3D Printed Night Vision Scope

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Introduction: 3D Printed Night Vision Scope

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.

Disclaimer:

Some of these links are 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



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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49 Discussions

Hello, so hopefully I am still in the final stages of making my monocular. Attached are some pictures I'm having difficulty with. mainly the 5v booster charger, when I plugged my battery pack into the port. unfortunately all I know about electronics is enough to be dangerous, and had my display and run cam attached as well. The booster literally went up in a puff of smoke originating from the picture denoted by the pen point. I am worried I read the instructions wrong (the most likely scenario) and fried the display and camera in the process. any and all help in the matter is greatly appreciated, please note that the shell is not the same until I can figure out how to get the shell printed.

battery.jpg5v booster charger.jpgwiring.jpg
2 more answers

Hmmmm... looks like you soldered the battery to "ext sw" (exterior switch). It should have been soldered to the + and - terminals (the ones below the battery connecter) or connected to the connecter with the connecter....(?). Make sure you don't have the battery wires (+-) switched. I would think it's only the charging circuit which died. The display and the camera are prob fine. Let me know if this helps!

NV diagram.jpg

Those two wires attached to the board still are for my on/ off switch I had actually used the battery two prong connector to go through the port, and It definitely helps. Take all the help I can get.

Is there someone out there like Roland bench Rolaids that can bend build me a scope or camera infrared that I can see in the dark better than 3rd Generation I'm a disabled vet and unable to do it myself thank you

Can somebody Bill me a night vision scope or display that I can use on a pellet rifle 357 caliber with a hundred foot 50 foot pounds

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

1 more answer

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

Awesome build mine is in process waiting for camera and display and have a case being made by 3d hubs. I am holding everything in with double sided sticky tape not hot glue so you can remove parts if you need to.

1 reply

Thanks! I hope everything goes well!

I actually use hot glue because it can be removed but still is great at sticking.

Hey, Thanks for a great project, almost got all the parts now. But one question.

My Near eye display has two plugs and I am a little confused.

One is like a headphone plug but only with four positions.

Tip, Ring, Sleeve and one extra,

I also have another small flat 2 pin plug withe Red and Black

The latter I guess is power with Red and Black,

but why the 4 pint in on the other?

If it had speakers in the eye piece I guess it would ground, video, left and right audio.

I am a little confused.

If you could provide a pin out it would be great.

Cheers

1 reply

Ok, so you are actually going to need to cut the cable on the near-eye display at about 2 inches long (short enough so it can lay strait inside the camera). Then strip off the outside insulation to reveal 4 small wires consisting of ground, 5v, video ground, and video in. Here is a diagram of what it might look like and I think I did match the colors of the wires to the actual thing. (Click on the image for full size)

NV diagram.jpg

Great job! Thank you for sharing your work! I hope video of Eagle Scope 1.0(ES1) in work will come soon to see it in action. I would really love to build one, but I'm not a professional in this things, so could you answer is ES1 better than available NV scopes on maket for a such price or it's just a hobby project? And you can be annoyingly descriptive if you wish;)

3 more answers

So as for seeing in the dark (without an IR light), it all depends on the lighting conditions. Some nights have lighting conditions that the camera is far superior to my own eyes and other nights it is only a very slight improvement compared to my own eyes (given that your eyes have adjusted to the dark for ~10 min). It especially excels when you have a lot of light pollution such as in a city or development.

But that is without passive infrared light (invisible to the eye). Having an IR flashlight will let you see very clearly in any lighting conditions. You will be able to see as far as the flashlight can project the light. In fact, I ALWAYS use an infrared flashlight cause it makes the image easily readable in all lighting conditions.

The pictures appear "grainy" but that is cause it is a single frame taken from a video. It is a much higher resolution in reality.

Excellent answer, thank you.

I am wondering how much more it can be seen in complete darkness as compared to the naked eye? For example if with naked eye you can see about 10m.

Thanks. Yep, the video should be coming very soon. Haven't edited any of the footage yet cause I've been so freakin' busy but I think it should be out in 4-9 days.

There are some cheap NV options out there like this one https://amzn.to/2KRlo7t which cost $95.00. I have never owned one of these and from the research I've done, it seems that the ES1 will have a higher resolution, better low-light detection, a rechargeable battery, able to be mounted on a helmet or as a scope, customizable lenses, and the option to record the video. I would think this could match almost any other digital NV out there (less than $600). If you put the right lens on it, you should be able to mount it behind a scope or red dot as well.

Of course, your friends will probably think you are an absolute genius for having the ability to build such a device and it is a really fun and useful thing to build. Anyway, I hope the video will be of help to you! (when I finally get it out) If you have any more questions don't heasitate to ask.

It's great that power source is rechargeable, but it will be even better if you'll design a case with easy detachable battery pack to replace it on the fly, like in quadro-copters.

Epic build! I love how you designed it in CAD and 3D printed it. Did you include the estimated battery life? I would love to see the earlier prototypes as well. Voted!