3D Printed Night Vision Scope

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About: I have a ton of fun making things... especially things that go BOOM! Whether it's 3D printing, welding, or just building cool stuff, I have a great time doing it.

Hey everybody!!! Hows it going?!?!?! Ok, so for a long time (~3 yrs.) I have been building these digital night vision cameras, and after over $1,000 and hundreds of hours in R'n'D later, I give you the "Eagle Scope 1.0" (named after the camera inside)!!!

It's a pocket-sized, 3d printable night vision monocular that you can build yourself for ~$200!!! Oh, and it is top of the line, sporting a near-eye display (that doesn't burn out your eyeball), a .00001 lux camera with an OSD, a rechargeable 3hr battery, and an (optional) external DVR for recording the footage!!! Best of all, it fits in your pocket!!! Over-enthusiastic!!!!!! But seriously, this thing kicks some major buttocks.

I have built 5 night vision (NV) cameras including the "OpenScope" made by user MattGyver92. This was the third camera/scope/monocular (I use these terms intermittently) I made and the first truly successful one. This camera was awesome!!! Although there were a few problems with it. First, it had a pretty low resolution. Second, the display burnt out your eyeball (fixable though with a piece of tinted acrylic). Third, the battery was not rechargeable. Lastly, the biggest downside of all, it was freakin HUGE!!! 'little over dramatic... bulky would be a better word. Also kinda hard to wire up. But as I said, it's a great NV camera.

The Eagle Scope can see better than my eye in the dark WITHOUT any passive infrared lighting (IR light) and can see in total darkness WITH some invisible IR lighting. This is really nice if you are playing airsoft and gives you a huge advantage even if you have opponents with digital night vision. This is because having such a low-lux rating makes IR light unnecessary unless it's REALLY dark outside. The camera has a super wide angle lens making it suitable for helmet mounting (which I will be doing shortly). The wide angle lens could be replaced with a "zoomed-in" lens for rifle mounting as well.

Enough blabbing. Let's build it already!!!

Step 1: Tools and Skill Level.

Tools:

- 3D printer (if you don't have one, you can use 3D Hubs, Shapeways, or just wrap everything in electrical tape which is what I used to do before I got a 3d printer)

- Soldering Iron Gets the job done -- The one I use.

- Hot Glue Gun

- Wire Strippers (Klein is my favorite) (the 3D printed wire strippers work the best for the thin wires)

- Rotary tool or hacksaw (for acrylic)

- Mini files

- Sandpaper

Skill level:

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest skill level, I'd say this is about a 4 or beginner-intermediate. As long as you keep your wires short, It shouldn't be hard to fit everything in. I was actually surprised how easy it is to put together.

Full Disclosure:
Some of these links may be affiliate links -- clicking the links, or even better buying the item, will help support the development of future projects. It costs you nothing though! As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Step 2: Parts and Consumables

Parts:

Note: If you watch these products closely, they will go on sale from time to time.

- Camera

The best out there as far as I can tell. .00001 lux is pretty impressive. The camera is an FPV camera made by a well-known company called RunCam.

- Near-eye display

These things are sooooo hard to find. I had to look, and look, and look, but this thing is perfect.

- Micro DVR (option addition that lets you record what the camera sees)

Sound quality is crappy but the video quality is exceptional.

- Switch

- 400mah Batteries (x3)

3 Batteries have a smaller form factor than buying a single big battery.

- Charger and 5v Booster

Works great. Doesn't have a battery protection circuit so use the batteries I have linked above. (they have the protection in them)

- Acrylic Sheet

Protects the camera.

- 8-32 Machine Screws

- Infrared Flashlight (optional but recommended)

Cheap and works very nicely.

Consumables:

- Solid core wire

Fits the circuit boards nicely.

- Filler/Primer

Smooths the 3d printed surface.

- Black paint (could use other colors if desired)

- Hot Glue

- PLA filament or ABS filament (for 3D printer)

- Heat Shrink Tubing

- Rosin Core Solder

Full Disclosure:
Some of these links may be affiliate links -- clicking the links, or even better buying the item, will help support the development of future projects. It costs you nothing though! As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Step 3: 3D Modeling and Printing

3D Modeling:

This will be unnecessary for you (unless you want to redesign it) 'cause I uploaded the design files here on Thingiverse. I used Fusion 360 and a little tinkerkad.

