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Getting to Know the FLIR ONE Pro and Using DesignSpark Mechanical to Create a Mount for It

Setting up the FLIR ONE Pro thermal imaging camera and then getting to grips with DesignSpark Mechanical basics and designing a 3D printed mount for it.

The FLIR ONE Pro (136-8286) is a thermal imaging camera that plugs into the USB socket on a mobile device. The one I have has a Micro USB connector, but USB C and Apple versions are also available. With the FLIR ONE app installed on your ‘phone or tablet, you can use the thermal imaging camera to observe and record invisible heat sources, compare relative temperatures, and measure spot temperatures.

We intend to use the camera at work to monitor temperatures on circuits, particularly hardworking microprocessors. To facilitate this, I decided to 3D print a holder for the camera that would attach it to the stand (913-2516) we had recently acquired along with a USB Microscope.

It was not long ago that I had my first go at 3D printing to contribute to the production of visor frames to help curb the spread of the Coronavirus, so I had the 3D printer at home with me, but this would be my first attempt at making my own design.

FLIR ONE Pro basics

Before starting on designing the mount for the camera I wanted to try it out, so I installed the FLIR One Android app on my phone and connected the camera to it. As my phone has a USB C socket I used a small adapter to connect to the Micro USB plug. The app is straight forward to use and can be set to launch automatically when the camera is attached to your device.

Like many others currently working from home, I am being supervised by a cat – a nice warm cat going by this picture!

The FLIR ONE Pro has a USB C charging socket conveniently placed on the opposite side to its connector plug, so it can be powered via that instead of the battery if need be. Its battery will also charge from the device it is connected to.

Designing a mount

I began by downloading and installing the free DesignSpark Mechanical software. Once it was up and running I clicked on the Help and Resources menu, and watched some of the online introductory tutorials. After familiarising myself with the menus and some of the tools, I started by following the simple guide to creating a solid, that can be found in the help section on the right of the DesignSpark Mechanical window.

I am so used to designing things for the laser cutter in 2D that it took me quite a while to get my head around working in 3D and the concept of starting with a solid shape and then “carving” holes out of it. Once I had worked this out and the basic method of pulling selected planes backward and forwards, things started to get easier.

I found flipping between views – top, bottom, left, and right – using the menu was really useful. I also found that switching the spin tool to “On Centre” as opposed to the default “On cursor”, made it a lot more manageable.

I decided that the way to go was to create a rectangular solid — as I had in the tutorial — and then use the Shell Tool to hollow it out. If I made the initial solid 6mm larger than the FLIR ONE Pro and then created the shell with 3mm thick walls, that should provide my basic holder for the camera.

I then needed to make holes in the shell walls for access to the power button and charging socket, along with the lens and the plug that connects to the ‘phone or tablet. This I did by first selecting the plane I wanted to cut the hole in, and then draw the hole using the rectangle drawing tool. Then, making sure I was in 3D Mode, I could select the rectangle I had just created, select the Pull tool, and then followed by Cut from the tool’s ribbon menu. I could then drag the cursor to create my 3mm deep hole in the wall of the shell.

Once I had created all the holes I needed to create a cylinder to fit in the stand’s holder. I did this by drawing a circle on the top of the box and then pulling it upwards – the reverse of creating the holes. I then hollowed it out using the shell tool, this time making the wall 5mm thick. This should save material and time but still leave the cylinder strong enough.

Printing the mount

Now I was ready to try printing it. I exported the file in STL format, opened it in the Ultimaker Cura program, and chose the default draft settings. Then let it “slice” the image and create the file for the 3D printer, which was saved to an SD card.

The other major difference between this process and using the laser cutter is the time it takes to print! But one of the advantages of working from home is that I could set the printer going and go and make dinner while it worked away for nearly 2 hours producing my prototype. Of course, the prototype needed some tweaking, so the second version was another 2 hours printing.

Once this second version had finished printing and I was satisfied with it, I could print a better quality one which, of course, will take even longer.

Conclusions and where next

This has been quite a steep learning curve, but the Quick Guide in DesignSpark Mechanical and the online tutorials were invaluable. I do now feel confident that I can go on and produce some more sophisticated designs and improve on the FLIR enclosure, maybe adding a bit more support for the extension cable and making some clips to hold it to the stand.

There is still a lot for me to learn, particularly about the printing material, and much of that will only really come with experience – a knowledge and feeling for the material, its strength and rigidity for example – how much flexibility or give is there in a 3mm thickness. Useful knowledge when you are designing and making things such as clips and enclosures.

I currently look after production at AB Open. I have a background in the arts, environmental conservation and IT support. In my spare time I do a bit of DJing and I like making things.

6 May 2020, 15:37