3D Printed Lock Key Actually Works!

By on March 6th, 2016 in Ideas


A designer has been able to recreate a physical lock key with 3D technologies and a handy hardware store. 

Designer Gregory Miller was curious whether an image from a common digital camera would be sufficient to duplicate a functioning lock key. It turns out this is actually easy to do. 

Miller’s process was straightforward:

  • Capture a face-on digital image of the target key
  • Measure precisely the size of the target key (Miller did this with digital calipers)
  • In 3D modeling software Blender, import the image and trace the perimeter
  • Again in Blender, resize the key shape to match the physical key and extrude it slightly
  • Export the 3D model

At this point, Miller printed the “key” in plastic. To his great surprise, it actually worked on the first try!

However, a plastic key is not the strongest kind of object, and everyone has encountered locks that require a bit more force to open. Here is Miller’s solution:

The next day at work I stopped by the hardware store at lunch. I asked the guy to make a copy of a key for me. He laughed when I showed him the plastic print and asked if I had a matching plastic lock. Laughing the whole time, he cut me a key based solely on the plastic print-out.

There it is: 3D printing a metal replacement key – without a metal 3D printer! This approach doesn’t require metal CNC equipment, metal casting gear or anything beyond USD$1.91. 

There’s more than one way to make things in metal.

Via Gregory Miller

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!