Custom Manufacturing of Thermal Imaging and Sensor Applications

All objects emit infrared radiation, and infrared thermal imaging (TI) is a versatile technique that can operate in various conditions. Our article explores its applications in the military, medical, smart city development, security monitoring, and custom manufacturing of thermal imagers.

Custom Manufacturing of Thermal Imaging and Sensor Applications

Military Application Of Infrared Thermal Imaging Equipment

Thermal imaging technology, such as motion detection in aerospace and night vision, was initially developed for military use. Now, the technology is integrated into all military equipment, from individual soldier weapons to ground vehicles.

Thermal Imaging Binoculars and Monoculars

The most common and versatile type of military thermal imager is thermal imaging binoculars. These binoculars are designed for improved situational awareness and long-range reconnaissance. They are equipped with high-resolution lenses with advanced coatings to maximize light transmission and minimize glare.

In addition to military thermal imaging technology, they feature advanced image stabilization, providing soldiers with a clear and distinct view of their surroundings. Furthermore, most cooled binoculars have integrated systems such as GPS, magnetic sensors, and inclinometers. While some thermal imaging binoculars are available as handheld devices, others, which are slightly heavier, come with a tripod.

On the other hand, thermal imaging monoculars provide a more compact and lightweight choice for soldiers who demand agility and mobility. Despite their smaller size, these military-grade monoculars do not compromise imaging quality.

Military-grade monoculars often fall in the Medium Range Infrared Spectrum (MWIR) and can provide clear visuals over large distances in all weather conditions. They have a solid, rugged assembly made from reinforced polymers, and their housing is tightly bolted to withstand impact and environmental damage.

Thermal Sights

Thermal sights are a military thermal imager that detects and captures infrared energy (heat) emitted by objects. This energy is converted into an electronic image showing the temperature distribution across the scene. They are also called weapon sights when used on weaponry like rifles and machine guns.

These thermal imagers contain specific IR-sensitive materials’ focal plane array (FPA). Vanadium Oxide (VOx) is the latest technology and is more commonly used in military thermal imaging equipment due to its reliability and higher sensitivity. Military personnel can use thermal vision to focus on and identify any dangers or threats quickly.

Most military thermal imagers are cooled, meaning the sensory material needs cooling. This cooled infrared thermal imager provides much more detail than the uncooled version and can even detect the faintest temperature differences.

For military thermal imaging applications, a high-resolution matrix is recommended. Common standard is 640×480 pixels, which gives a detailed image critical for accurately identifying targets at various distances.

Unlike civilian thermal sights, military-grade thermal sights are designed to be robust and durable. They have durable outer shells and are crafted with advanced lightweight materials capable of withstanding harsh battlefield conditions.

Military thermal vision sights include weapon-mounted sights for accuracy targeting, handheld military-grade monoculars and thermal imaging binoculars for reconnaissance missions, and vehicle-mounted systems for enhanced visibility in low-visibility conditions.

Thermal Imaging in Military Vehicles

Thermal imaging technology is used in on-ground armored vehicles such as tanks for target identification and navigation. The Driver Vision Enhancer (DVE) is a compact system comprising high-resolution thermal cameras that capture the heat signatures of objects and terrain. It allows soldiers to see beyond the capabilities of standard night vision devices. In addition to the DVE, military vehicles are equipped with Local Situational Awareness Systems (LSA), which combine thermal imaging cameras and other sensors to detect, identify, and track potential threats. These systems provide a 360-degree view of the armored vehicle, giving critical information about the vehicle’s immediate surroundings to the vehicle’s occupants.

Military Application Of Infrared Thermal Imaging Equipment

Infrared Thermal Imaging Technology For City Construction

Thermal imaging systems are used in diverse applications, from autonomous cars to drones and fire trucks.

Fire Trucks with Thermal Imaging Technology

Fire trucks that respond to fires and rescue people during fire incidents are equipped with a proper thermal imaging setup. The camera module, constructed from fire-resistant materials, is positioned on top of the ladder or at the highest point on the truck. A specialized feature of these thermal cameras is their pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) functions. The thermal cameras are operated wirelessly from a safe distance. Firefighters can remotely adjust the camera’s focus and angle to view the scene comprehensively.People trapped in the fire are visible through thermal imaging, aiding quicker rescue operations.

Driverless Vehicles/Autopilot

Most driverless vehicles currently use a combination of vision cameras, LiDAR, and radar for obstacle detection and navigation. However, these sensors have limitations. LiDAR can map the car’s surroundings in great detail but becomes less effective in snow or rain.Radar is resilient in bad weather but lacks resolution for pedestrian identification, while optical cameras need good lighting.

Thermal imaging cameras address these limitations. They can sense far-infrared wavelengths between 8 and 15 microns. Humans emit a thermal signature of about 9.25 microns, which makes them easily detectable in thermal images. Additionally, imaging technology can detect vehicles based on their hotspot areas, like exhaust tailpipes.

