Dispelling Myths About IBIS

An automated ballistic identification solution enables forensic laboratories to contribute more to the investigation process and link more firearm-related crimes. However, to do so requires a technological solution that is up to the task. The purpose of this page is to answer some common questions and explain how IBIS technology can meet your demands.


Working with IBIS

Correlation and Data Sharing

Technological Infrastructure

Product Success


Can IBIS capture both cartridge cases and bullets?

Yes. IBIS TRAX-HD3D | BRASSTRAX is used to acquire cartridge cases, and IBIS TRAX-HD3D | BULLETTRAX is used to acquire bullets. Each uses a specialized sensor: one adapted to the specific characteristics of cartridge cases, and the other to the microscopic bullet markings.

Does IBIS TRAX-HD3D capture in 2D or 3D?


IBIS TRAX-HD3D captures both 2D images and 3D topography. This allows for better visualization and analysis capabilities, and enhanced correlation performance. Both 2D and 3D imaging have their own advantages, and using them together, rather than individually, provides a far superior solution for ballistic identification.

Why bother with 2D capturing?

The two-dimensional (or photographic) image, either in grayscale or in color, is the most commonly used for capturing ballistic evidence. It is important to have a good representation of the real specimen as it is viewed under the microscope. Thus, a high-quality 2D image must be captured separately from the 3D topography to provide the true image. In addition, the 2D image also provides a correlation performance advantage and maintains backwards compatability with earlier IBIS systems.

What’s the advantage of the 3D?

The three-dimensional model adds depth information and enhances the observation of surface details. Capturing the microscopic 3D surface topography allows for a more accurate comparison of marks and leads to new scientific methods to support analytical conclusions.

BRASSTRAX captures high-resolution 3D topography of cartridge cases at the micrometer level. Its cutting-edge 3D sensor technology provides optimal performance for the specific characteristics of cartridge case markings without capturing the noise that can often accompany such detail.

BULLETTRAX is the most accurate bullet imaging system available today. It captures the 3D bullet shape and its surface topography at a depth resolution of 0.2 micrometers, which offers accurate information about the bullet's surface markings. No other system comes close to capturing the bullet surface with the accuracy of BULLETTRAX.

High-quality 3D enables remarkable viewing functionality on IBIS TRAX-HD3D | MATCHPOINT, providing comparison capabilities that are well beyond the conventional comparison microscope.

Is the new version compatible with previous versions?


IBIS TRAX-HD3D is fully compatible with all previous versions of IBIS. Forensic Technology understands the significance of maintaining compatibility with an existing database that may contain tens or hundreds of thousands of exhibits collected over several years. Although IBIS acquires much more information than past versions, it is designed to integrate seamlessly in existing IBIS networks and to correlate and visually compare prior exhibit acquisitions.

What calibers can be acquired?

IBIS TRAX-HD3D is designed to handle the full range of calibers in use today, that is, from .17 to .50. This also includes, shot shell calibers from .410 bore to 8-gauge.
Forensic Technology's firearm experts are constantly adapting the list of calibers in IBIS as new calibers emerge.

In addition, IBIS supports all types of materials. This is especially significant for BULLETTRAX which offers high performance based on accurate 3D topography, regardless of the surface composition. A 3D correlation is successful with, and between all types of compositions such as lead, copper-jacketed, brass, aluminum, and steel.

Can IBIS be used to capture damaged bullets?

BULLETTRAX is the only system in the world that can capture bullets and fragments that have all kinds of damage, and its state-of-the-art automated algorithms ensure reliable data. BULLETTRAX can acquire any bullet or fragment that can be analyzed under a comparison microscope, including flat, curved-in, curved-out, and twisted surface deformations.

What type of lighting does IBIS use?

BRASSTRAX, like most other solutions, captures high-resolution cartridge case images using side lighting, but only BRASSTRAX uses a patented ring light to generate an orientation-independent image. This uniform lighting produces more consistent images for universal comparison between exhibits regardless of different operators, systems and locations.

