Author Topic: Affordable Thermal Imaging Camera on indigogo  (Read 3590 times)

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Offline Damage

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Affordable Thermal Imaging Camera on indigogo
« on: March 29, 2013, 06:18:35 am »
There is a project on indiegogo that is claiming that they can deliver a fully functioning thermal imaging camera (similar to the FLIR systems) for under $300 (link below).  It uses your smartphone, tablet or PC for the screen and processor.  To me it almost sounds like one of those "too good to be true" things, but maybe these things are getting into the realm that the average Joe can afford one.  I am curious to hear peoples thoughts on this one.  Certainly if this is legitimate, this would have many uses for electronics design and diagnostics, it would give FLIR a run for their money.  I do think FLIR for the most part has pretty much cornered the market.  This is a market I would like to see some disruption in.

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/mu-thermal-camera-a-great-tool-to-save-on-energy-costs
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Affordable Thermal Imaging Camera on indigogo
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2013, 11:07:34 am »
This has been discussed here a couple of times before. File under "believe it when you see it".
Suspicious as they claim the expensive parts are the processing/display, when they are actually the exotic optics.
They're claiming to be shipping 1800 units in May, but AFAICS they have shown no pics or vids of any actual hardware.
Their post in response to the Hackaday thread gives little reassurance :
http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/mu-thermal-camera-a-great-tool-to-save-on-energy-costs?c=activity

Their claim that giving more info only helps their competitors is just pure BS.
All they have shown is footage which could have come from any TI camera.
If you had made something like this, would you not want to show someone actually using it?
The video of their setup  also doesn't add much confidence - an ancient Tek scope in a position that would be impractical to use. Soldering station right at the back of the bench. Looks staged to me.
 
I still smell way too much BS to believe this is anything more than self-delusion or scam. I'd be delighted to be proved wrong.


 
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Offline Fraser

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Re: Affordable Thermal Imaging Camera on indigogo
« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2013, 12:33:01 pm »
I have to agree...there is something very wrong when someone claims the expensive parts of a TIC are the processing and screen !

For those not familiar with TIC structure. The most expensive and hard to source part is the high performance microbolometer Focal Plane Array. The main player in the industry is Raytheon and I know they don't sell TIC FPA's cheap ! High resolution, fast update TIC's are also a DoD controlled product and Raytheon, being a military supplier, are very careful about releasing their products.

The other expensive part of a TIC is the Germanium single crystal lens. That’s right, a single crystal. That makes for an expensive piece of optics. Germanium is a metal and very expensive. So much so that old Germanium lenses have a high scrap value for reworking into new lenses. The cost is exponential relative to diameter and thickness. A cheap TIC lens would be really tiny !

I have used a lot of thermal imaging cameras and the claims of this company just do not ring true. Claiming the same performance as a TIC from FLIR is real fighting talk....FLIR are the top player in TIC supply to various Governments and have absorbed most of the competition into their company.

The thermal pictures shown in the video look more like those I capture with a high end FLIR TIC fitted with a 320x240 or 640x480 pixel FPA. I smell BS and some Photoshop at work !

This company appear to be claiming that they have found the Holy Grail of imaging chips and optics that they then clag onto an iPhone. From my knowledge of the industry Pyroelectric Vidicon's, BST and High end Microbolometer technology deliver decent TIC images, none are cheap .... has this company invented something never before seen and at a bargain price ? If so, expect FLIR to be all over them like a rash and buying them out soon !

I see many have risked their money. Good luck to them. I would love to be proved wrong as I would buy one ! I will not hold my breath though.

Thermal Imaging Cameras are an OOOOOH ARRRRRR product at the moment with energy usage a major concern with fuel price increases. This appears to be a project aimed to capture the minds of those who do not know about the internal parts of a thermal camera. Easy pickings ?

