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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:

https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Infrared-Night-Vision-Device/

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.

<p>Wow, just wow. Of course I voted yes for you :)</p>
<p>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?</p>
<p>Sorry-no mounts yet. It's intended for just handheld use for now. </p><p>I can't make any promises for mounts anytime soon. </p>
One thing you could add if you're trying to stay away from potential gun uses is a press-fit tripod fitting.
<p>The iIncluded supports worked great. I had to add a raft to the main body &amp; battery case to stop warping since I didn't have a heated bed.</p>
<p>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. </p>
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.
<p>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. </p>
<p>thats a very awsome but complicated print lol.dont think mine could manage</p>
<p>Beautifull instructable!</p><p>Very well explained and documented. Thanks! Some simple ideas I can think of to make this even better (if that's possible!) would be:</p><p>- Coat the whole camera in plastic dip or even oogoo for that military style look and enhanced shock protection. </p><p>- 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: </p><p>https://www.instructables.com/id/TV-Out-with-Ardui...</p><p>- Add a feature to add a telescope to the end and mount this on a airsoft gun's picatinny rail??</p><p>- Add a standard tripod mount to the bottom for those long covert night ops....</p><p>- Replace battery with a 18650 3.7V Li-ion rechargeable battery, a usb charger board (eg: </p><p><a href="https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1PCS-5V-1A-Micro-USB-18650-Lithium-Battery-Charging-Board-Charger-Module-Protection-Dual-Functions/32467578996.html?spm=2114.13010608.0.0.s3GjNV" rel="nofollow">https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1PCS-5V-1A-Micro-U...</a></p><p> and 3.7V-to-5V buckboost board (eg: </p><p><a href="https://www.aliexpress.com/item/DC-DC-Converter-Step-Up-Boost-Module-0-9-5V-T0-5V-600MA-USB-Charger-For/32367472255.html?spm=2114.13010608.0.0.phMVri" rel="nofollow">https://www.aliexpress.com/item/DC-DC-Converter-St...</a></p><p> Combined they will only be slighly larger than a 9V battery.</p><p>Anyway, just some ideas that comes to mind.....</p><p>Thanks for this great build.</p>
<p>Thanks for the feedback. </p><p>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?</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p>
<p>Hi MattGyver92,</p><p>I see my link to the arduino TV out overlay wasn't active. Here it is again:</p><p><a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/TV-Out-with-Arduino/" rel="nofollow">https://www.instructables.com/id/TV-Out-with-Ardui...</a></p><p>The i'ble demonstrates a very simple way to generate &quot;on screen display&quot; 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:</p><p>https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?147...</p><p>It's basically the same idea as the <a href="http://nootropicdesign.com/ve/" rel="nofollow">Video Experimenter Shield</a> you mentioned, only one that you can build diy.</p><p>Kind regards!<br></p>
<p>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.</p><p>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.</p><p>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.<br></p>
<p><a href="https://www.instructables.com/member/MattGyver92">MattGyver92</a> , You may want to call on the folks at <a href="http://www.dvor.com"> http://www.dvor.com</a><br><br>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 <strong>SURE</strong> to know all the restrictions.</p>
<p>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?</p>
<p>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. </p>
<p>love the idea, design and instructions but any suggestions on alternative displays? Adafruit want 40 dollars to ship to the UK!</p><p>Any suggestions appreciated thanks</p>
<p>The LCD is expensive, but unfortunately I had a lot of trouble finding screens 2&quot; 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.</p><p>They do make some larger screens that are 3.5&quot; which might be more budget friendly (about half the cost).</p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/BW-3-5-Inch-Monitor-Automobile/dp/B0045IIZKU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1488071798&sr=8-1&keywords=ntsc+tft">https://www.amazon.com/BW-3-5-Inch-Monitor-Automob...<br></a></p><p>Here's an older build of mine that uses a larger 3.5 display:</p><p><a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Infrared-Night-Vision-Device/">https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Infrared-Nigh...</a></p><p></p><p>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. </p><p>Here's KipKay's instructable for using a viewfinder:</p><p><a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/Super-Nightvision-Headset-Hack/">https://www.instructables.com/id/Super-Nightvision...</a></p><p>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.</p>
