Mechanical engineering makes it safe to travel

Digital tickets, iris checks, body scanners – modern day traveling is getting faster and more comfortable. But what does it really take for us to be able to feel safe when traveling and to know that our homes are protected?

Source: Getty Images/Lester Lefkowitz

No mobility without mechanical engineering

Confusing, highly networked and involving additional dangers – modern day mobility increasingly connects the world and at the same time presents us with completely new challenges. Countless intelligent solutions are needed just to bring the 10.5 million passengers onboard 110,000 airplanes safely to their destinations on a daily basis. Not to mention the security needs within our own four walls and in the never-ending rail and road transport. A fictitious holiday with fictitious characters shows how modern technology enables our mobile lifestyles – and keeps us safe.

Airport security

Now just the big suitcase. The taxi driver heaves it out of the car. Katrin Thiel has still got a good hour before the passengers on her flight to Miami are called to the gate. She decides to check in right away. This way, she can get rid of her heavy luggage and take a look around the duty-free area in peace. She feels more comfortable here. In the public area of the airport she gets a queasy feeling from the increased threat of terror.

Automated boarding pass control at the airport

Check in and luggage drop off are smooth. All that is left is the boarding pass control. In the past, this always took up a lot of time. Thanks to the automatic gates, this now runs like clockwork: Insert the ticket into the bar code scanner, wait a few seconds until the system has verified the flight information – and a gliding mechanism removes the glass barrier so you can pass through. From here onwards, Katrin Thiel can be sure that she is only surrounded by passengers with a ticket, since the sophisticated sensor in the lock system guarantees that only individuals with a flight ticket can pass through. The fully networked automatic gates are also a massive bonus for the airport management: They provide real-time information that can be used to better control passenger flows and logistical processes.

Source: iStock/encrier

Electronic detection supports baggage control at the airport

Meanwhile, further baggage checks are taking place in the background. In order to make sure that no explosives or drugs are placed into the cargo hold, suitcases and bags are sniffed by sniffer dogs and/or controlled by handy, high-tech devices. These devices use optical, electrical and chemical methods to detect the substances they are looking for. The tiniest quantities – one billionth or even one trillionth of the air drawn into the device – are sufficient for detection. At the same time, the passengers’ hand luggage is scanned through X-rays as part of a security check. This is a visual inspection to detect dangerous objects.

Passport control made easy

Katrin Thiel has no idea of most of the protective measures which run in the background. She still wants to get gifts for her friends, perhaps a fine cognac and a perfume. The pending passport control is a pure formality for Katrin – for EU citizens, this has been easy as pie since the introduction of the “Easy Pass” system. She places her passport into the scanner and the system reads the stored personal and image data from the chip, which is integrated into the passport cover. Then the doors open to the closed camera section. The system compares the biometric features of the face looking into the camera with the photo on the passport. After a few seconds, you are free to continue onto your aircraft. All in all, passport control lasts only a couple of minutes.

EasyPASS – automated passport control

EasyPASS has been gradually expanded since 2014 and is now in operation in seven locations. In 2016, nearly 9.6 million travelers were processed with EasyPASS – a trend on the rise. Nevertheless, it ensures a high level of security at border control, with increasing comfort for the traveler.

Organic and printed electronics

Organic and printed electronics is a revolutionary new kind of electronics that is thin, light, flexible, robust and cost-effective and suitable for mass production at the same time. It opens up new fields of application through the integration of electronics into all objects of everyday life. Here, organic functional materials are combined with mass-printing processes for the production of electronic components. Due to their flexibility, in contrary to silicon-based electronics, they enable numerous application possibilities.

Printed electronics include flexible batteries, data storage, circuits and wafer-thin displays or sensors. This technology is the key to the Internet of Things and could be put to use in a billion different ways in the future: Ranging from smart packaging, for process monitoring and for the purpose of tracking high-value goods, to rollable displays, light-emitting wallpaper, flexible solar cells or disposable diagnostic devices.

Printed electronics – how does it work?

Super thin and flexible-conductive liquids and pastes on a carrier enable completely new designs and functionalities for electronic components.

Fine wine or a deceptive forgery?

Modern packaging can show the value of premium spirits and fine perfumes. Refined light effects with gloss and matt varnishes, fine embossing for haptic wow-effects or dazzling metallic colors which attract the attention of the shoppers. They all work with Katrin Thiel, too. She picks up a Cognac in fancy packaging: a matt black box with the shiny-gold brand name highlighted in relief together with the seal. Already the complex print details represent a hurdle for product counterfeiters. What she does not see is the printed micro-embossing and the smart label that contains a wafer-thin RFID chip. Both the filling data and the entire supply chain are documented on the chip.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a technique for the automatic and contactless tracking and identification of products or living creatures. Electromagnetically-coded information is stored on a selectively active or passive radio chip, which remains available over longer distances without contact. Using printing processes among others, RFID chips can be produced so that they are thin and flexible enough to be integrated into product labels.