Fraser
« Last Edit: March 29, 2013, 04:41:46 pm by Aurora »
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Affordable Thermal Imaging Camera on indigogo
« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2013, 01:56:34 pm »
The other expensive part of a TIC is the single Germanium Crystal lens. That’s right, a single crystal. That makes for an expensive piece of optics. Germanium is a metal and very expensive. So much so that old Germanium lenses have a high scrap value for reworking into new lenses. The cost is exponential relative to diameter and thickness. A cheap TIC lens would be really tiny !
o
And with a 160x120 resolution, could they do it with a single lens? I don't know - maybe with some prcessing to fix the geometry. The lens shown in the picture  looks pretty large. It also doesn't look like any Ge lens I've seen (but hard to tell from a single photo). ge lenses need anti-reflective coatings so typically have a coloured tint to reflected visible light.
Quote
If so, expect FLIR to be all over them like a rash and buying them out soon !
or suing them. Maybe this is why tehy are being secretive - wait till you get the funding then mysteriously collapse and blame bullying/conspiricy from "The big boys".
Quote
I see many have risked their money. Good luck to them. I would love to be proved wrong as I would buy one ! I will not hold my breath though.
OK not a huge amount of money - If I'd have seen it at the early stage I'd probably have gambled on it if only to be the first to do a teardown 8)
The flexible funding thing also raises suspicion.
Quote
Thermal Imaging Cameras are an OOOOOH ARRRRRR product at the moment with energy usage a major concern with fuel price increases. This appears to be a project aimed to capture the minds of those who do not know about the internal parts of a thermal camera. Easy pickings ?
I think it's no coincidence that this came not too long after the success of IR-Blue kickstarter.

The recent statement and video makes me more, not less suspcious.  Even the computer desk behind the guy looks too clean and tidy to be in the middle of a product development like this. 
A few more observations : "My experience is in Physics and Aerospace engineering, I've worked on several NASA funded research projects" ..so no real products then. And a bunch of fields that sound impressive to the layman but are vague enough to cover anything, and be hard to verify.
"I have a background in App design and a degree in physics. and a lot of experience in experimental, er, physics and.....electronics ". Again any product design experience?
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Offline Fraser

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Re: Affordable Thermal Imaging Camera on indigogo
« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2013, 04:59:45 pm »
I have reworded my comment about the Germanium lens slightly. What I meant to say is that a TIC lens element is made from a crystal of Germanium, an expensive production process. All of my thermal cameras, except the recently purchased Irisys people counter, use a combination of lenses similar to the make-up of a normal optical CCTV camera lens. Expensive items.

There are other materials that will work at the wavelengths reqiuired for a TIC. Certain plastics will work and PIR sensors use these in a Fresnel lens arrangement but they are not appropriate for high resolution TIC use as yet.

http://www.fresneltech.com/thermalimaging.html

The alternative materials for a TIC lens that I am aware of are unusual in their properties. I have used ZnSe (Zinc Selenide) and it works...... BUT it is both very poisenous if ingested or absorbed through the skin, and it is so soft that it is hard to not scratch it, even with a lens cloth. Not an ideal material for a TIC then.

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/New-ZnSe-Focal-Lens-for-CO2-Laser-Cutting-Diam-20mm-FL-1-1-5-2-2-5-3-3-5-4-/230830294923?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&var=&hash=item35be8ec78b

http://www.crystran.co.uk/userfiles/files/zinc-selenide-znse-handling-precautions.pdf

Fraser
« Last Edit: March 29, 2013, 05:06:22 pm by Aurora »
 

Offline MacAttak

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Re: Affordable Thermal Imaging Camera on indigogo
« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2013, 01:13:47 am »
Hmm. What the hell, for $150 it's worth it to me to give it a shot. If they actually ship then maybe I will have something interesting enough to do a mini teardown on.

As crowdfunding campaigns go though, this one seems to have their stuff together more than most of the scams. Yes there are a lot of questionable things there. Like the basic notion that this guy can pull something like this off with help from just one EE/programmer and a "UX designer" (both of whom are clearly very young and therefore not experienced in the industry).

My take on it is that they probably have some good (maybe great) ideas, a working prototype even, big aspirations, but most likely no sense of the difficulty that really lies ahead. I get the impression they do believe in their own project and aren't intentionally misleading or misrepresenting things.

Even if they succeed from a technology standpoint, the pure logistics of manufacturing, testing, and shipping 1500+ devices is a HUGE undertaking.

My expectations are low, but then again I have backed plenty of crap on these crowdfunding sites before that were even less convincing. I give it a 50% chance of technical success and a 25% chance of delivery success (late delivery), and less than a 10% chance they will achieve the technical goals AND deliver on time.
 


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