Ask the expert: Francois Zayek

Francois Zayek

Francois Zayek, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Astrophysics, talks exclusively to Security Buyer to demonstrate the efficiency and necessity of x-ray technology 

Astrophysics designs, builds and delivers x-ray scanners for customers’ security mission around the world. Their technology detects and identifies hidden threats with engineering that helps protect critical infrastructure, transportation and trade. Astrophysics’ commitment to their mission is why millions around the world trust them to keep them safe today, tomorrow and always. 

For nearly 20 years, Astrophysics has been a leader in x-ray research and development, turning imaging theories into robust and reliable security systems. With over 30,000 scanners deployed in more than 150 countries, Astrophysics demonstrates how and why they are market leaders. The company partners with customers to build integrated solutions tailored to their security needs, designing powerful networks that allow coordinated inspections, the exchange of key decision data and rapid throughput. Guided by core values of integrity, loyalty, respect and teamwork, Astrophysics deliver solutions for today’s threats with advanced technology that anticipates tomorrow’s needs.  

Security Buyer Editor, Rebecca Spayne catches up with Francois Zayek, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Astrophysics to discuss in more detail how the company ensures innovation in the market and maintains the flow of goods in an uninterrupted, safe and efficient way. 

Astrophysics is a market-leading company, how do you ensure innovation in a continuously evolving market?  

I founded Astrophysics nearly 20 years ago after recognising a technology gap in the industry – x-ray security imaging was not advancing at the same rate as medical imaging. I focused our company culture on developing innovative technology that set us apart and helped drive the industry forward. We listen to our customers when they tell us what they need, we work closely with regulators to understand the latest threats, and our engineers push the boundaries of what is possible in x-ray imaging. This passion for progress allows us to deliver solutions for today’s threats using advanced technology that anticipates and stays ahead of tomorrow’s needs.

The pandemic has brought even more border security challenges, how is Astrophysics combatting this?  

At Astrophysics we always approached ports and borders as countries’ first line of defense against terrorists, threats and dangerous goods. There has never been a greater need for effective screening tools that can quickly inspect cars, trucks and cargo shipments entering a nation’s borders. Our HXP scanners, including the HXP-FreightScan, are designed for that specific mission – efficiently scanning trucks and containers and providing high-resolution images that give operators detailed views of the contents. The pandemic has further demonstrated how border control is a critical part of countries’ national security strategies and how they protect their citizens. As the virus spread, nations needed to not only prevent infected travelers from entering their borders but also screen and deliver critical medical supplies to people most impacted by COVID. The most efficient way to accomplish this is by using the latest tools designed specifically to tackle those security missions.

Being in the ports and borders sector, have you felt the impact of the vaccine rollout and the pressures of a smooth supply chain?  

While we did not feel direct pressure related to the vaccine rollout, we did witness the pressure COVID put on supply chains. The pandemic reinforced how critical it is for nations to get their citizens PPE and medical supplies quickly in order to prevent the spread of the virus. This meant medical equipment needed to be transported, screened and verified as fast as possible to get to the people that needed it most. Our HXP line of scanners are tailor-made for these missions since they’re designed to provide security operators with detailed views of vehicle and container contents within moments. These scans allow for fast but thorough inspections that reduce unnecessary physical inspections, speeding up the time it takes to get medical supplies to people most in need.

Could you expand on your x-ray technology and how it aids the industry?  

Put simply, our technology helps border patrol agencies and port operators identify hidden threats. Whether those threats are weapons, explosives or illegal drugs, our scanners can quickly identify and isolate these dangers and allow personnel to safely remove or destroy them. We know agencies across the globe have different needs and priorities when it comes to border security – what works in The Philippines isn’t necessarily what is needed in Portugal. Through extensive customer conversations and a deep understanding of the industry, we have developed technology that not only meets any security screening mission but has been deployed to locations around the globe. Operating in every kind of climate and geographic location, our scanners are designed to tackle any security mission and are adept at keeping borders and ports of entry safe.

How are you able to process cargo and vehicles without interrupting the flow of goods?  

Our screening secret is our powerful imaging technology. The HXP-FreightScan, which was designed to screen cargo trucks and containers, utilises a powerful x-ray generator that can penetrate steel walls and is paired with our industry-leading imaging technology. These combined features, along with our extensive safety features, allow trucks to drive right through the scanner without risking any harm to the driver. Inspections that do not require the driver to disembark significantly reduce inspection time. The power generator penetrates through the thickest steel walls and provides detailed scans of the cargo within, which allows for quick confirmation that each manifest matches what the operators see on screen. The scanner then moves on to the next truck, allowing the HXP-FrieghtScan to screen up to 100 trucks in certain configurations.

As the world begins to open up again and the threat of a terror attack is increasing, how can your solutions protect national security?  

As global travel and trade reopen so do opportunities for dangerous terrorist attacks. More people and goods crossing borders mean there are more opportunities for dangerous threats to slip through the cracks. The sheer volume of movement across borders means the margin for error is small – it only takes one threat to make it past security screeners to result in a potentially catastrophic attack. Agencies need solutions and partners that can keep pace with rapidly evolving threats, ensuring their security plans stay ahead of terrorists and criminals. Astrophysics’ solutions offer the best opportunities to counter and stay ahead of evolving threats. Not only do our largest scanners deliver detailed scans that operators can use to screen cargo for hidden weapons, but they are also modular and can be configured with key screening tools, including radiation detectors, to help identify and counter specific terrorist threats. 

Where do you see the future for x-ray imaging technology going?  

We see the future of x-ray technology moving in a few directions. First, AI-assisted screening will be a huge area of growth – we already have this feature on several of our checkpoint systems and it significantly helps augment operators’ screening abilities on the front lines. It also helps budget- and time-strapped agencies get up and running quickly with best-in-class screening support. We also see continued improvement in x-ray imaging. We recently debuted full-3D imaging on our air cargo scanner, and this new technology allows operators to virtually “slice” through any section of a screened object and see every layer of its contents. As leaders in x-ray innovation, we take pride in pushing what is possible in security screening and bringing these developments to the market for the benefit of our customers. 

Anything else to note?  

Astrophysics cargo and vehicle scanners are designed to deliver fast, effective security screening, tailor-made for protecting critical ports and border crossings. 


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Media contact

Rebecca Morpeth Spayne,
Editor, Security Portfolio

Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 922

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