Packaging creates transparency

This kind of printed electronics offer noticeably more security for manufacturers and customers. Interrupted cooling chains, inconsistencies in the handling of sensitive pharmaceutical products or the delivery routes of safety-relevant spare parts and high-quality consumer goods are documented to the last detail. Despite the cheap prices in the duty-free shop, Katrin Thiel does not have to worry about whether the perfumes and spirits on the shelves are genuine or not.

Organic and printed electronics


Electronically secure – from hand luggage to duty-free shopping

At check in, state-of-the-art technology guarantees our security and ensures smooth procedures with short waiting times.

The most dangerous part of flying is the journey to the airport

The fact that we can fly so safely today is due to enormous developments in aviation safety. Although the number of flights worldwide has almost doubled in the past 20 years, the accident rate has fallen by more than 80 percent. Interestingly, the most dangerous part of an airplane journey is not the flight itself, but the journey to the airport by car. The probability of dying in a road accident is almost a thousand times higher than having a fatal accident in an airplane.



died in fatal accidents in worldwide air traffic in 1996. Of 19 million flights, 58 airplanes crashed. (Quelle: Aviation Safety Network)



died in fatal accidents in 2006. Of the now 24 million flights across the world, 33 crashed. (Quelle: Aviation Safety Network)



people lose their lives in accidents on the road, according to figures by the WHO. (Quelle: Aviation Safety Network)



died in 19 airplane crashes around the world in 2016. The total number of flights was 35 million. (Quelle: Aviation Safety Network)

2016 – one of the safest years in the history of aviation

Despite the increased threat of terrorism, flying has never been safer than in 2016. Of the 35 million flights worldwide, 19 aircrafts crashed – the equivalent to 0.0001 percent.

The statistics show that during takeoff and landing – when people are usually most frightened – an accident is much less likely to occur than when the airplane is flying at a constant height.

Source: Aviation Safety Network

“Components produced with additives are safe”

Industrial 3D printing combines additive manufacturing processes with which a wide range of plastics and metals can be processed into complex components. Since this layering construction (additive manufacturing) largely eliminates the need for toolmaking and provides greater design freedom, more and more industries are showing interest in this relatively new technology.

VDMA: Mr. Sander, are components made from additive manufacturing being used in passenger aircrafts by Airbus?

Peter Sander: Yes, it is a production standard in our Airbus A350. Over 500 parts are made using additive manufacturing, especially plastic holders for cable harnesses, lines and pipes inside the aircraft. In the A400M military transporter, we are introducing the first metal components made from additive manufacturing: double-walled kerosene lines, which provide an additional safety buffer in the event of a leak.

VDMA: In your opinion, what are the main advantages of additive manufacturing?

Sander: First and foremost, it is the weight savings. With additive processes, we can build up component structures along the occurring force distributions and save on all material. This reduces the weight by 30 to 55 percent, which means that we need much less material. This also reduces fuel consumption. In addition, the entire manufacturing process is CO2 optimized. Components made from additive manufacturing are thus very efficient in terms of resources and CO2. Thanks to the high flexibility of the manufacturing processes, we can adapt aircrafts to suit the needs of the customer.

VDMA: What “printing materials” are relevant for aircraft construction?

Sander: In the field of metal processing, it is the weldable materials: Stainless steel, aluminum and titanium alloys. The first series components are made of titanium, because that is where the greatest saving potential lies. Up until now in the plastics sector, we have been concentrating on polyamides and on polyetherimide (PEI) which, in its molten state, is built up layer by layer into components.

VDMA: Are these kinds of components made from additive manufacturing safe?

Sander: Within aviation, each component is subject to complex non-destructive and destructive testing, independently of the manufacturing processes. If we change the design of the component according to additive manufacturing, we have to prove that our calculations and simulations are aligned with the reality. In addition, the manufacturing processes themselves are subject to strict authorization conditions for which long-term screening programs have to be completed. No passenger needs to worry about the safety of the “printed” parts.

Peter Sander

Airbus, Vice President Emerging Technologies & Concepts

Peter Sander has been working for Airbus in Hamburg for over 35 years. Since 2010, the production engineer has been head of Germany’s Emerging Technology & Concepts division. In 2015, he was one of the finalists for the “Deutscher Zukunftspreis” (German future prize) together with Prof. Claus Emmelmann, Head of the Laser Center North, and Frank Herzog, Managing Director of Concept Laser GmbH. Project title: “3-D printing in commercial aircraft engineering – a manufacturing revolution is taking off”. Source: Airbus Operations GmbH

Printing the evolution process

Is it possible to quickly retrace evolution that spanned hundreds of millions of years? 3D printing technology makes it possible. This allows the drupa ricinus, a species of sea snail, to be scanned and reprinted in a wide range of materials to scale: from miniature to three-cubic-meter large giant specimen.

