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I have x, y axis values and corresponding z values. This allows me to plot the shape using surf function. Example:-

How to calculate surface area of this irregular shape?

Please i'm a novice learning this stuff, i have come along quite well since last week or two. Thank you for all your help. The other answers provided before for irregular shapes have me confused, since i don't know how to triangulate.

Additionally i also want to calculate surface area above a certain height. So i'll cut all the values below a certain height and then possibly calculate surface area above a cut-off height.

Edit:

Thanks to inputs by the community and basically whole programme written by Richard. Here's the code.

function sa(Z, cutoff)

%Credit: Richard Brown, MATLAB central forum (http://www.mathworks.com/matlabcentral/answers/)

dx=0.092; % x-axis calibration

dy=0.095; % y-axis calibration

[m, n] = size(Z);

areas = 0.5*sqrt((dx*dy)^2 + (dx*(Z(1:m-1,2:n) - Z(1:m-1,1:n-1))).^2 + ...

(dy*(Z(2:m,1:n-1) - Z(1:m-1,1:n-1))).^2) + ...

0.5*sqrt((dx*dy)^2 + (dx*(Z(1:m-1,2:n) - Z(2:m,2:n))).^2 + ...

(dy*(Z(2:m,1:n-1) - Z(2:m,2:n))).^2);

zMean = 0.25 * (Z(1:m-1,1:n-1) + Z(1:m-1,2:n) + Z(2:m,1:n-1) + Z(2:m,2:n));

areas(zMean <= cutoff) = 0;

surfaceArea = sum(areas(:));

sprintf('Total surface area is %2.4f\n', surfaceArea)

return

end

Richard Brown
on 15 Jul 2013

Richard Brown
on 16 Apr 2012

Edited: Richard Brown
on 15 Jul 2013

OK, well how about splitting each quadrilateral into two triangles, and just summing up the areas? I'm sorry there's no way I can make this look pleasant, but ...

[m, n] = size(Z);

areas = 0.5*sqrt((dx*dy)^2 + (dy*(Z(1:m-1,2:n) - Z(1:m-1,1:n-1))).^2 + ...

(dx*(Z(2:m,1:n-1 - Z(1:m-1,1:n-1)))).^2) + ...

0.5*sqrt((dx*dy)^2 + (dx*(Z(1:m-1,2:n) - Z(2:m,2:n))).^2 + ...

(dy*(Z(2:m,1:n-1) - Z(2:m,2:n))).^2)

surfaceArea = sum(areas(:))

edit: Jul 15, 2013 There was a mistake, and dx and dy were backwards in the first two lines of the code. The code has been corrected now.

Richard Brown
on 16 Apr 2012

For each of the areas in the 'areas' array, you could work out the mean Z value

zMean = 0.25 * (Z(1:m-1,1:n-1) + Z(1:m-1,2:n) + Z(2:m,1:n-1) + Z(2:m,2:n))

and then

areas(zMean > cutoff) = 0;

surfaceArea = sum(areas(:));

It's a bit sloppy - you should probably do this for the individual triangles, but it will certainly give you a reasonable approximation

Walter Roberson
on 15 Apr 2012

I do not know if you will be able to calculate the surface area of the regular shape interspersed with the irregular tops. When I look at the image with the irregular tops, it looks to me as if the tops are fairly irregular, possibly even fractal. I don't know if a meaningful surface area could be calculated: the surface area of a fractal is infinite.

For the first figure, I can think of a crude way to find the area, but I think there are simpler ways. I would need to think further about good ways to find the area. But to cross-check: are your x and y regularly spaced, or irregularly ?

Richard Brown
on 16 Apr 2012

If your data is smooth enough (assuming that's what you're after), then there is a really quick way to work out approximately the surface area, using the normals that Matlab computes when plotting the surface. To make it simple I'll assume you have a uniform grid with spacings dx and dy.

dA = dx * dy;

h = surf( ... )

N = get(h, 'VertexNormals');

N_z = squeeze(N(:, :, 3));

% Normalise it

N_z = N_z ./ sqrt(sum(N.^2, 3));

Area = dA * sum(1./N_z(:));

Richard Brown
on 16 Apr 2012

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