<p>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.</p><p><a href="http://www.arducam.com/">http://www.arducam.com/</a></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Arducam-Megapixels-OV7670-640x480-Compatiable/dp/B013JRXG24/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1488075722&sr=8-3&keywords=cmos+camera">https://www.amazon.com/Arducam-Megapixels-OV7670-6...</a></p>
<p>might be able to improvise with boxes like these</p>
<p>Nice presentation. Thanks.</p>
<p>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</p>
That is absolutely fantastic you must be a genius
<p>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.</p>
<p>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.</p><p><a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Infrared-Night-Vision-Device/">https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Infrared-Nigh...</a></p><p>^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.</p><p><a href="http://www.lucidscience.com/pro-night%20vision%20viewer-1.aspx">http://www.lucidscience.com/pro-night%20vision%20v...</a></p>
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.
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
<p>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.</p>
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.
<p>You gave me idea of taking a surplus Russian hand held, printing a new case with Picatinny clamps for night time rodent plinking.</p>
<p>3D CAD and printing kills this project for me, immediately. Admittedly a pretty advanced project at that.</p>
<p>Entry level 3D printers are continuing to <br>decrease in cost every year as new models are released and there are <br>also several good printing services out there that might be a better <br>option for you. </p><p>3DHubs might be one to consider: </p><p><a href="https://www.3dhubs.com/">https://www.3dhubs.com/</a></p><p>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. :)</p>
<p>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. </p>
3d CAD can be done online for free at onshape.com. 3d printing can be done at a printing company.
<p>Great job. Best tutorial ever. Looking for marine version with 1/4 mile capability.</p><p>Will Andy biker comment below give more range?</p>
<p>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.</p><p>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.</p>
<p>If you're serious about range, I would recommend checking out my instructable on building a starlight scope with a cascade image intensifier tube:</p><p><a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Cascade-Night-Vision-Scope/">https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Cascade-Night...</a></p>
<p>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!!!!</p>
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.
<p>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. </p>
<p>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, </p>
<p>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.</p>
<p>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)</p>
<p>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! :)</p>
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.
<p>Oh man! This is awesome! I've been waiting for this Instructable. Thank you!</p>
Nice project.<br>a couple of possible add ons. .<br>multiple leds for illumination - the one led only uses 1.2v so the rest is getting wasted on the resistor. you could safely put 4 or 5 in series, giving much more light and take no more power.<br>also, maybe consider 940nm leds - they give absolutely no visible light output whereas the 850nm ones glow a dull red (visible in the dark)<br>great idea using cheap camera and monitor though!
<p>interesting I think ill try this after I finish my 3d printer I'm also going to try to tackle the over powering with the light for indoor use and under power for out side I'm hoping this can be done by dimming the led for the inside and adding a switch for added light sorce leds for out side</p>
BRILLIANT! Excellent work! Voted you up, and I really hope you win!<br><br>This is one of the best done Instructables I have seen in quite a while! I'd rather have one of these than some commercially made ones I have seen. Sadly, I don't have a 3-D printer and no access to one... If you ever decide to make a printed parts kit available, PLEASE let me know. I pretty much have the electronics part of it, and may have many of the parts already. I've been a Ham Radio enthusiast for many years and have a parts bin that would make people think I'm a hoarder... <br><br>Great work!
<p>I know your strugle! I have made my own sometime ago. Still needs upgrades. </p><p>Its good for CQB but has very short viewing distance outdoors.</p>

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Bio: I work in architecture visualization and love art, design, 3D printing, airsoft, and electro-optics...like night vision.
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