Purdue developed tech could play vital role in crime scene forensics

Researchers at Purdue are working to develop new technology, aimed at playing a crucial role in the field of forensics. WLFI/File Photo
Researchers at Purdue are working to develop new technology, aimed at playing a crucial role in the field of forensics. WLFI/File Photo

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Purdue researchers are developing new 3-D imaging technology with hopes of making an impact in the field of forensics.

Researchers at Purdue’s School of Mechanical Engineering have been working on a project that could play a crucial role at crime scenes.

“There’s many, many technologies. But we do very high speed so we can do real-time 3-D capture, processing, display, everything in real time,” associate professor Song Zhang said.

Zhang has been developing this technology for more than 10 years, and just brought his work to Purdue last year.

“My colleague [said], ‘Yeah this is a big deal to the forensic community. Why can’t you help us develop technology to help them?’ This is how this project started,” said Zhang.

So, how does it work?

With a single camera, the portable system produces high-resolution 3-D images, specifically of shoeprints and marks from tire treads left in snow and soil. By projecting an LED light toward the surface, the system will be able to decipher the depth of a shoeprint or tread mark.

For those with little to no experience, the system will have an auto feature, allowing them to easily use the system.

The project is being funded with a two-year $788,000 grant from the National Institute of Justice.

“I feel very excited about the technology, and it’s not just for research. I think 3-D technology … will be there sooner or later,” Zhang said.

Ph.D. student Tyler Bell has been working with the technology for the past four years.

Right now, the system is contained to a lab environment but as it progresses, there are hopes to one day use it in the field.

“I think it would be important to get it into the hands of the masses. It’d be bringing down the price while keeping the quality,” said Bell.

As far as the future, Bell and Zhang are confident the technology will flourish.

“This technology is pretty impactful, and I’m excited to begin to see more people use it and become excited about it themselves,” Bell said.

“Hopefully, we’ll make some, ya know, some type of technology that can improve this or advance this 3-D technology,” said Zhang. “Hopefully, in the future, someone can use our technology.”

Though the system hasn’t made it to the market yet, it is estimated to cost around $5,000.