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3D Printed Lock Key Actually Works!

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

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