DEFCAD Newsletter - DIY Printable Night Vision
August 16, 2022
Welcome to a special issue of the defcad newsletter. Today we are stepping back from printable firearms to focus on another subject: diy night vision. nvgs that you can build at home experienced an explosion in popularity in mid-2021, resulting in the production of several designs - many of which are still being developed.
These designs generally consist of printed housing(s), bridges and helmet mounts meant to contain electronic cameras and screens which collect and display an amplified image. Image quality is of course not as good as professionally made night vision devices, but these diy devices are dramatically cheaper, usually costing less than $1000.
Unlike firearms projects, the field of DIY night vision is still quite new and as such most projects are a bit less organized than you might be used to. This newsletter aims to gather the important information about each design to help you understand it - so read on to learn more!
The PVS-69 Gen 3 by vaughngina is probably the most complete project on this list, having an official release with full documentation. It can be configured for monocular or binocular use, one screen per eye, and it can also be set up with an auto-shutoff feature. Parts kits can be purchased from the developer’s web store. A coupon code is provided for readers of this newsletter, good for free shipping until September 30th. The code is: DEFCAD2022.
Following electronics setup, the camera and screen will need to be configured for use - the PVS-69 documentation provides information on how to do this. This build also contains parts and instructions on an optional auto-shutoff system, which requires the fabrication of a custom PCB. The files for this are included, but detailed documentation is still in the works.
The BPNVG v1, originally by Stubbs / Gun Foogle, is the design that started the DIY NVG craze back in 2021. Since that time Stubbs has built a second version which is one of the most configurable NVGs on this list: it can be run as either monocular, binocular or panoramic. The printable bridges in this project are compatible with both J-arm or Rhino mounts.
As with the PVS-69 and all other designs on this list, these NVGs use a small, relatively inexpensive FPV camera to capture image, which is displayed on a small screen. Up to four of these “display units” can be built into a single set of NVGs. This is all wired together using various electronics components and powered through a powered bridge and battery pack.
A community of sorts has developed around the BPNVG II since its release. This community mostly operates from the WillStunForFood / JustCallMeKoko Discord and Github server - interested builders should go check these places out! The Github wiki contains information about building the BPNVG project, including a video showing assembly.
The DPNVG Mk3 by guana19 is set up as a panoramic design. The release package includes a full parts list and a wiring diagram. Two videos were also produced showing the assembly and use of this design: Part 1, Part 2. The MDNVG by aRych is an iteration on this design which provides a monocular housing, allowing you to try out the design without buying as many electronics.
As with the BPNVG, a small community exists on Discord for these designs. Some documentation and help can be found in this community. Part 2 of the Youtube video linked above also contains a parts list with links to AliExpress for the major parts. This build requires a special flash tool in order to flash firmware onto the boards, which makes it a slightly more complicated undertaking.
The VPNVG is designed by vaughngina, the same dev as the PVS-69, and it actually comes in three variants: the original, the lite, and the Mk2. All three designs are, like the DPNVG, panoramic-only. The Lite is a slimmed-down version of the original, while the Mk2 is an upgraded version. Documentation appears to be sparse here, and interested builders would likely do better simply going with the PVS-69.
We’ll wrap up by noting a few designs that we’ve come across which do not appear to have ever been fully “released”. These include the HFNVG Mk1, which can be run as mono, bino or panoramic; the GR-NVG, which can be run as mono or bino; and a project known as both the TPNVG and the HHNVG, designed to be run as panoramic. All of these are listed as in progress, and may have been abandoned - we list them for completeness, but also in case a dev wishes to revisit and complete these projects.
The proliferation of DIY NVGs illustrates quite well the magic of the open-source world: when one person shares a good idea, several others will immediately pick that idea up and run with it, putting their own spin on it and filling in gaps. This is clearly true of DIY NVGs, and it is true of guncad generally. We will continue to report on these proliferations as they occur: keep up with this reporting and find the latest files at defcad!