design, 3D printing, airsoft, and night vision.
More by MattGyver92:3D Printed Digital Night Vision (The OpenScope)DIY Cascade Night Vision ScopeDIY Infrared Night Vision Device
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