Best X-Ray Baggage Scanners for Luggage & Airport Security

An X-ray scanner processing different types of baggage

X-ray baggage scanners have been a staple of modern security for at least the last 20 or 30 years, whether they’ve been helping to bust smuggling rings or foil terror plots. As organizations and their operations increase in profile and scale, there is a greater need for better security solutions to protect more people. And even organizations that aren’t big or don’t deal with many people may be involved in sensitive enough activities that having security equipment to scan baggage would be a worthwhile investment.

If your organization is in this latter position, you may be a little lost as to where to start. Who are the leading X-ray baggage scanner manufacturers you’d want to buy from? What style of scanner do you need? What technology or other specifications does it have to have? And how much will it cost? We’ll do our best to answer these questions as we give you some guidance on how to find an X-ray scanner that suits your needs.

What is covered in this article

Let’s start with a basic question: what is an X-ray baggage scanner going to do for your operations? What sorts of dangerous objects could be hidden in baggage that you’d want one or more scanners as safeguards?


Types of baggage threats to scan for

There are various kinds of threats people could try to conceal inside baggage or luggage. Here’s a short primer on a few of the main groups you may find.

  • Contraband: drugs, weapons, alcohol, certain foods, or other illegal/controlled items
  • Explosives: plastics/liquids/crystals/powders that are detonated by timers, remote signals, or manual switches
  • Chemicals: solids/liquids/vapors/aerosols meant to cause nerve damage, blood poisoning, choking, skin damage, etc. to recipients
  • Biohazards: dangerous biomaterials used to spread contagious diseases or cause more small-scale, but immediate, harm
  • Radiation: radioactive materials, often dispersed via explosives, to cause radiation poisoning and other ailments

We have more information on these things, including how to identify and deal with them properly, in our post on types of mailroom threats.

It’s also important to be aware that not every X-ray baggage machine will be able to detect every type of threat. Some come in such low masses or densities that X-ray scanners (or human senses) can’t pick them up. But even those small amounts can be dangerous. That’s why it’s important to have other types of baggage screening equipment available to supplement your X-ray equipment. We’ll talk more about that later in this piece.


Types of baggage X-ray scanners & baggage X-ray machine costs

There are different styles of luggage X-ray machines, and they may also use different kinds of X-ray technology. This section will give an overview of some of the common X-ray screening equipment in use today. It will also discuss how much these machines typically cost.

Baggage X-ray scanner styles

  • Conveyor: Airport baggage scanners are typically conveyor-style, which means they use a conveyor belt to feed objects through a shielded chamber where the X-ray scans the objects. They are generally better in environments where many items need to be scanned in succession, or larger and bulkier items need to be handled. However, they often take up more space than other types, and are not as precise.
  • Cabinet: Airport baggage X-ray machines can also be cabinet-style, though these variations are not very common. Cabinet scanners have a chamber where an object is placed, and then the door to the chamber is shut and the item is scanned.

    Cabinet scanners are typically smaller, safer, and more accurate than conveyor scanners. However, they can’t scan items in succession as rapidly as conveyor scanners can, and are also usually more limited in terms of the sizes of objects they can scan. This is why they are more often used in mailrooms rather than airports.

  • Handheld: Some newer airport baggage screening machines can be carried around like a camera or heavy-duty flashlight. Their main advantage is that they can be used in tight or awkwardly-shaped spaces where baggage is too difficult or dangerous to handle. They also take up less space. However, they can lack precision and are often expensive.

Baggage scanning X-ray technology

  • Standard: A standard X-ray baggage scanner machine uses both a generator and a sensor. It works by having the generator firing X-rays at an object. These X-rays penetrate the object and are then picked up by the sensor. The sensor then uses the positions and degrees to which the X-rays passed through the object (fewer X-rays means a denser material) to determine the shape and density of the object, along with anything inside it.

    This is the least expensive X-ray type, and also the fastest for scanning multiple objects quickly. But it is also the least precise technology.

  • Multi-energy: Multi-energy X-ray baggage inspection equipment generates X-rays at different frequencies. This makes it easier for the machine’s sensor to distinguish high-density objects from low-density ones.

    This technology is often used in dual-view X-ray machines, which scan baggage from two different angles to provide a more complete picture of the objects inside. This offers more precision while still maintaining decent throughput speed, but is also more costly.