Forensic Technology's patented IBIS ring lighting produces comparable 2D images regardless of the cartridge case orientation. IBIS also captures images using side lighting for visualization purposes and the 6 o'clock side light for correlations. Non-IBIS systems that use only side lighting or directional light sources are sensitive to the slightest rotation resulting in different marking aspects.

Working with IBIS

How automated is IBIS?

High levels of automation make a system easier to use and ensure a uniform quality of data collected. When properly automated, a system's productivity is increased by allowing users to multitask during hands-off operation.

For example, acquiring a 9mm bullet typically requires 10% hands-on preparation, thus leaving the other 90% of time to the automated acquisition process.

Automation also lowers the skill levels required to capture quality data, thus freeing expert firearm examiners to concentrate on case work.

IBIS TRAX-HD3D's powerful automation processes ensure consistent, accurate, high-quality images and virtually eliminate human error. The uniform, standardized images are exceptionally well suited for comparison to one another.

How does IBIS ensure consistency between systems and sites?

When multiple imaging sites are interconnected to compare information within a ballistic identification network, it is crucial to have compatibility between them. Some key factors are: data and image uniformity, consistent manufacturing and configuration processes, and standard equipment calibration.

IBIS TRAX-HD3D systems are manufactured to precise specifications, and include a regular internal calibration process. All lighting and mechanical components are designed to be rigorously consistent across all systems in the network. IBIS images are captured using standard methods, based on predefined magnification levels, under consistent lighting conditions, focus, and position.

What kind of tools does IBIS provide for visual comparisons?

Forensic Technology believes that analysis tools for visual comparisons should allow experts to virtually replicate the functions of a comparison microscope. Additionally, advanced analysis tools provide an effective approach to study comparison results and statistics, to measure markings, to explore three-dimensional models, and to make use of the digital information.

The MATCHPOINT analysis station provides advanced tools to review correlation results and compare images. The interface is designed to make users highly productive and it empowers them to make better conclusions based on dynamic 2D and 3D information. This includes correlation result distribution analysis, 3D profile comparison, image overlap and blending, and the dynamic adjustment of lighting, detail amplification, surface reflectivity, and many other functions.

Correlation and Data Sharing

Is IBIS capable of being networked?

Yes. IBIS systems can be networked locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.

One of the fundamental principles of IBIS is “the more you put into it, the more you get out”. By being used through multiple networked sites, IBIS has been successfully deployed in small and large programs, over private and public networks, with local, regional, national and international scopes. IBIS data transfers use optimal compression algorithms, and functional transactions are streamlined to minimize network traffic.

The networking capabilities of IBIS are automatic and require no extra effort from users. IBIS data is automatically available to all the sites of an IBIS network. The successful investigation of firearm-related crimes relies upon the quantity, quality, and timeliness of forensic ballistics information.

Can IBIS data be shared/compared with that of other agencies?

When IBIS systems are networked, it means that each IBIS exhibit is automatically compared against the IBIS database of one, several, or all other sites in the network. The scope of the comparison is configurable and can be based on crime patterns and geography. IBIS users can perform custom comparisons based on flexible constraints.

For example, the IBIS network in the U.S.A. (NIBIN) serves thousands of law enforcement agencies from hundreds of sites which share standardized data.
IBIS is designed for multi-tiered data correlation, along with filtering of sensitive data, and state-of-the-art networking and security infrastructures.

Can IBIS data be shared with any other agency or system for comparison purposes?

IBIS data can be shared only with other IBIS systems.
Because IBIS captures a wealth of data under very specific lighting and using very specific areas of interest, it creates an acquisition that can only be used and correlated by IBIS specialized correlation algorithms. Thus, other systems are not capable of processing IBIS data.

How does IBIS correlate?

The purpose of a correlation is to find the most similar candidates among all the submitted exhibits and rank them by their likelihood to match a given exhibit.
IBIS uses specialized correlation algorithms that have been continuously fine-tuned for the past 20 years to improve accuracy. Numerous studies, by independent scientists and by Forensic Technology, have confirmed their validity and their performance with large datasets and challenging samples. They use sophisticated techniques that have been adapted specifically to ballistic image comparison, including a tolerance of variations between firings, and the changing characteristics of ammunition and firearms.