3D Printing:

If you print this yourself, make it as solid as possible. Supports are nice but not required. I used ABS 'cause the primer has acetone in it enabling superior adhesion and even making the surface stronger. Acetone smoothing is also a great (albeit dangerous) option for strengthening the casing.

Step 4: Post Processing and Painting

Super straightforward:

- Remove supports and rafts

- Sand

- Add primer 2-5 thin coats

- After the primer is dry, re-sand

- Add paint in 2-4 small coats

- Let dry for 24 hrs.

Step 5: Wire 'em Up!

The hardest part of the build. Still pretty easy though. Make sure you TAKE YOUR TIME and think things through because having to re-wire the whole thing would not be fun. Make sure to cut your wires short but not too short. Also, watch that you install the viewfinder and the camera in the same orientation lest the image is upside down when you finish it. If you choose to install a DVR there will just be a few extra wires to connect.

1: Glue three 400mah lipo batteries together and wire them in parallel (all the red wires are connected, and all the black wires are connected) to make a 1,200mah battery pack. Cut the wires one at a time so you don't short-circuit the batteries. Go ahead and hot glue the battery into the side of the case. Set aside.

2: Take the viewfinder, cut the chord at 2-3 inches long, strip the ends of the 4 wires inside, and then hot glue it into the other side of the case.

3: Take the camera, cut its wires to ~1 and 1/2 inches and then strip the ends of them. Hot glue it into place.

4: Take the battery charger/5v booster, solder a wire to the 5v+ and 5v-, the EN (enable) Pin and the ground. Hot glue the board to the case.

5: Connect and solder all video wires together, all ground wires together, and all 5v+ wires together. The VBAT+ wire that comes from the camera is connected to the positive 3.7v wire coming off the battery. This enables the camera to monitor the battery voltage. If you are installing a DVR, connect the audio wires together.

6: Take the switch and hot glue it to the case. Cut off or bend away one of the outer pins on the switch (doesn't matter which one). Take the wires connected to the EN pin and the Ground Pin and solder them to the switch. I had originally soldered them to "external switch" but this will not allow the batteries to charge when the device is turned off. Soldering to the EN pin is the way to do it.

7: Take the OSD extension cable that came with the camera, plug one end into the camera and the other gets glued into the access hole on the case.

8: You did it!!! It's pretty much downhill from here!

Step 6: Make the Lens Cover

Take your plexiglass or acrylic or whatever and cut it and file to size. There are little notches in the case that should hold it in place.

Step 7: Finish It Up!!!

Widen the holes with a drill bit. Cut some machine screws to size. Screw the case together and you're done!!!

Note: If you are using a DVR you will need to file a small notch into the case to allow the wires for the DVR to exit. The DVR can be zip tied or rubber banded to the outside of the case.

Step 8: Congrats Ya' Finished!!!

Oh man!!! This is soooooo cool! The pictures don't do it justice though. If it looks really grainy, it's because it's one frame from a video taken (I'll be uploading a video shortly). In the some of the pictures above you can see that there is a brighter, clearer spot. This is the infrared flashlight's beam which is invisible to the human eye (and most animals). It provides extra light to the camera if there isn't enough ambient light for the camera to see. If you turn the IR light off, and it's REALLY dark outside, the picture gets grainy but you still may be able to see outlines of things.

I will be releasing a video on my YouTube channel in the next 2 weeks (I hope) so stay tuned... and... maybe... SUBSCRIBE!?!?!?!?

Anyway, I wish you well with your night vision building endeavors! Thanks and have a GREAT day!!!

P.S. This instructable is entered in the pocket size contest and the microcontroller contest. If you could, please give me a vote! Thanks!

DISCLAIMER:
This instructable is purely for entertainment value, any and all replications of any experiments, projects, and creations or similar are the sole legal responsibility of the person(s) involved in replicating them. I can not be liable for any information or misinformation, wrongful use, damage to personal property, death or any circumstances that result from replication of any projects seen.

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74 Discussions

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tomwall1969

5 months ago

If someone makes a 3D print file of a case that holds two instead of one, you could make a stereoscopic headset. Or you could just make a headset that holds two of them in front of your eyes.

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Happy_Mad_Scientisttomwall1969

Reply 5 months ago

I've thought about doing something like that in my next version. Could be pretty cool to have some depth perception I think. Thanks for the idea!

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ToolboxGuyHappy_Mad_Scientist

Reply 2 months ago

I like that idea of binoculars and stereoscopic images! I also think it'd be helpful to be able to take out at least one optic from that configuration, so that you can share when helpful/convenient.

