Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The 2-Minute Truck Scanner

FRANKFURT -- Tuula Lukander has walked through thousands of the metal detectors built by her company and now in use at airports worldwide and even at the U.S. White House and the Kremlin.


Devices developed by her company, Finnish-based Metorex International Oy, can quickly detect weapons or parts of explosive devices on a person or inside a piece of luggage.


But searching vehicles and trucks by people and "sniffer" dogs has long been a difficult and error-prone process.


So over the past two years Lukander has pushed engineers at Metorex to create an unusual device -- a huge machine that can scan the contents of a truck for weapons, explosives, smuggled drugs or cars in about two minutes.


"Terrorists can be rather clever," Lukander, a mother in her 50s, said during a visit to Metorex's German subsidiary. "We need to be a step ahead of them and I hope this device will help."


Metorex, a privately held company that Lukander helped buy from Outokumpu Oy in April 1994, recently unveiled the new machine called Metorscan, one of the first devices based on X-ray technology that can quickly scan very large objects. The company is awaiting the opening of a bidding contest to deliver such a large-scale device to Finnish customs officials for border crossings with Russia.


The new device moves objects, such as trucks as large as 25 meters long, through a 50-meter-long shielded X-ray inspection building on a conveyor belt to create a high-resolution X-ray image of the cargo.


A quick comparison can then be made between the driver's cargo list and the X-ray image, allowing about 25 vehicles to be checked an hour.


"It truly is an amazing device," said Lukander, a former physicist.


"You can even check the thickness of a bottle of vodka or aspirin since details down to 1 millimeter thick can be distinguished on many objects," she said


In addition to scanning vehicles seeking to enter secured areas such as prisons, nuclear power plants, government buildings and airports, the device is also aimed at helping speed up traffic jams at border crossings, particularly between Germany and Eastern Europe where trucks can wait for days.


But the machine is not cheap with a price tag of $10 million to $20 million each. This includes the costs for the building that will house the detection technology.


Lukander shrugs off the cost, saying the savings it will provide, particularly at border crossings, more than offset the cost.