A novel approach based on full-field indentation measurements to characterize and quantify the effect of contact in thin plates is presented. The proposed method has been employed to evaluate the indentation damage generated in the presence of bending deformation, resulting from the contact between a thin plate and a rigid sphere. For this purpose, the 3D Digital Image Correlation (3D-DIC) technique has been adopted to quantify the out of plane displacements at the back face of the plate. Tests were conducted using aluminum thin plates and a rigid bearing sphere to evaluate the influence of the thickness and the material behavior during contact. Information provided by the 3D-DIC technique has been employed to perform an indirect measurement of the contact area during the loading and unloading path of the test. A symmetrical distribution in the contact damage region due to the symmetry of the indenter was always observed. In the case of aluminum plates, the presence of a high level of plasticity caused shearing deformation as the load increased. Results show the full-field contact damage area for different plates’ thicknesses at different loads. The contact damage region was bigger when the thickness of the specimen increased, and therefore, bending deformation was reduced. With the proposed approach, the elastic recovery at the contact location was quantified during the unloading, as well as the remaining permanent indentation damage after releasing the load. Results show the information obtained by full-field measurements at the contact location during the test, which implies a substantial improvement compared with pointwise techniques.
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