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ToolboxGuy

2 months ago

Nice instructable! I do think that I would have drilled out the screw/bolt holes "before" inserting all of the parts into it. PCB boards don't work so well when you punch holes in the wrong places.

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hexalog

5 months ago

Neat build! , I once made a cheaper version (read crappier) by removing the IR filter of an old webcam, isnt this nessesary on this camera for the ir flashlight to work?

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Happy_Mad_Scientisthexalog

Reply 5 months ago

In general yes you are correct. However this camera is designed to work in low light so it needs every kind of ambient light it can get including ir light and thus has now ir filter. Normally in these FPV cameras the IR filter is in the lens anyway.

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Antzy Carmasaic

5 months ago

Your project is pretty cool but the way you made your battery pack by connecting 3 LiPo batteries in parallel is not the best way. It is always better to buy a higher capacity battery instead of parallel connecting 3.

Since a lot of people are replicating your instructable, it would be good if you could direct them to buying a bigger capacity battery instead. You might use the parallel battery pack without any problem (except reduced battery life in the long run) or might have catastrophic failure. It all depends from person to person.
https://www.eevblog.com/forum/projects/what-do-i-need-to-know-about-paralleling-li-ion-li-poly-batteries/

There is also a recent instructable on charging 18650 Li-Ion cells in parallel in a proper load balanced manner. https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-18650-Lithium-Ion-Cells-Charging-Grid/

Don't mean to put down your project. I think it is pretty cool. But sharing this info with the people following your design could save a few of them a lot of headache.

1 reply

This is not dangerous in the least. The batteries are wired in parallel not in series.

series: connecting + to - to + to - to + to - which gives you combined voltage of each single cell. This method would defiantly require a balance charger to prevent a catastrophic failure after many charges. Reason being some cells get higher voltage than others ie one battery is 50% charged and the other is 150% charged and very dangerous.

parallel: the + are all connected together and the - are all connected together which gives the pack 3.7v (nominal voltage). The batteries are now seen as a single cell. They will self balance each other cause the electricity can flow between them (higher energy flows to battery with lower energy until they are equal)

It can be very confusing. It took me days of research to figure it out. It's like algebra though imo. once you figure it out it's easy.

The reason i did this in the first place is cause three batteries creates a cell that is thick but not very wide. a single battery with the same mah would be pretty wide and long. thanks anyway for the concern!

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ravenreni

Question 5 months ago

could a person use the components from a sony camcorder with night vision

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Happy_Mad_Scientistravenreni

Answer 5 months ago

I've torn apart 3 camcorders from ebay (all sony). They all had a working view finder. I couldn't get any of them to work once they were taken out of the camcorder though. People are successful switching them and if you are experienced enough you could do it. The digital one I used is pretty good and higher resolution anyway imo.

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RonGarza

5 months ago

That's pretty good but check with banggood or alibaba. They sell night vision cameras for dirt cheap. I have no idea how the rest of the world is going to compete with those prices. To MAGA, we are going to have to keep coming up with new ideas and enjoy the rewards until they start selling for next-to-free.

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Vitalij X

Question 11 months ago

I see that camera supports up to 36v input. Could you, please, explain how different voltage affects camera function.

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tomwall1969Vitalij X

Answer 5 months ago

The camera will run fine on any voltage between 5 and 36 volts.

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Happy_Mad_ScientistVitalij X

Answer 11 months ago

The camera runs off 5v. There is a voltage converter that converts it down to 5v so having more voltage is less efficient. hope this helps

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Gyetvai8217

Question 8 months ago on Step 8

Ok so the third board is all wired up albeit with great difficulty not sure if the solder job is causing the issue or my idea of only trying the one battery instead of a 3 battery pack but so far I haven't fried this one fingers crossed.

And sorry again for my technological ignorance

image.jpgimage.jpgimage.jpg
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Jamn4god

Question 1 year ago

I don't have a 3d printer to make one. Are you selling them?

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Happy_Mad_ScientistJamn4god

Answer 1 year ago

Selling just the 3d printed case or the whole thing put together and finished?

I have a bit of experience printing and shipping (I ran a successful 5 star 3D Hub until they decided to ditch the little guys) and I would be open to selling these. The question is which platform to sell on. I think Etsy could work... let me know if you (or anybody else) are interested and I'll set up some sort of way to buy the printed case. Probably would price it at about $20 including shipping.