Fire Monitoring

When a fire is about to start, the area where it will begin starts to heat up. Regular surveillance cameras cannot handle such extreme conditions. However, a thermal drone camera flying over the area can detect the hot spot and send the information to the controller in real-time for quick action. The thermal drone can also be connected to an alarm system to automate the fire response.

Thermal Drone Imagery

Drones are equipped with a compact, non-cooled thermal camera mounted on a gimbal, which stabilizes the images and allows the lens to rotate 360 degrees. As the drone takes flight, it continuously sends data to the controller. The built-in imaging and sensor system processes the thermal data into thermal imagery.

Additionally, the camera provides different colored modes, with warmer objects appearing lighter and colder areas appearing darker. This drone and thermal imaging combination is extremely useful for identifying issues in hard-to-reach areas.

Search and Rescue Operations

Traditionally, helicopters have been used for search and rescue operations. However, they cannot reach remote areas or detect living presence in the dark. Thermal imaging cameras, including those mounted on drones, can detect the heat signature of living things from a distance. Furthermore, they work well with imaging technology, regardless of weather conditions. In Vietnam, search and rescue personnel use helicopters during monsoons and landslides, which is quite common.

Agricultural Monitoring and Crop Management

A thermal drone provides an aerial view and an image that can help farmers identify crop problems. For example, a thermally heated region could indicate crop disease and pest infestation.

Building Infrastructure Maintenance and Repairs

Underground electrical or water problems are quite hard to detect. However, a thermal camera can diagnose these irregularities, sensing temperature variations even inches below the surface.

Drones can take thermal imaging devices to hard-to-reach areas, making them useful for industrial use where safety is paramount. In Argentina, thermal drones inspect oil refineries without shutting down the plant or physically visiting the equipment.

Environmental Monitoring and Wildlife Conservation

The thermal system can detect the heat signature of living beings, including animals. Drones with thermal and visual cameras are used in Switzerland to protect baby deer during mowing season by locating hidden fawns in tall grass.

Thermal Drone Imagery

Infrared Thermal Imagers For Medical Imaging

Medical thermography, which uses thermal imagers, is commonly used in the early diagnosis of various diseases. It is a non-contact, non-invasive technology that can be effectively used across different organs and their systems.

For example, abnormal thermal patterns can help diagnose circulatory problems and inflammatory conditions. Additionally, cancerous tissues often have a higher temperature than surrounding tissues.

In medical thermography, the lens assemblies are made using precision glass molding of chalcogenide glass and have an advanced anti-reflective (AR) coating to cover the full LWIR band.

Custom Manufacturing Processes For Thermal Imaging Devices

When creating mechanical components for thermal imaging cameras, such as sensor housings and frames, and plastic parts, the main processes involved are CNC machining, molding techniques like injection molding, die casting, and sheet metal fabrication.

Sheet Metal Fabrication

Thermal imaging devices’ housing and mechanical components are designed to be durable and protective. Sheet metal fabrication involves various processes, such as bending, cutting,and assembling, to create high-precision parts like frames, casings, and structural supports. These parts enhance the devices’ strength and ability to withstand harsh environments.

CNC Machining

The 5-axis CNC milling process primarily creates intricate geometries in thermal imager frames and housing components. The advanced maneuverability and multi-axis rotation offered by 5-axis machines enable the machining of complex angles and undercuts that would be unfeasible with traditional 3-axis machines.

A T-shaped drill bit is employed to machine the inner housing components of the thermal camera. This specialized drill bit allows for accuracy in creating internal features and enhances the accuracy of lens and sensor housings in thermal cameras.

Die Casting and Injection Molding

Die casting is a process for manufacturing metal-based components of thermal sensors. It is especially effective for creating parts that require high strength, precision, and durability, such as a protective sheet for housing. Non-ferrous metals,such as aluminum, common in thermal sensor components, are well-suited for die casting. The resulting parts are strong and precise and have an excellent surface finish.

Injection molding is mainly used for creating plastic components for thermal sensors. It is versatile, allowing for the use of a variety of plastics and polymers, making it ideal for manufacturing lightweight but durable sensor housing parts. Compared to die casting, injection molding is generally more cost-effective and faster for producing a large volume of plastic sensor parts.

Start With Enze For Your  Sensor Devices and Machined Imaging

Enze specializes in custom machining services for thermal imaging devices. We utilize mill-turn machining to produce sensor components, employing advanced materials and manufacturing processes to ensure high accuracy and reliability in thermal imaging devices.

While the manufacturing of thermal imaging devices is constantly evolving in sensor parts design and customization, Enze works closely with clients to comprehend specific application needs and offer appropriate imaging and sensor machining solutions. Don’t hesitate to contact us today to initiate your projects!


Infrared thermal imaging is a revolutionary technology initially developed for military use. It has expanded to various applications, from autonomous cars to thermal drones, requiring customized designs for each thermal imager.