In addition, a variety of IBIS correlation algorithms are designed for different types of markings. For example, a cartridge case's firing pin impression, breech face impression, and ejector mark have specific attributes and must be handled independently. Likewise, a bullet's markings differ greatly between conventional rifling and polygonal rifling. Only IBIS has dedicated algorithms for specific markings.

What about correlating a large database?

It is easy to correlate a small database. But as an agency’s number of exhibits grows, accurate correlations become more challenging.
The success of large-scale ballistic identification programs depends on the ability to capture all recovered evidence and test fires from seized firearms into a system, and the capacity to continue providing high performance in finding likely matches as the amount of data grows, even to millions of exhibits.

The specialized IBIS correlation algorithms compensate for the vast amount of data noise that is inherent in ballistic image databases; and they combine the comparison of multiple markings to enhance matching probability.

How is INTERPOL involved and how can they help?

Because IBIS is viewed as the ballistic identification standard by the world’s forensic community, INTERPOL has chosen IBIS as the basis for its Ballistic Information Network (IBIN). With this network, INTERPOL's member countries will be able to share ballistic data and link firearm-related crimes involving cross-border firearm movements. This opens new levels of partnership for the development of global firearm crime reduction strategies.

Technological Infrastructure

How is IBIS supported?

An effective ballistic identification system must remain operational over time, so it is essential that technical issues be resolved quickly, and it should receive regular preventive maintenance and software updates. The Global Customer Service organization of Forensic Technology maintains a support infrastructure allowing its technicians to remotely connect to and maintain IBIS workstations and servers. Forensic Technology provides service and support from six offices located in Canada, USA, Switzerland, Ireland, South Africa, and Thailand.

In addition, Forensic Technology's Global Customer Service organization provides 24/7 worldwide multilingual support to its IBIS users. Extended service agreements guarantee that systems will remain operational. Hardware maintenance is backed by an inventory of spares at its multiple locations around the world. Software maintenance includes periodic minor updates, third-party updates, and major upgrades.

What kind of security does IBIS offer?

To ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of its data, IBIS is protected by a variety of hardware, software, and network security components. This involves user access controls, data backups, communications protection, system hardening, antivirus, data encryption, monitoring, and regular security updates.

IBIS TRAX-HD3D is the only ballistic identification solution that conforms to a full range of security features from ISO 27001 and NIST SP 800-53. This comprehensive commitment to security is a result of understanding the security needs of our customers from all over the world.

Product Success

How many customers/installations does IBIS have?

IBIS is proud to boast a very robust customer base in a large number of countries. IBIS is the backbone of the world's firearm forensic laboratories, serving thousands of law enforcement agencies, big and small, for over 150 customers in nearly 70 countries and territories. More than 500 IBIS  stations have been deployed to date.
This widespread deployment of IBIS demonstrates that its technology is evolved, reliable, and stable.

How many exhibits has IBIS captured?

IBIS databases worldwide are totaling close to 4,000,000 exhibits.

How many hits does IBIS have?

Law enforcement agencies around the world have made over 109,000 hits using IBIS. This represents, at minimum, 218,000 firearm-related events linked.

From Imaging to Identification

IBIS has made the leap from imaging to identification whereas other systems are still imaging-only stations.

Modern, effective solutions require advanced imaging and comparison algorithms, automation, analysis tools, security, and data sharing capabilities. Basic automated systems started appearing in the early 1990s, and their evolution can generally be traced through three technological generations.

1stThe first generation is usually defined as having 2D imaging and data segmentation based on class characteristics. The systems operate mostly stand-alone and only provide basic image comparison algorithms.

2ndThe second generation provides higher-resolution 2D imaging and specialized image comparison algorithms. The systems can be integrated into larger national networks and can manage larger databases.

3rdThe third generation introduces 3D imaging and advanced comparison algorithms, with highly-automated image acquisition processes. Analysis tools are superior and provide dynamic visualization, quantitative measurements, and detailed reports.