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Observing the Surface of Disc Brake Pads

Various microscopy techniques using digital microscopes

Brake pad
Brake pad

1. Application

Automotive brake uses brake pads that squeeze the disc rotor that’s rotating with the wheel to slow or stop the vehicle. The surface of the brake pad is made from a compound of over 20 kinds of materials, and the proportion of each compound greatly affects the brake’s performance, including braking ability, heat-resistance, and the amount of sound or heat generated. Therefore, it is essential to observe the surface of the pad to check how the materials are blended, but conventional optical or digital microscopes cannot clearly reproduce the color of each material.

2. Olympus’ solution

Conventionally, optical microscopes are primarily used for brightfield microscopy, and to use other microscopy methods, additional units are needed. These additional units bring with them added cost as well as complicated settings adjustments. And since general digital microscopes provide fewer microscopy methods, it is difficult to find out a suitable one. Olympus' DSX510 digital microscope enables users to carryout observations using various methods including brightfield, darkfield, MIX (a combination of brightfield and darkfield), differential interference contrast, and polarization. Users can change observation methods with a single click, giving users the flexibility to find the observation method that enables them to see the difference in the color of pad materials clearly. When you record observation conditions for each sample, these settings can be easily recalled so other users can perform observation under the same conditions, minimizing variations and saving time.


(1) Comparison of microscopy techniques using a 10X objective lens

Disk brake pad_ob10×z1×_con_WiDER_BF
Disk brake pad_ob10×z1×_con_WiDER_DF
Disk brake pad_ob10×z1×_con_WiDER_MIX
MIX (brightfield and darkfield)
Disk brake pad_ob10×z1×_con_WiDER_PO

(2) Magnification using polarization microscopy

Disk brake pad_ob20×z1×_con_WiDER_PO
Objective lens: 20X; zoom: 1x
Disk brake pad_ob50×z2×_con_WiDER_PO
Objective lens: 50X; zoom: 2x
Olympus IMS

Products used for this application


Designed with modularity in mind, the BX3M series provide versatility for a wide variety of materials science and industrial applications.


Upright digital microscope
•All-in-one system capable of 3D image acquisition and advanced image analysis
•High-resolution images
•Highly accurate measurements


OLYMPUS Stream image analysis software offers user guidance through all process steps for image acquisition, quantitative measurements, reporting and advanced materials science inspections tasks.
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