Author Topic: AGEMA Thermovision 510 - a look under her clothes by Fraser  (Read 2151 times)

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Online Fraser

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AGEMA Thermovision 510 - a look under her clothes by Fraser
« on: February 23, 2017, 07:51:19 am »
Some background first......

AGEMA may not be a familiar name to those who have only recently become interested in thermal imaging cameras. They were arguably the designer and manufacturer of the best professional industrial thermal cameras. They were named AGA but became AGEMA. FLIR rcognised the quality of the engineers and products that existed under the AGEMA brand and bought the whole company. FLIR also purchased Inframetrics and the combination of AGEMA, Inframetrics and FLIR (FSI) was a most powerful and effective force within the marketplace. FLIR has continued to aquire companies to improve their products. Indigo being a more recent example of that policy.

AGA/AGEMA had cut their teeth on the earliest of thermal cameras that were dual axis scanners with Liquid Nitrogen cryogenic cooling of the semiconductor detector pixel. Yes I said 'Pixel' singular. A singe Pixel was presented with the thermal scene via a horizontal and vertical scanning mirror assembly The two scanning mirrors created a raster scan. The serial scene information that the pixel produced was then processed and turned into a thermal image for viewing on a monitor. Whist mechanical scanning with mirrors or prisms may sound archaic to some, it was all precision machinery of the highest quality and it worked well. A 128 x 128 pixel thermal image was produced using just one cryo-cooled detector pixel. Focal Plane arrays had not been perfected at that time and there were no microbolometer FPA's.

Development of thermal cameras continued within both civilian and military projects. AGEMA developed the Thermovision 550 that used a Stirling Mechanical Cryo-Cooler to reduce the temperature of the detector array to -196C where it needed to be to operate correctly. The detector was a staring focal plane array and so no scanning optics were involved. The picture quality was simply superb with no noticeable noise. The down side of the 550 was its initial high cost and ongoing maintenance costs of the Stirling cooler. The cooler required a rebuild at 2000 hours of use and the cost was around £5000.  Around the same period as the Thermovision 550 was released, there was also a cheaper option for industries that did not need the highest performance available. AGEMA had developed two portable scanning cameras that used a new cooled detector. These were the Thermovision 210 and 510. In the Thermovision 510 the detector was a linear array of 160 Lead Selenide (PbSe) pixels. These did not need to be cooled to the extreme temperatures found in the Thermovision 550 so no Stirling Cooler was required. Instead, a Peltier cooler stack was employed to cool the PbSe pixel array to around -70C. As stated, the array comprised 160 pixels in a linear format. As such the array created the cameras vertical pixel count and a mechanical scanning mirror assembly then created 320 horizontal pixels forming a 160 x 320 letterbox image on the 510's electronic viewfinder. Image processing electronics created a stable and high quality image but it  does suffer from some minor banding and contains more noise than the Stirling Cooled 550 camera. It was significantly cheaper to buy and maintain however.

The 510 was a civilian version of a Military target search and observation camera. At the time it was a very effective 'tank killer' as the tanks engines revealed their locations, even when camouflaged. Thermal imaging cameras are a very potent targeting tool in warfare and Military money lead to many of the improvements in the technology. There were 'HOT' versions of the civilian 210 and 510 cameras. These had carefully selected detector arrays and the image processing was tweeked to provide the very best performance that could be achieved. Such 'HOT' versions were for Government use only and could not be supplied to the general public.

A significant disadvantage of the 210, 510 and 550 cameras was the fact that they are not SILENT. As such the noise signature of the camera could identify it to hostiles or lead to detection when in close proximity to hostile forces. For this reason, amongst others, the Military invested heavily in the development of non mechanical uncooled detector arrays. This lead to the VOx and A-Si microbolometers. The BST FPA had also been developed prior to these but it required a mechanical chopper wheel so did not meet the Military noiseless requirement. The microbolometer does create a clunk when the FFC flag operates but this can be dealt with satisfactorily in military cameras.

OK, to my AGEMA Thermovision 510.

I have just received my Thermovision 510 camera and initial testing shows it to be in very good operational condition despite its age. It was originally used in a Technology College where it has obviously been well cared for. I received the camera, its charger, four JVC/Sanyo type camcorder batteries and the user manual. All this was in the original AGEMA carry bag. The camera is pretty rugged but it does have a plastic case to reduce weight. The Military versions had a tougher glass reinforced plastic case. The mechanical aspects of the camera are all mounted onto the cast metal front panel and this maintains the mechanical and optical alignment of the system.

The mechanical and optical block is constructed as follows......

The thermal scene passes through an angled Germanium window of significant diameter. The thermal scene arrives at the horizontally scanning mirror. The mirror moves in an arc and presents the thermal scene to the 168 pixel high PbSe array via a Germanium optical block. The PbSe detector module is contained in a module that is under hard vacuum. The Peltier cooler stage is attached to the array directly and is also located within the hard vacuum.

The 510 uses a parallel 'data' bus from the detector array. this is converted into a standard EIA or CCIR TV video raster format by processing electronics. Field memory is use to reduce flicker. The output of the video processing stage drives a conventional CRT Electronic Viewfinder. Image capture from the 510 is via its EIA or CCIR video output. Such image captures were provided by video recorders, video printers and frame grabbers of the era. There are two onboard memories that can capture a thermal scene for the purposes of comparison.

Well that is enough of the theory, now to the pictures.....   

First some pictures of the Agema Thermovision 510, then with it next to the venerable Liquid Nitrogen cooled dual mirror scanning Thermovision 880 and modern FLIR E4 and i5

« Last Edit: February 23, 2017, 11:25:34 am by Fraser »
 

Online Fraser

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Re: AGEMA Thermovision 510 - a look under her clothes by Fraser
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2017, 07:53:07 am »
Agema 510 with the AGEMA 880, FLIR E4 and i5
 

Online Fraser

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Re: AGEMA Thermovision 510 - a look under her clothes by Fraser
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2017, 07:56:20 am »
Under her clothes......
 

