Measuring force is an important activity in physics classrooms, but it also has significant real-world applications such as testing the strength of car seat belts. Scientists and engineers use specialized devices that indicate pulling and pushing forces in units such as pounds or newtons. In many cases the equipment is electronic, sending force data in real time to a computer to record and display the information.
A dynamometer is a basic machine used to measure force. There many types of dynamometers; some register force by spinning a rotor, the rotational speed of which indicates the force generated.
Spring scales measure forces by the distance a spring is stretched or compressed. The common bathroom scale is a type of spring scale that measures the downward pushing force your body exerts due to gravity. Other types of spring scales indicate pulling forces exerted on a hook attached to the device. A heavy-duty spring scale of this type might measure the pulling force of a tow truck on a car, for example.
Shockwatch stickers are used on sensitive equipment in shipping. They are placed on the outside of a box or container, and change color when subject to a jolt or impact. The change is permanent, leaving clear evidence of strong forces. They are often used on the television show "Mythbusters" to test sudden applications of force in real-world situations.
There are specialized tools used to test various applications of force; these are all essentially different kinds of dynamometers. Peel testers, torque meters, tensile testers and compression testers all operate along similar principles but each is specialized to test a specific function or application or with optimal ease.