Safety with system

Continuous improvement in safety not only involves the permanent technological development of the individual components, but also the optimization of each individual working step:

  • Pilots and crews complete regular training sessions
  • Frequent maintenance and safety checks
  • Comprehensive reporting requirements create transparency in disruptions and dangerous events, so that all parties learn from the event.
  • Every component and process is subject to strict certifications.
  • The entire aircraft technology is made doubly safe thanks to back-up systems.

A safe welcome

Ten hours later, the plane lands safely at Miami International Airport. Katrin Thiel must first collect her suitcase – and, of course, check out.

Before entering the United States, she passes through another, automated passport control. This time, however, in addition to indentification via camera, an additional biometric identification is carried out. For this, she has to press the tips of her thumb, middle and index finger onto a touchpad to leave behind her prints with security. The fingerprint sensor detects the fine papillary lines of the fingertips and, within seconds, matches them with the fingerprints stored in the chip of her passport. The high speed and reliability of this test is due to the perfect interplay of optical sensors with ultrasonic or infrared sensors. This ensures that the travelers place their real fingers on the system.

“Components produced with additives are safe”


What actually is biometry?

People can be identified, without a single shadow of doubt to its accuracy, using various biometric features. The finger prints, iris, hand and facial geometry, as well as the DNA of each and every one of us is unique, constant and measurable. Biometric recognition systems use mainly optical, thermal and electromagnetic sensors to determine the respective features. Software then compares these with the person’s stored data.

Formerly and primarily used in forensics, fingerprint scanners are now used for entry control at airports, as well as in smartphones and computers. Source: Fotolia/Ralf85
Iris scanners are particularly used in high-security level areas. Source: Fotolia/

Iris scanners are often heavily criticized, therefore this biometric code is rarely found in the private sector. However, cell phones have begun using this technology which makes its use likely to increase in the future.

Modern sensors enhance perceptions of safety

The quick biometric matching of the person’s real finger with the stored data on the passport means that the security authorities can keep an eye on who enters and leaves the country and when. Using these modern, networked sensor systems, countries are able to control who is allowed to enter just as well as it is done in high-security buildings, for example.

Thanks to the powerful sensor systems, there are hardly any waiting times at the gates despite the additional security check.

Valuables in the hotel room? – No problem.

After arriving at the hotel, Katrin Thiel experiences something new: a fully-networked access system to her hotel room. Instead of opening the door with the usual RFID card, she holds her smartphone against the lock. The lock automatically recognizes her access authorization via Bluetooth. An app will also point her to the nearest ATM and help her to order a taxi later that day. But does a smart system secure the door just as well as a normal lock? And what would happen if someone were to steal her smartphone? As a precautionary measure, she calls the front desk and asks for a safe place to put her laptop, credit cards and jewelry. Fortunately, there is a certified safe in the room.

What actually is biometry?


How “safe” is your safe?

Hotel safes which haven’t been certified are often opened within a short time – some can even be cracked without using tools. It would therefore be better to leave valuable items in the safe at the hotel reception.

These safeguards help

The European Certification Body (ECB) in Frankfurt advises strengthening windows and doors in particular. Professional securing ensures that it takes burglars longer to break in. Time, that they do not have during their attempt to gain entry. Burglars calculate precisely how much time they have to force open the windows or doors, and how much of a risk their attempt is to be caught. Modern security technology deters them and ensures that they move on to less-secure opportunities.

The windows and doors are the weak spots of every apartment and house. Source: Polizeiliche Kriminalprävention

The ECB awards certification marks according to European standard EN 1627 for burglar-resistant windows and doors. The standard contains resistance classes (RC) from 1 to 6, not all of which are recommended by the police. As a rule of thumb, the higher the RC, the longer a burglar needs to open windows and doors. For the private sector, RC 2 and RC 3 are usually sufficient. Products marked with these classes are difficult to pry open with screwdrivers, wedges or crowbars.
RC 4 and above provide protection against attempts through brute force with an ax, hammer and chisel or bolt cutter, angle grinder and electrical reciprocating saw. Due to the noise, burglars typically only use these means in remote places. Many standardized and certified doors and windows can also be retrofitted. Those interested should inform themselves on the DIN 18104-1 and DIN 18104-2 standards.