  • Backscatter: A newer type of luggage X-ray, a backscatter machine generates low-energy X-rays that reflect off of surfaces instead of passing through them. The machine’s sensor then measures the radiation given off by the reflected X-rays and uses that to determine the shape and density of the target object and its contents.

    Backscatter machines are very good at picking up low-density objects, but can have trouble detecting things inside containers made of high-density materials. They also tend to be rather pricey, and their scanning speeds can vary.

  • Computed Tomography (CT): Though more commonly seen in medical-related fields, computed tomography (CT) technology can also be used for X-ray machine baggage scanners. It uses multiple X-ray generators to scan an object from different angles, then uses a computer to process the scans into a 3D cross-section of the target object and its contents.

    This offers great precision, including the ability to see around high-density objects. However, these types of machines typically scan relatively slowly and are extremely expensive.

Baggage scanner price list

So how much is a typical baggage X-ray machine’s price? That largely depends on the technology it uses, and maybe also its size or portability. One thing’s for sure, though: it won’t come cheap. Here are some benchmarks for what different types of baggage X-ray machines cost, to give you an idea of what you should expect to pay for different types of scanners:

Scanner TypeAverage Cost Range ($US)
Conveyor – standard, single-view$7000-$11,000
Conveyor – multi-energy, single-view$10,000-$16,000
Conveyor – dual-view$17,000-$30,000
Conveyor – backscatter$40,000
Handheld/Portable – standard$12,000-$30,000
Handheld/Portable – backscatter$43,000
Conveyor – computed tomography (CT)$300,000-$500,000


How to choose the right X-ray baggage scanner for your needs

Whether you’re looking to X-ray baggage at an airport, train station, seaport, or event venue, it’s a good idea to ask yourself a few questions first to narrow down the kind of machine you’ll need. Here are some considerations to get you thinking about what kind of scanner is right for your use case(s).

What types of threats are you most vulnerable to?

The types of baggage-borne threats that your use case(s) will be most susceptible to can inform what level of tech your scanners need. For example, if you don’t expect to deal with much outside of common drugs or weapons, you may not need more than a standard or single-view multi-energy baggage X-ray machine. But if you’re dealing with more sensitive situations where even small quantities of dangerous substances could cause a lot of damage, then it may be worth it to invest in dual-view, backscatter, and/or even CT technology.

What are the common sizes of luggage you typically scan?

The style of X-ray scanner you’ll want can depend on the average sizes of the objects you expect to be scanning. Airport luggage X-ray machines tend to be conveyor-types, for instance, as they’re generally larger and thus able to accommodate many different shapes and sizes of baggage. In contrast, if you’re in a setting where people typically have smaller bags or backpacks, then a cabinet-style or handheld-style scanner may be more suitable.

How much room do you have?

It’s not just what you expect to scan that can affect the baggage scanner size that’s right for you. You also have to take into account how much space the machine itself will take up. Larger venues will usually be able to afford room for conveyor-type scanners, as they tend to take up more space. If space is at a premium in your facility, though, you may want to go with a more compact cabinet-style or handheld-style scanner.

How much luggage do you process on average?

Throughput is another factor to consider when choosing an X-ray machine for baggage. In general, conveyor-type scanners have higher throughput than other types. This makes them better for places that tend to get a steady flow of luggage to check, such as airports. They’re also frequently used in arenas or other venues that host large-scale events, which often require high volumes of baggage to be checked in a short time frame.

Conversely, cabinet-style or CT X-ray scanners tend to have lower throughput but higher accuracy. So if you typically have low volumes of luggage to check, you’ll probably be okay in making this tradeoff.

Single-view, dual-view, or 3D?

An X-ray machine with only one generator can only scan objects from one direction, so it’s known as a single-view scanner. On the other hand, one with two generators can scan objects from two different angles; this is known as a dual-view X-ray baggage scanner. CT scanners have even more X-ray generators to scan objects from multiple angles at once, which can give them the ability to render true 3D images. The choice here mainly comes down to three factors: speed, precision, and price.

Single-view scanners are typically the fastest and least expensive. However, they’re also the least precise, because scanning from only one angle can leave large blind spots in images. Objects can be re-scanned to get images from other angles, but this defeats the supposed speed advantage of single-view scanners.

Dual-view scanners are more precise, though the addition of an extra X-ray generator can make them almost twice as expensive. While they may not always be as fast as single-view scanners, that’s made up for by the fact that they don’t have to re-scan objects to view them from different angles. This balance makes them standard, or even mandatory, in some security scenarios.

