Night Vision devices have been all the rage over the last couple of years and I have yet to run into a single person who didn’t want night vision in their collection. That being said, most of those same people probably wouldn’t spend the money it costs to obtain such a device purely because of its limited use in a person’s everyday life. OpenScope has set out to help remove the high price sting of digital night vision devices by releasing some open-source materials that allow anyone with a 3D printer to assemble their own rig. TFB/TFBTV supporter Stubbs was kind enough to give us a brief look into one such device he built in the hopes it would inspire others to do the same. Stubbs is proud to present his Bootleg Panoramic Night Vision Goggles (BPNVG).
Open Source BPNVG (Bootleg Panoramic NVG) with TFB Reader Stubbs
Now it is worth stating right out of the gate that the OpenScope Digital Nightvision device is more similar to a Sionyx Low-Light Camera than a true night vision device with intensifier tubes like a PVS-14. Instead, the OpenScope design is based around a camera that was originally designed for night-time drone racing. In combination with a lens and a screen, the system is incredibly simple and easy to build according to Stubbs. In fact, to put it in his words:
The wiring diagram is also so easy a chimp can do it, with a whopping 3 solder connections
In total, Stubbs estimates that the maximum cost for a complete build of the OpenScope digital night vision device would run you less than $550 for parts alone and less than $1,000 with a 3D printer included. This is about on par with what you would pay for a commercially available Sionyx Low-Light Camcorder but without the adaptability that Stubbs has put into his own build.
A big advantage to working with image intensifier tubes is that several of them can be combined to form an array of up to 4 independent devices working together to give you a greater field of view. A single PVS-14 will give you about a 40-degree field of view whereas a quad setup grants you 97 degrees. For reference, the normal human eye has a 135-degree field of view. Bearing all that in mind, what did Stubbs come up with in his build?
Stubbs DIY BPNVG (Bootleg Panoramic Night Vision Goggles)
Stubb’s build is a fusion of two different builds that can be found on instructables.com. The first build is the original OpenScope build and the second is the Eagle Scope 1.0. Stubbs took the two builds and fused them together to create his own binocular setup that can be fixed to a helmet or used standalone. The Stubbs build forgoes the camcorder/DVR function that some other builds include and this presumably lightens the entire assembly and frees up space for the unique binocular design.
Both of the other builds include an IR LED which aids the sensitive camera in generating a visible image in the dark but Stubbs said that he excluded this feature in order not to overcomplicate the design and to also avoid having an active illuminator on all the time which he referred to as a “light discipline issue”. For illumination, he instead uses basically any other helmet-mounted IR source and he is even looking into short wave IR illuminators which conventional intensifier tube based night vision goggles cannot see.
The printing side of things consists exclusively of the housings that are required to hold the entire assembly together. According to Stubbs, his entire print time for each half of the clamshell took about 17 hours. Once the printing is done, the soldered assembly can be put together inside of the housing and after that just needs to be plugged in to start using.
What is neat about this design is that the lens and housing work together to provide just enough eye relief so that the image can come through to your eye very clearly. As far as mounting goes, a unique approach had to be made to make these work on a J Arm mount intended for a genuine night vision device.
Stubbs wanted to make it plainly clear how grateful he is for the original OpenScope and Eagle Scope designs as his build really wouldn’t exist without both of theirs. In his words, he just took what they had already built and simplified it, and designed an actual helmet mount. As a final note, he wanted to add that he personally believes that the camera sensor, while not just as good as a PVS-14, gets pretty darn close.
“As for the camera sensor itself, it’s advertised as being more sensitive than a pvs14 but lux is subjective and I personally don’t think it’s as good but it’s close”
The DIY 3D Printer Crowd Is moving into the Night
It’s great to see how far the 3D printing community has come along in the last couple of years. Before we were merely printing replacement pieces or making simple single-shot breech-loading guns. Now we are at the stage where people as young as 18 (designer of the Eagle Scope 1.0) are designing and building digital night vision devices that rival that of what is commercially available from commercial retailers. Stubb’s BPNVG is just another example of how the 3D printing community works off of one another’s success and then turns around and offers it back to those who are new and experienced alike within the community.
If you’re interested in creating your own pair of BPNVG or either of the two devices that inspired the BPNVG, you can find all the links, materials, and instructions to build your own. For info on the OpenScope, you can visit MattGyver92’s page, or for the Eagle Scope 1.0, you can visit Happy_Mad_Scientist’s page. Stubbs plans on releasing his own files for the BPNVG soon and I will post a link to his files here as soon as they become available.
If you have questions for Stubbs about his build or need pointers from him, consider joining our Discord channel where he is frequently available.