Online Fraser

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Re: AGEMA Thermovision 510 - a look under her clothes by Fraser
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2017, 07:59:16 am »
The main scanner hardware section with surrounding PCB's
 

Online Fraser

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Re: AGEMA Thermovision 510 - a look under her clothes by Fraser
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2017, 08:01:05 am »
More scanner / optical assembly detail.....
 

Online Fraser

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Re: AGEMA Thermovision 510 - a look under her clothes by Fraser
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2017, 08:02:45 am »
More......
 

Online Fraser

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Re: AGEMA Thermovision 510 - a look under her clothes by Fraser
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2017, 08:05:00 am »
The EVF and button pad etc
 

Offline sam1275

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Re: AGEMA Thermovision 510 - a look under her clothes by Fraser
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2017, 08:06:00 am »
Great work Fraser!
Does it still working? I really want to see the picture from it.
Also I noticed you mentioned the military considered BST as not silent? I can hardly hear anything even if I put my ear on my BST camera, they are much more slient than the FFC shutter.
Sam
 

Online Fraser

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Re: AGEMA Thermovision 510 - a look under her clothes by Fraser
« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2017, 08:10:22 am »
That is all for now. I will upload any pictures of the scanning assembly principle that I can find in my archives.

So when people criticise modern microbolometer based cameras for their lack of resolution I laugh as I know how much effort has gone into developing thermal imaging cameras over the decades. It has been an area of great development and I salute those who have helped bring an affordable Staring Array thermal camera to the market place.

Fraser
 

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Re: AGEMA Thermovision 510 - a look under her clothes by Fraser
« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2017, 08:14:56 am »
Sam,

Yes she works fine. I will need to rig up an image capture dongle to capture an image from her.

The BST creates a 'whir' that can be acoustically fingerprinted and it is quite a fragile technology due to the chopper wheel. The military wanted a silent thermal camera and they liked the microbolometer. An FFC flag is not always needed so a microbolometer camera can be silent ;) Also a FFC flag can be a lot quieter than you find on many civilian cameras where noise is not an issue.

Fraser
 

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Re: AGEMA Thermovision 510 - a look under her clothes by Fraser
« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2017, 08:47:40 am »
I just grabbed a freeze frame of my wife and used my iPad to capture it via the viewfinder.... almost guaranteed poor quality but t least it gives an idea of the display on the 510. It looks much better in person as the iPad does not cope too well with the frame update rate or brightness of the image.
It will have to do for now.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2017, 09:06:35 am by Fraser »
 

Offline sam1275

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Re: AGEMA Thermovision 510 - a look under her clothes by Fraser
« Reply #11 on: February 23, 2017, 08:58:15 am »
Thank you very much Fraser!
 

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Re: AGEMA Thermovision 510 - a look under her clothes by Fraser
« Reply #12 on: February 23, 2017, 09:35:27 am »
OK, a couple of pictures that may help illustrate how the 510 works.

The 210 block diagram is similar to that of the 510. The 210 is a lower resolution unit providing a 48 x 256 pixel image

Fraser
 

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Re: AGEMA Thermovision 510 - a look under her clothes by Fraser
« Reply #13 on: February 23, 2017, 10:18:14 am »
A better version of the 210 Block Diagram that I extracted from the service manual.

Fraser
« Last Edit: February 23, 2017, 08:42:03 pm by Fraser »
 

Offline chimpster37

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Re: AGEMA Thermovision 510 - a look under her clothes by Fraser
« Reply #14 on: April 09, 2018, 08:20:06 am »
Hey, Fraser
Thanks for the interesting read!
I just acquired an AGEMA Thermovision 510 from an old friend going through a storage locker that he hadn't been in for over 12 years.
He seems to recall getting it from another friend who worked in airport security in Toronto.

The only problem is mine did not come with any batteries.  I'd love to use it up at the cabin in Northern Ontario some day, but not sure which batteries it takes and can't seem to find any information online about it.  Your article mentioned camcorder batteries, do you know which model off-hand?

Thanks in advance! 
=E=
 

Online Fraser

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Re: AGEMA Thermovision 510 - a look under her clothes by Fraser
« Reply #15 on: April 09, 2018, 09:11:16 am »
Hi,

Yes it uses a standard Camcorder Battery that are cheap and easy to source. The batteries are the old 3 terminal 6V NiCad pack commonly found on JVC camcorders of the 1990's. The original Agema Batteries were 6V 1500mAh

An original JVC Camcorder battery type would be BN-11U, BN-V12U or larger capacity. If you search for "JVC Camcorder battery 6V" you will find plenty of new batteries that will fit. Just choose the capacity you want. Make sure the battery has the three terminals as similar format two terminal batteries are for Sony and Sanyo camcorders and will not fit. There are universal type batteries that have both types of contact and may be charged with either a Sony or JVC type charger. I purchased some 1990's JVC camcorders in order to obtain the viewfinder module. They are really cheap on eBay and normally come with an original decent quality fast charger, exactly as supplied with the Agema 510. It may be worth checking eBay for an unwanted JVC Camcorder from the 1990's :) The actual batteries are usually old and worn out though.

Fraser
« Last Edit: April 09, 2018, 09:19:50 am by Fraser »
 

Offline chimpster37

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Re: AGEMA Thermovision 510 - a look under her clothes by Fraser
« Reply #16 on: April 10, 2018, 06:45:32 am »
Thanks for the quick reply!  ;)
 


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