Assembling an Elphel 353 camera

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Programmable all the way to the CMOS sensor, an Elphel 353 camera is a dream come true. And what better way to own one than assembling it yourself?! Here is what it took to build an Elphel NC353L-369 (price list):

To make a product, we need? Parts!

1: Oleg in the warehouse picking our parts.
2: Parts needed for an Elphel NC353L-369.


3: Take a brief look at the plan...(tbd: find URL to original)
4: then take off our shoes to be grounded (floor is grounded at Elphel).


5: Elphel cameras are powered over Ethernet, and are sold in either the standard 48V variant (the board on the left side), or a non-standard 12V (actually 9V to 36V) variant to work with batteries (the board on the right side). Elphel recommends the standard 48V variant.


6: I got some simple assistant tasks as well, such as...
7: clipping off the SATA connector fingers (left board) so that the connector fits into the pack panel.


Onto assembly and testing of electronic parts:

8: We start with the USB daughterboard (10369 only), connect the FPC to it...
9: then screw it to the back panel, and connect the FPC to the 10369 board as shown. Elphel cameras only use hexagon keys in DIN 911 sizes 0.9mm, 1.3mm, 1.5mm and 2mm. A set of keys comes with every camera.


10: Note that the FPC connector on the 10369 board is one of the easy to break bottlenecks. Be careful not to rip this off.
11: Plug the 10353 board onto the 10369 board (total of 3 connectors).


12: Add a film to the backside of the CF card board, for insulation and additional mechanical stability of the pins. Then connect the CF card board to the 10369 board (sorry no picture for this step).
13: First look at the CMOS sensor sitting on the CMOS sensor board. It's an Aptina MT9P001 5 megapixel color sensor with a resolution of 2592x1936 pixels.


14: Check that the connector on the backside of the CMOS sensor board is OK, sometimes they are bad, such as the one on the right side in this picture.
15: Connect the sensor PCB to the 10353 mainboard with the FPC, note the correct orientation as shown in this picture.


16: Plug test connectors into 10353/10369 (Ethernet, SATA, CF card, serial), then use the reflashing and test software (tbd: url to sources) to reflash the camera and test all peripherals. The fully GPL licensed production testing software allows Oleg to assemble and test about 10 cameras in 3 hours.
17: Check that the sensor is working through the web interface. Also connect to the camera with 'mplayer rtsp://192.168.0.9:554' (192.168.0.9 is the default IP of an Elphel camera).


Now we have verified all electrical parts and can move on to prepare a properly cleaned sensor frontend. Disconnect the sensor board we just tested from 10353.

18: Cleaning and assembling the sensor frontend is done on a separate table, behind a plastic window to reduce dust.
19: Blow dust off of the frontend glass with pressurized air.


20: Put three rubber rings in place,
21: then add the metal part on top of the rubber rings.


22: Fix the metal piece with three screws,
23: and put the plastic spacer in place.


24: This is what happened with a camera where the plastic spacer was forgotten - the CMOS sensor glass cracked.


25: About to remove the film from the CMOS sensor chip...
26: done.


27: Prepare a cleaning cloth, soak it with easily vaporizing cleaning solution. (tbd: document which cleaning cloth & solution is used)
28: Wipe off dust from the sensor chip with the wet cleaning cloth.


29: Check that the sensor is clean.
30: Check again.


31: Put the sensor chip into the frontend (CMOS sensor face down).
32: Add more screws to hold everything in place.


33: Sensor frontend finished.


34: Just a side note: Many common lenses have an RF filter, you can see it from the red effect when looking at the lens. The lens on the left has no RF filter.


35: Connect the now fully assembled sensor frontend back to the 10353 board.
36: And voila! A new Elphel 353 camera is ready for use.


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