Burglar caught by cell phone

Both the network and the “smart home” trend provide a better security of private property against burglars. Apartments can be secured, for example, with a camera-based system which has motion detectors. As soon as someone enters the field of view of the camera, it sends a warning, along with a film sequence, to a smartphone. The apartment door can also be equipped with a sensor and the light can be switched on and off remotely using a timer.

In addition to electronic and biometric locks, smarthome applications are becoming increasingly popular with homeowners. Source: BURG-WÄCHTER KG
The image resolution from surveillance cameras is steadily increasing. In addition, many cameras can be controlled by a smartphone. Source: BURG-WÄCHTER KG
Electronic monitoring is also available in safes. Source: Stacke GmbH

Vacation periods are peak season for break-ins

The valuables at the hotel are now safe – but what about those valuable items still at home? Unfortunately, over the past few years, the statistical trend has only been moving in one direction: The number of domestic break-ins in Germany has been increasing. While there were around 108,000 break-ins in 2008, the number increased to more than 151,000 cases in 2016. In addition to that, there are ten thousand break-ins to offices, workshops and business premises. However, there is still something you can do against break-ins.

Staying safe is hard work – both at home and away

Whether automated boarding and biometric identity verification when entering and leaving an airport, whether flight safety or effective protection measures against burglars and product counterfeiters – the security in each of these cases depends strongly on intelligent products and processes from the mechanical engineering sector. This includes sensors, lock systems, locks, safes, as well as burglar-proof windows and doors, and safety-relevant components in aircrafts and smart packaging. With the ever-increasing digitalization and network, it will be even more difficult for criminals to outwit security systems in the future. And because sensor and control systems not only secure airports and railway stations, but also industrial manufacturing processes, the dangers from production errors are also reduced.

We travel to learn about the diversity of the world. Thanks to the solutions it provides, mechanical engineering helps to ensure that Ms Thiel and all of us can enjoy its diversity without having to worry too much.


These safeguards help


Further links on the topic of security

The European Certification Body

The European Certification Body (ECB) is a neutral certification body according to ISO/IEC 17065. The certification mark awarded by the ECB•S guarantees the highest safety standards according to European standards.


Aviation Safety Network

As a private, independent initiative, the Network has been evaluating accidents and safety-related incidents in international air traffic since 1996.


Police crime statistics 2016

The police crime statistics publishes the criminal offenses known to the police in Germany on an annual basis. Included are both criminal offenses that have come to pass as well as attempts including unsuccessful break-ins and clearance rates by the police.


VDMA Additive Manufacturing working group

The VDMA Additive Manufacturing working group offers its members from industry and research everything related to the technologies of industrial 3D printing.


The Authors

Dr.-Ing. Markus Heering

VDMA Printing and Paper Technology Managing Director

Dr. Markus Heering is the Managing Director of the VDMA Printing and Paper Technology and VDMA Security Systems Associations, as well as the Additive Manufacturing working group. In addition, he also manages the following organizations: European Security Systems Association (ESSA), European Certification Body (ECB), FGD e.V. (Forschungsgesellschaft Druckmaschinen – Research and Development Association for Printing Machines) and PP GmbH (PrintPromotion GmbH).

Jessica Göres

Public Relations and Market Research Consultant, VDMA Printing and Paper Technology

Since 2016, Jessica Göres has been responsible for public relations within the Printing and Paper Technology Association. She is also responsible for statistics and market research. She informs on current developments in printing and paper technology and supports member companies with market data, statistics and forecasts.

Thilo Brückner

Managing Director of the Electronics, Micro and Nano Technologies Association (EMINT)

Thilo Brückner is Managing Director of the Electronics, Micro and Nano Technologies Association within VDMA. This includes the Productronic and Micro Technologies specialist departments. In addition, the industrial group for battery production at the Association is also docked.

Daniel Müller

Consultant within the Electronics, Micro and Nano Technologies Association (EMINT)

Since 2016, Daniel Müller has been working on the topic of electronics production in the specialist department within the VDMA Electronics, Micro and Nano Technologies Association. The focus here is, above all, on topics for semi-conductors, display and printed circuit board production as well as other electronic components.

Sophie Verstraelen

Consultant in the Organic and Printed Electronics Association (OE-A) working group

Since 2015, Sophie Verstraelen has been responsible for public relations within the VDMA Organic & Printed Electronics Association working group. In addition, she is also responsible for the Demonstrator and Sustainability sub-working groups within the association.

Falko Adomat

Consultant in the Security Systems Association

Since 2010, Falko Adomat has been working within the VDMA Security Systems Association in the areas of market monitoring, statistics and standardization. He also supports VDMA members in matters relating to anti-break-in and anti-theft security.