HAVING to open up your luggage and repack it at the airline check-in counter is never a pleasant experience. However, it can sometimes be difficult for travellers to weigh their luggage accurately at home before reaching the airport.

A group of engineering students from Nanyang Technological University has come up with a possible solution for this problem.

Called the personal luggage scale (PLS), the device is essentially a built-in electronic scale, which travellers can use to weigh their luggage easily. Although there are portable external scales in the market, the PLS is unique in that it is seamlessly integrated into the luggage rather than as an additional, external device.

"In the future, we can foresee modern luggage having a small display helping to measure the weight of the luggage on the handles," said Vernon Chow, 23, one of the student inventors of the PLS.

The PLS operates by ensuring that the weight of the luggage is directed downwards for the most accurate reading. "If you do it sideways it might not be accurate," said Mr Chow.

One of the main concerns they faced when brainstorming ideas for the device was ensuring that the PLS would be able to withstand the rough handling during travel, such as during luggage transfer.

A drawback of the current design is that it requires a rod to be inserted inside the suitcase, which takes up space that could otherwise be used to store more things, and adds to weight.

"If we had more money, we would even try to do it externally, so it won't touch the inside," Mr Chow explained.

The team is thinking of filing for a possible patent for the PLS considering the scope for future commercialisation.

"The potential is there for them to maybe pause their studies for a semester, and follow up on their projects. We support that, and I can see that happening," said Associate Professor Rajesh Piplani, from NTU's School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

"But ultimately, it's really a students' project. If they have the passion, they will see the potential and they have to take it further."