Engineers are increasingly using digital photographs with 256 shades of grey to measure displacement of structural components. The technique is known as Digital Image Correlation and is the most common way to measure the deformation of engineering structures and components in a laboratory, and increasingly in the field. DIC provides maps of the displacement of the component surface from which the strain field can be calculated and which in turn allows engineers to assess the behaviour and likely failure modes of the component. DIC is beginning to revolutionise the way in which we validate computational mechanics models.
DIC involves capturing ‘before’ and ‘after’ images of the component surface while load is applied. If the surface has a random pattern, which is often created by spray-painting black speckles onto a white background, then it is possible to track the movement of the pattern as the surface moves and deforms. The images are usually recorded as intensity maps defined by 256 shades of grey or grey levels from white through to black. A mathematical signature is assigned to facets or sub-images of the intensity map in the ‘before’ image and a correlation algorithm uses the signature to recognise the facet in the ‘after’ image. The positions of the centre of the facet in the ‘before’ and ‘after’ images indicates the displacement of the corresponding area of the component surface. Two cameras can be used to provide stereoscopic vision and information on displacements in all directions.
The picture shows a car bonnet or hood panel in a test frame in a laboratory prior to an impact test with a random speckle pattern on the surface to allow DIC to be performed using high-speed cameras. For more details see: Burguete et al , 2013, J. Strain Analysis, doi:10.1177/0309324713498074 at http://sdj.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/09/19/0309324713498074.full.pdf+html
For detailed explanations of DIC try the monograph by Professor Mike Sutton and his colleagues [link.springer.com/content/pdf/bfm%3A978-0-387-78747-3%2F1.pdf] or the chapter on DIC in Optical Methods for Solid Mechanics by Pramod Rastogi and Erwin Hack [http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-3527411119.html].
For some applications see the special issue on DIC of the Journal of Strain Analysis for Engineering Design [http://sdj.sagepub.com/content/43/8.toc].