3D x-ray baggage scanner to improve airport security

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A proof-of-principle 3D tomographic imaging system that could replace 2D x-ray inspection at baggage screening in airports has been developed by scientists at University College London. The 3D tomographic images are more accurate than 2D x-ray inspection, the UCL team claim, while being faster and less expensive than CT scanning. The work was carried out as part of a project funded under the Innovative Research Call in Explosives and Weapons Detection (2007), a cross-UK government programme.

X-ray inspection specialist, 3DX-Ray, provided the hardware and systems expertise to integrate the UCL team’s tomographic imaging software into a proof-of-principle system.

The system achieves the same effect as CT scanning by collecting images from multiple angles using 2D x-ray with an overhead visual camera, and using intelligent algorithms to collate these x-ray slices and produce 3D images. The researchers, led by Prof Robert Speller, say the accurate images will not only allow operators to be able to see the shape of the objects, but also to determine types of material.

3DX-Ray’s Nick Fox, CTO, said: ‘This is an exciting project and will be a huge leap for the future of baggage scanning, because it provides a viable low cost alternative to CT scanning that could be rolled out across airports very easily. Although this technology is still some way from full commercialisation it is a fantastic project to be involved with.’

Project manager, Dr Elena Vescovo, added: ‘This is cutting edge research and 3DX-Ray’s expertise has proved invaluable. We have a long-standing relationship with 3DX-Ray and their experience and technical ability in x-ray imaging is second to none. We are looking forward to taking this project to the next stage producing a full prototype system and working on real world testing.’

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