Thermal Camera




About: Most pictures on this site uses profile pictures in the visible spectrum. How boring! My profile picture is in the thermal infrared spectrum.

Have you ever had the desire to see what can not be seen? I never had the ability to see in thermal infrared, and it is rather cool to be able to see in the thermal infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Unfortunately, most thermal (FLIR) cameras are very expensive. In 2011 cameras frequently cost several thousand dollars. This project was created to develop a cheaper solution at a fraction of the cost.

The primary reason for the cost difference is the thermal infrared sensor. Instead of having a 2 dimensional array of sensors, a single sensor is moved in a raster scan pattern. Moving this single sensor takes time. So while you have fewer costly sensors, it takes longer to take a picture. This means the camera can not take images of moving objects, and the objects have to be very still during the scanning.

The original instructions can be found on my web site These instructions require some soldering ability. It can take most of your weekend to assemble this camera once you have the parts. If you're good with soldering you may be able to assemble it faster.

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Step 1: Get the Parts

The following are the parts used in creating this camera. The links to the web sites that carry these parts can be found on my web site. It's been a while since these parts were ordered, and you may need to find other web sites with similar parts if a part is no longer available. It's highly recommended that you do not substitute the MLX90614ESF-DCI sensor because it's the most accurate with the narrowest field of view.

    Arduino Project Enclosure
    2x Servo - Small
    Pan/Tilt Bracket
    Arduino Uno or an Arduino variant
    Logic Level Converter needed when using a 5 volt version of the Arduino, which is the most common version.
    Break Away Headers - Straight
    Break Away Male Headers - Right Angle
    Microsoft LifeCam VX-700
    Protoshield PCB for Arduino. Almost any Arduino prototype shield will do.
    MLX90614ESF-DCI. This model has the best accuracy and narrowest field of view.
    About a foot of ribbon cable. Almost any wire will do. At least 5 wires are needed to connect the sensor to the Arduino and laser.
    .100 KK Housings & Terminals 6 Cir. (2.54mm) for the ribbon cable.
    PCB board for holding the laser and sensor.
    A switch to turn the laser on or off.
    A laser for aiming the sensor and aligning the pictures.
    Small nuts and bolts (#2-56 x 1/4") to attach the servos.

The following additional parts and tools are used in creating this camera.

    Soldering iron
    Wire cutters
    A standard drill or a Dremel drill for creating holes in the case

Step 2: Wire the Parts

Wire the Arduino with its parts like in this diagram. Some soldering will be required.

Step 3: Assemble the Parts

After wiring all the parts together, it's time to assemble the parts. I made holes in the case for the visual spectrum camera and the servo motor. The Arduino was put on the bottom of the case. I plugged in the shield into the Arduino. I plugged in the sensor and laser into the shield, and I attached the sensor with laser to the top of the servo brackets.

Step 4: Upload the Arduino Software

Once the physical assembly is done, it's time to plug in the Arduino into your computer and to upload the sketch with the Arduino SDK. This sketch comes with the software download on my thermal camera web site.

Step 5: Use the Camera

Once you have uploaded the Arduino sketch, it's time to try it out. You will need to use the Java based Thermal Camera software that reads and renders the image. The software is also available on my thermal camera web site. Here is a video of the thermal camera in action. There is also a gallery of some images taken with the thermal camera. The user interface is also translated into several languages.

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34 Discussions


7 months ago

Great instructable!

Is it possible to output the image to a small OLED screen, connected directly to the Arduino, instead of a PC?

2 replies

Reply 7 months ago

OLED is an overkill. If you have a color LCD screen, you might be able to do it, but decent graphics is hard to do on an Arduino. Replacing the Arduino with Raspberry Pi and attaching that to an LCD screen seems plausible. Though that would require a significant rewrite to the code.


Reply 7 months ago

I am looking to built a low cost thermal imager camera and a raspberry pi seems a bit too big this for. What color LCD screen do you think would work then?


1 year ago

No tengo la capacidad si alguien me ayude o mejor se lo compro lo necesito ayudene quien lo tiene gracia


4 years ago on Introduction

I made the same circuit with housing, camera, laser everything. Whenever I start the scanning in Thermal camera GUI (running in windows 7), it gets stuck. Any solutions about that. I couldn't find any solutions about this. Any other software I should install. Please help me out.

4 replies

Reply 2 years ago

hello, do you by any chance can help me throughout the building process? I seem to be having an issue understanding the schematic.

The only time that happened was when I had a short in the circuitry. I
recommend checking that first. If the motor moved when you started
scanning, then at least you know the communication and software works.

When I used the left bottom and middle point setting, it appears correct. I can move the servo using the cursors given in the GUI. But during scanning it is not moving.


3 years ago

Hi , great work !

Can you explain how you mapped the pixel of the infrared to the rgb camera?

1 reply

3 years ago

Can I use different model of microsoft camera?


4 years ago on Introduction

hello, i like your project. so i want to try to make it. but i cannot find MLX90614 in my country. so what's the good component to change it?

1 reply

Reply 3 years ago

You can buy it in aliexpress or ebay


4 years ago on Introduction

Is this the same theory as the commercial thermal cameras. How come commercial thermal cams can see live thermal images. Do they use several sensors or does the sensor take multiple readings at the same time?

1 reply

There is no relationship between commercial thermal cameras and this camera. A commercial camera doesn't have a motor, and they have a 2 dimensional array of sensors with the light focused by a lens. They also usually have a filter on a very specialized lens that lets infrared through. Most of the cost on commercial cameras involves the numerous specialized sensors and the lens, but they update so much quicker because they don't need to move a single sensor. This camera works more like an old CRT based TV, but instead of moving a beam of electrons, it's reading the temperature at specific angles.


6 years ago on Introduction

Very nice
I absolutely love thermal cams
Lots of people dont seem to grasp how useful they can be
Wish i had the time to build something like this
The soldering would not pose a problem i do that for a living
Considered a kit ?
I cant wait for the day when cellphones will have this ;-)

2 replies