Grove Thermal Imaging Camera MLX90640: Comprehensive Review & Features

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As the name suggests, the Grove - Thermal Imaging Camera / IR Array MLX90640 is a Grove module that integrates a small thermal camera that can be used to generate thermal images. Its price of under 30 bucks makes this a pretty good steal, I already have a bunch of ideas for this thing!

Considering the rising demand for affordable thermal imaging solutions, the Grove Thermal Imaging Camera stands out. Its compatibility with various projects and its transactional value for DIY enthusiasts make it a top choice.

Why is the Grove Thermal Imaging Camera / IR Array MLX90640 awesome?

By far, the coolest feature of this board is that it lets you generate thermal images. While the resolution of this camera is not the greatest, its decent refresh rate of 63Hz and ability to detect a wide range of temperatures makes this board so insanely applicable to many projects. At the same time, the use of medical-grade sensors (according to the datasheet) means that you can take accurate thermal images at a distance.

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Features and specs of the Grove -  Thermal Imaging Camera / IR Array MLX90640 

With regards to the features of the Grove - Camera / IR Array MLX90640 , the camera sensor itself is a 16 x 12 array of MLX90641 thermal sensors, which are designed for use in the medical industry, and a small plastic lens over the sensor provides a field of view of 100˚ x 75˚. The maximum temperature range that the thermal camera can detect is between -40˚C and 300˚C, and communication with the camera is done via I2C. Additionally, the board has multiple mounting holes for securing to enclosures, and the 4-pin grove connector allows for rapid prototyping with other grove devices.


What projects can you do with the Grove -  Thermal Imaging Camera / IR Array MLX90640 

The most obvious use for this board is as a thermal imaging camera. While the resolution is low, it is more than enough to create basic heatmaps of a surface or object. Such heat maps can be extremely useful for seeing how heat flows through an object or surface, and the ability for the sensor to work at range allows for distant objects to be monitored.

Another excellent use for this thermal imaging board is for diagnosing short circuits in PCBs. Generally speaking, components that have failed, or have short-circuited, will get hot, pretty darn fast. Now, if you are struggling to identify parts on a PCB that may have failed, you can apply a short burst of power, and use this board to find which components have become substantially hot. This method beats what I have been doing, pouring large quantities of highly flammable IPA over my PCB just to see which part dries the fastest. 

Given the versatility of the Grove Thermal Imaging Camera, it's no surprise that it's becoming a favorite among DIY enthusiasts. Whether you're looking to diagnose PCB issues, create heatmaps, or embark on innovative projects, this camera offers unparalleled value.

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Finally, this board could also be used in projects that need to track a heat source. For example, a robot could utilise this sensor to identify heat signatures and track the movement of those passing by, which could be useful for security applications.  In my case, I am absolutely convinced I could make a miniaturised AIM9X Sidewinder; mount the camera onto a 2-axis cradle, place a clear dome over the structure, and connect it to the front of a rocket. But saying that just made me realize I am probably on a watch list now, so, yeah, don’t do that.


Should you buy one?

To summarise, the Grove - Thermal Imaging Camera is an excellent module for those looking to create projects needing to capture thermal images, but the medical-grade nature of the thermal sensors also means you can use this module as a non-contact temperature sensor with some decent accuracy (around 1˚C). While I can think of a ton of nefarious uses for this board, I'm sure that you lot, reading this article will find much more, civil, use for it. Ready to elevate your DIY projects? Grab the Grove Thermal Imaging Camera from the Electromaker store now!

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