CT scanners are the most precise of all, combining multi-angle X-rays with computerized 3D image rendering. This process takes time, so they are relatively slow to X-ray baggage compared to other types of scanners. CT scanners are also much more expensive than either single-view or dual-view scanners because of their specialized hardware and software, including multiple X-ray generators. So they are usually only used in high-security environments where precision is much more important than having rapid throughput.


Top 5 baggage X-ray scanning machine manufacturers

So who actually makes airport baggage scanner machines? Quite a number of companies, as you’ll see when we list some of the top machines. For now, here are a few of the more notable baggage X-ray scanning machine manufacturers.

1. VOTI Detection

Founded in Canada in 2008, VOTI Detection is an innovator in creating cost-effective X-ray baggage inspection systems. Their easy-to-use scanners are powered by their unique 3D Perspective technology, which scans and processes objects at a 22.5-degree angle. This produces a six-sided image that avoids the blind spots created by many standard X-ray scanners. This allows VOTI’s machines to deliver capabilities rivaling those of a true 3D X-ray baggage scanner but with faster scan times, smaller unit footprints, and much lower ownership costs.

Types of X-ray scanning machines they produce:

  • Conveyor-type
  • Multi-energy 
  • Single-view and dual-view

2. Analogic

Analogic is a leading manufacturer of computer tomography (CT) scanners, used as both 3D baggage scanners and medical imaging devices. They also make power supplies for scanning equipment, as well as motion control hardware for automation and robotics (through Copley Controls).

Types of X-ray scanning machines they produce:

  • Conveyor-type
  • CT

3. Nuctech

Founded in 1997 as an offshoot of Tsinghua University in China, Nuctech creates a wide variety of security technologies. These include X-ray baggage inspection systems but also equipment for detecting narcotics, explosives, harmful liquids, and radioactive substances. They make detection equipment for use on people, luggage and parcels, vehicles, heavy cargo, and more.

Types of X-ray scanning machines they produce:

  • Conveyor-type
  • Handheld-type
  • Multi-energy
  • Backscatter
  • CT

4. Rapiscan Systems

Rapiscan manufactures all kinds of different security and detection equipment. That includes not only baggage and parcel X-ray machines but also chemical trace detectors, body scanners, and radiation detectors. They also make inspection equipment for cargo, vehicle, mining, and industrial applications. Furthermore, they’re one of the few companies that makes portable X-ray baggage scanners.

Types of X-ray scanning machines they produce:

  • Conveyor-type
  • Handheld-type
  • Multi-energy
  • Backscatter
  • CT

5. Smiths Detection

Smiths Detection is another multi-faceted security company. In addition to being one of the top airport baggage scanner manufacturers, they make detection equipment for border crossings and other modes of transport. They also have products available for urban security (such as event venues, public transportation, and prisons) as well as for military and paramilitary operations.

Types of X-ray scanning machines they produce:

  • Conveyor-type
  • Standard
  • Multi-energy
  • CT
  • Single-view and dual-view


Top 8 airport conveyor X-ray baggage scanners


VOTI XR3D-6D x-ray scanner

Type: standard, dual-view

Best for: parcels, bags, envelopes

Top features: Dual-view system allows for scanning an object from multiple angles at once. Can provide automatic alerts if detecting objects over a certain density. Touch interface with the ability to display the previous 5 scans at once. Comes with uninterruptible power supply and power conditioner.

2. Astrophysics XIS-6040SE

Astrophysics XIS-6040SE X-ray inspection system

Type: standard, single-view

Best for: liquid containers; scanning in schools, sports stadiums, and event venues

Top features: Shock-absorbing wheels and collapsible conveyor belt allow for easy mobility, setup, and storage. Waterproof conveyor belt protects the electronics against liquid spills. Enhanced Imaging software provides high-resolution, 24-bit color images for more contrast and better material distinction.

3. Rapiscan Systems 622XR

Rapiscan Systems 622XR X-Ray baggage inspection system

Type: multi-energy, single-view

Best for: large baggage and parcels

Top features: Automatic alerts when detecting narcotics or explosives. Design allows for operating the machine in two directions. Dual-energy X-ray technology allows for discriminating between materials in the scanned object(s).

