PolaPi-Zero: the tiny thermal-printing camera

Using a Nano Thermal Receipt Printer from Adafruit, a Sharp Memory LCD screen, and a Raspberry Pi Zero, Hackaday.io user Pierre Muth has created the PolaPi-Zero, or as I like to call it, the Oh-My-Days-How-Cute-Is-This-Camera-LOOK.

PolaPi-Zero Raspberry Pi

In lieu of banana, a Euro for scale.

Having gifted his previous Pi-powered camera to a friend, it was time to build a new one. A version 2.0, if you will.

The camera considers itself a makeshift Polaroid, allowing for review of an image via the LCD screen before you press a button to print via the thermal printer.

Having designed the case in 123D, he used an online 3D printing service to complete the body of the camera. You can download the case file here.

Code for the camera can be found on GitHub, where Pierre apologises for the less-than-elegant look:

“This project is a good excuse to start learning Python (finally).”

You can also download the image directly here.

PolaPi-Zero Raspberry Pi

Follow the build via Hackaday.io, and if you make one, be sure to share it with us in the comments below. If you’ve made a similar project, again with the comment sharing.


Micah avatar

You really need to change the title of this because it IS NOT a thermal camera. It’s a regular camera that can print on a built in thermal printer.

Rich avatar

I came here thinking the same thing! “Camera with thermal printer” is not the same as “Thermal Camera”!

Ham avatar

Agreed! Title misleading/confusing.

Best project tho.

Niall Saunders avatar

Same here – I spent a few hours, only yesterday (!!), trying to find a cheap solution to identifying thermal leaks on my house.
You can imagine just how eagerly I clicked this link when I had my daily peek at the RasPi Blog. Admittedly, I could not understand why the name of the project has been chosen, but just assumed that it meant somethong to someone.
Shame – it just isn’t what it purports to be.
Maybe another time (I don’t have time to try and develop one myself, I’m too busy trying to find ways around the limitations of Mathematica as available for the Pi, and too poor to buy the full licensed version to try and solve things on a full-blown 8-core/64Gb desktop PC!)

Alex Bate avatar

Check online. There are definitely a few projects out there that use a Raspberry Pi to build a makeshift thermal camera.

Alex Bate avatar


Over-50 avatar

The Therm-App long wave infrared thermal camera can be used with a Pi 2 or Pi 3 via USB. It was originally intended for Android phones. Details are here

The Therm-App is a high resolution thermal imager, at a whopping 384 x 288 pixels, and not expensive at about US$999. And no, I’m not kidding: thermal imagers are normally very pricey and very few are available with resolutions higher than 640 x 480 – and those are eye-wateringly expensive.

fiveseven808 avatar

Not raspberry pi compatible but my suggestion for thermal imaging is http://www.flir.com/flirone/ios-android/

Their camera/thermal imager combination give a really good way to identify leaks.

I just wish that they opened the USB driver so we could get it working with the pi!

Pete G avatar

Got a flir one android last christmas. They are suprisingly fun things to play with (try looking at the heat ghost left behind from footprints, or playing hide and seek with the grandkids in the dark).

tenochtitlanuk avatar

The Adafruit project projects a colour onto objects during a time-exposure photograph- eg the outside of a house, in the dark- based on the signal received on a contact-less temperature sensor. A sort of poor-man’s thermal imaging..


Elfen avatar

Interesting. One can get thermal Cash Register printers for next to nothing.

John avatar

Love that sexy HP-65 modeling in the background!

Niall Saunders avatar

What I should also have really added to my earlier comment is what and impressive ‘polaroid’ camera this actually is!

OK, so you only get a B&W print, but it’s the fact that the print you get is coming from something that *you* built (or, even better, something that *the kids* built!!).

Article heading aside then – what a neat, clever idea! Imagine walking up to a complete stranger, pressing the button, and tearing off a litlle strip of paper to give them. Al that is needed is a little change to the code to add the words “By the Power of Pi” to the bottom of the printout!

camarasinstantaneas.net avatar

Love this project! Way more cheaper than Fujifilm Instax Mini shots. It’s a very clever idea to use a thermal printer to build an instant camera.

Amazing the PolaPi-Zero!!!

fred_pery avatar

Mine’s not quite as open source (yet) but I recently put a pi zero in a vintage folding camera. I also build a WiFi selfie shutter and paired the camera with a Polaroid mini printer to be able to print full colour prints while out and about.

The main camera:

The WiFi selfie button and printing:

Kasper Holst avatar

On thermal paper and health issues:


While I’m at it, it would be great with more focus on environmentally friendly electronics.

Nice project by the way ;-)

belese avatar


i’ve done quite the same in wood :

source will be soon on github, i’ve use opencv histogram equalization to enance contrast before printing.

cidsoulo avatar

Hello evryone i have a question is it possible to make that with a photo printer like polaroid fuji or HP ?????
tell me please i wana made my own raspiroid …… with numeric and instant camera photo quality

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