LONDON (MOL): British scientists have designed a radar scanner that can spot concealed weapons - including plastic guns that conventional detectors cannot pick up. The scanner can ‘see’ through clothing from up to 30 yards away to identify the outline of firearms, explosives and other dangerous materials. Because it recognises ‘risk’ shapes - whatever they are made of - it can detect plastic guns produced by 3D printers, the dangerous  new development in weapon technology that has provided a major headache for security services.

 These firearms can be broken down into parts that do not set off metal detectors and may not show up on conventional scanning devices. Reporters from The Mail on Sunday made a gun in just 36 hours using a £1,700 printer last May and smuggled it on to  a Eurostar train. But the new scanner proved it can spot a plastic gun hidden on a human body during tests by the National Ballistic Intelligence Service (NABIS) last month.  The scanning device, developed by scientists at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), has been designed for use at airports, in military zones and at sporting events, and could be in use as soon as next year. Its makers say it will not present problems with privacy issues because, although the device can scan through clothing, its operators can only view what the naked eye sees. If the scanner recognises a risk shape, an alarm sounds. There are two versions – the handheld MiRLIN, which can scan up to 32ft, and the MiRTLE, which is tripod-mounted and capable of scanning people at 80ft. The scanners use low-powered radar signals that reflect off objects and bounce back. Professor Nick Bowring, head of the centre for sensing and imaging at MMU, said: ‘We’ve created a device that is designed to scan people at distance for threat items and non-threat items.