4. Smiths Detection HI-SCAN 6040i

Smiths Detection HI-SCAN 6040i X-ray inspection system

Type: standard, single-view

Best for: personal effects and cabin baggage; scanning at airports and building entrances

Top features: Ergonomic user interface cuts down on analysis times and increases throughput. Operating system contains material discrimination technology to distinguish objects by their composition. X-ray generator powerful enough to penetrate up to 31mm of steel.

5. Gilardoni FEP ME 640

Gilardoni FEP ME 640 X-ray unit

Type: multi-energy, single-view

Best for: airports and other locations with security checkpoints

Top features: Can process scans as high-quality images in color or black and white. Dual-energy X-ray generator allows for easier detection of organic materials and other potential threats. Photocell bar helps to scan objects of irregular shapes.

6. Nuctech CX100100TI

Nuctech CX100100TI Baggage Scanner

Type: multi-energy, single-view

Best for: baggage, small cargo; scanning at airports, railway stations, ports, and stadiums

Top features: Dual-energy generator helps to discriminate between materials. Tunnel opening of 1010 mm X 1005 mm allows for larger baggage and some small cargo. Can store up to 50,000 scan files for review or transfer.

7. Analogic ConneCT

Analogic ConneCT checkpoint security system

Type: CT

Best for: airport baggage that holds liquids or electronics

Top features: 3D CT scanning technology provides superior threat detection and fewer false alarms. It also allows passengers to keep liquids and electronics inside their baggage, increasing throughput rate. Compact and easily to integrate with systems built for 2D X-ray scanners. Interoperable network architecture allows for remote image analysis and system monitoring.

8. Adani BV 6045

Adani BV 6045 X-ray baggage system

Type: standard, single-view

Best for: mail, travel bags, handbags, suitcases, luggage

Top features: Multilingual interface allows for operation in English, German, Russian, Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Arabic, and Chinese. Intuitive touch-screen interface makes learning and using the controls easy. Images can be viewed in 3 colors (organic, inorganic, and metal) or in 7 colors for more precise material discrimination.


Top 6 portable baggage X-ray scanners

1. Rapiscan Systems MINI Z

AS&E MINI Z Backscatter Imaging System

Type: backscatter

Best for: vehicles, walls, furniture, aircraft interiors, packages

Top features: Self-contained, ready-to-use unit with built-in WiFi and a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 4 hours. A dedicated tablet computer that shows imaging in real time. Able to create composite images through manual image stitching.

2. Godrej Real Time Viewing System

Godrej Real Time Viewing System

Type: standard

Best for: mail, baggage, furniture, office equipment

Top features: Adjustable voltage allows for scanning objects of varying densities. Geometric magnification allows for viewing objects in fine detail by magnifying up to 40 times. Low-voltage, non-destructive X-ray generator.

3. Viken Detection HBI-120

Viken Detection HBI-120 Handheld X-Ray Imager

Type: backscatter

Best for: motor vehicles, ships, aircraft, steel drums, trash receptacles, mailboxes, baggage, packages

Top features: Able to scan through materials up to the thickness equivalent of 3 mm of steel. Lightweight at 8.1 lbs. Scans up to a square foot (30 cm x 30 cm) per second. Comes with a built-in video camera and flashlight.

4. Nuctech BXM2000 

Nuctech BXM2000 Portable Baggage Scanner

Type: backscatter

Best for: tires, vehicle doors, suspicious backpacks, mechanical parts, walls, furniture

Top features: Good at highlighting organic materials that standard X-ray baggage screening may miss. Low-dose X-ray makes it safe for operators, bystanders, and environments. User-friendly interface.

5. Westminster Group Digital CCD

Westminster Group Digital CCD Portable X-ray System

Type: standard

Best for: unattended bags and suspicious packages in customs, prisons, and other buildings

Top features: Can be set up by a single person in approximately 2 minutes. Comes with a variety of imaging panels to scan objects of different sizes. Also comes with a dedicated laptop. All components can operate independently on 5-hour battery packs, and can be charged simultaneously in the carrying case. Imaging software allows for enhancing, rotating, stitching, measuring, isolating areas of interest, annotating, and storing/exporting files for use as evidence.

6. Gold Rush SR5S

Gold Rush SR5S portable X-ray baggage scanner

Type: standard

Best for: backpacks, laptop bags, purses, luggage

Top features: Wedge-like imaging panel design allows it to fit in corners and other confined or awkwardly-shaped spaces. Can penetrate the equivalent of 12mm of steel. Imaging software has powerful enhancement and analysis tools.


