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An objectively-analyzed method for measuring the useful penetration of x-ray imaging systems



Jack L. Glover, Lawrence T. Hudson


The ability to detect wires is an important capability of the cabinet x-ray imaging systems that are used in aviation security as well as the portable x-ray systems that are used by domestic law enforcement and military bomb squads. A number of national and international standards describe methods for testing this capability using the so called useful penetration test metric, where wires are imaged behind different thicknesses of blocking material. Presently, these tests are scored based on human judgments of wire visibility, which are inherently subjective. We propose a new method in which the useful penetration capabilities of an x-ray system are objectively evaluated by an image processing algorithm operating on digital images of a standard test object. The algorithm advantageously applies the Radon transform for curve parameter detection that reduces the problem of wire detection from two dimensions to one. The sensitivity of the wire detection method is adjustable and we demonstrate how the threshold parameter can be set to give agreement with human- judged results. The method was developed to be used in technical performance standards and is currently under ballot for inclusion in a US national aviation security standard.
Measurement Science and Technology


x-ray imaging, useful penetration, bomb squads, wire detection, aviation security, IEEE/ANSI standards, ASTM standards, image processing, object detection, portable x-ray systems


Glover, J. and Hudson, L. (2016), An objectively-analyzed method for measuring the useful penetration of x-ray imaging systems, Measurement Science and Technology, [online], (Accessed April 23, 2024)
Created May 11, 2016, Updated November 10, 2018