Airport X-ray machine teardown


Who has an airport carry-on X-ray machine sitting in their garage? Apparently [Mike] does, and he’s sharing the fun by posting a video teardown series that really digs into the machine’s hardware and operating system.

At this point the series includes six lengthy segments. The first episode, which you’ll find embedded after the break, starts with an external overview of the hardware. [Mike] mentions that it’s not functional at that point. He guesses that this has to do either with security settings to enable the machine (it does produce x-ray after all) or corrupt memory in an EPROM chip. The password lockout is later confirmed when he looks at a code disassembly and finds strings requesting username and password to gain access to some of the menus. The second installment involves more disassembly to figure out the passwords and gain full access to the machine. By the fourth video he’s X-raying random items from around the shop and then some.

It’s a lot to watch, but it’s exciting to see how far he gets with the rare equipment.

[Thanks Andrew]


  1. ejonesss says:

    i am surprised that you can even get a working xray machine never mind password protection on the controls.

    hospitals usually destroy or remove the xray tube before disposing ofretired machines.

    i can understand why the tsa may not want you to get the machine working since you could learn how it works and develop xray proof shields like foil wrapping the stuff.

    although i think any good security team will be trained to open the item and hand search (remember the method of getting camera film through safely? just shield it or ask for hand inspections)

    • FrankTheCat says:

      He got it from an auction of used equipment after the London olympics, and found the default password in a Brazilian(?) user manual.

    • A. Nonymous says:

      If you do a quick search on craigslist, you’ll see that dental, veterinary, and medical x-ray systems are quite easy to come by, and can, on occasion, be had for relatively low price. I bought a complete medical system, including two tubes, for $1500. Though I do agree it is always surprising when our prohibition-happy government doesn’t ban some inanimate object that is, or is believed to be, dangerous. A baggage screening machine I am particularly surprised to find in the hands of a “regular” citizen.

    • Merlin says:

      They do. Last time I returned to the US with tins of candy, I had to open the things up to prove what was in them was OK.

    • Scaramouche says:

      Shielded items actually appear as very dense and automatically trigger a bomb detection alert that points out the item to the operator. I worked security at a place where I had to use these (not the TSA thank God). The machines actually use very low intensity xrays that can’t penetrate very far. One guy got fired for laying down and going through the machine for fun. It didn’t have anywhere near the power to go through a body, so he showed up as an opaque object.

  2. Sven says:

    The reason hospitals remove xray sources before getting rid of the machines is most likely so that they can be shipped as normal scrap without any precautions.

    It’s different if you do not intend to ship it as scrap, but rather sell it for re-use or parts.

  3. messmaker says:

    Pshaw, I’d like to see him try to get that through security…

    ( sorry, I see that comment all the time, I just had to )

  4. John says:

    Isn’t this a bit late?

  5. Larps says:

    i watched all six videos. I wish we could have more videos like this.

  6. hsiboy says:

    Had is a bit with this article, as mike has ready sold some interesting parts of the machine (like the diode arrays) on eBay.


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