Other types of baggage security equipment

Usually, an X-ray scanner will be just one piece of a larger baggage screening system. Some suspicious objects have to be screened in a different way to confirm what they are, and some threats are difficult or impossible to detect with X-ray equipment alone. That’s why it’s important to supplement your X-ray scanners with some of the following technologies.

Metal detectors

Metal detectors generate small magnetic fields via a short electrical pulse. If a dense enough piece of metal is nearby, it will reflect the magnetism back to the machine. The machine detects this reflection and issues an alert, usually a beeping noise. Low-density metal objects, such as earrings or buttons on clothing, will usually not set off metal detectors.

Metal detectors are a standard airport baggage scanner technology. They’re useful for detecting weapons and other contraband, especially pieces that are thin or otherwise small and hidden in a way that more basic forms of X-ray imaging might miss. They’re also a helpful complement to backscatter X-ray machines, which are better at detecting organic materials than metals.

Example products

  • Garret Super Scanner V – A wand-type metal detector that can detect things from jewelry and foil-wrapped narcotics to razor blades, knives, and guns. Also comes with a choice of audible or silent alarm.
  • Fisher CW-20 – Another handheld metal detector with audible or silent alarms. It’s very durable, and can switch between three different frequencies to counter any interference from things like rebar in concrete walls.

Chemical trace detectors

Chemical trace detectors are machines that are able to analyze the chemical composition of very small quantities of substances. This is typically achieved by brushing an object to be tested with a specialized swab, then depositing the swab in the machine to be analyzed. 

These screening devices are used to detect and identify illegal or controlled narcotics. They can also detect chemicals or biohazards that could be used either directly to intentionally harm people, or as bomb components (which is why these machines are sometimes referred to as explosive trace detectors or ETDs). 

X-ray scanners can’t always pick out these kinds of substances, especially if they are present only in very small amounts. That’s why chemical trace detectors are also important airport baggage scanner machines.

Example products

  • Smiths Detection IONSCAN 600 – A chemical trace detector popular for its high sensitivity, portability, and non-radioactive ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) technology.
  • Bruker RoadRunner – A handheld chemical trace detector that can identify some substances directly from their vapors without needing to use swabs.

Millimeter wave scanners

Millimeter wave scanners are a new type of airport security machine. They work similarly to backscatter X-ray detectors in that they fire electromagnetic radiation at objects and then use the energy an object reflects back to determine what it’s made of. However, they use non-ionizing radiation that’s more akin to microwaves than X-rays and is generally safer. For this reason, they can be used on people to detect objects under their clothing as well as on baggage.

Example products

  • Leidos ProVision 2 – A common millimeter wave scanner that features quick scans for high throughput and automated threat detection that foregoes the need for privacy-invasive imaging.
  • Rohde & Schwarz QPS – A millimeter wave scanner with an accessible, open concept and detection software that searches for physical anomalies rather than just specific objects.


Great resources to increase your baggage security

Best Practices for Baggage Screening — A brief primer from Leidos on what is typically involved in security screening of airport luggage, three primary challenges for airport luggage X-ray operations, and what the future of airport security technology might look like.

Requirements for the Safe Use of Baggage X-Ray Inspection Systems — A Canadian government document outlining the specifications and procedures that must be followed to ensure the safe operation of X-ray machines for screening baggage in Canada.

How to Modernise Hold Baggage Screening Systems — An essay from Beumer Group on how advancements in airport baggage X-ray technology, alongside changing aviation security standards, provide airports with an opportunity to redesign their baggage screening systems in order to maximize efficiency and minimize upgrade costs.

How COVID-19 Will Shape the Future of Passenger Screening — A review of how airport security and baggage scanners have changed in response to crises over the past 50 years, and a discussion of how the COVID-19 pandemic (beginning in early 2020) might accelerate the adoption of self-service baggage screening, virtual screening queues, bio-metrics, and other innovations to improve baggage screening throughput while minimizing health risks.


That caps off our comprehensive guide to baggage X-ray scanners. We’ve covered the kinds of threats you’ll need to scan for, how to pick the right baggage scanner machine(s) for your needs, some starting points when looking for X-ray scanners and other baggage security equipment, and resources to take your baggage screening operations to the next level. One more we’ll mention: come browse VOTI Detection’s full line of X-ray screening equipment and see if you can find one that’s just right for your organization!

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