Duplicate Key

by thoromyr, published

Duplicate Key by thoromyr Jan 4, 2014
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A question came up as to whether or not a 3d printed key could be used in a real lock and this is my first try at answering that question. As demonstrated in the second photo it does actually work the lock (and was used multiple times) though I wouldn't count on it lasting long. It flexes considerably due to the spring tension. Quite a bit hinges on how much torque is needed to be applied to work the lock, but it certainly can work.


Out of an excess of caution I printed this at 0.10mm using 100% fill to maximize strength. And forgot that the design got flipped: this should be printed so that the blade is touching the build plate.

Of course, this key only works a matching lock. The process I used to make it was:

  • Scanned key (though a picture would work as well)
  • Imported image as background into modeler
  • Outlined image with a line
  • Measured key dimension and scaled object to match
  • Added thickness
  • Measured and added key channels

The print has some significant variation from the model. If the key hadn't work I would've tweaked the model to fit the printer and filament, but (at least for this lock) it was not necessary.

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Sir, please tell me your home adress =)

Do you think it's a good idea to post a 3d model of your house key on the internet where everyone can download it?
Or isn't that your real house lock?

Anyone with fingers can pick a Kwikset style lock (this one) in 5 minutes and <10 seconds if you have done it before. After locking my keys inside for the 80th time (exagerating), I learned, very very simple.

That is a good question and perhaps I should have been more explicit: that is not my house key. I was torn about what to do because to me this is a very interesting experiment but thingiverse only allows uploading of models. This particular key goes to a door handle lock (as illustrated) and was mounted for testing and the photograph. Personally, I wouldn't use anything less than dead bolts for exterior locks.

I would be worried that it would snap off inside the lock and then you would be in trouble...

I have different flavors of PETG, some more flexible like Nylon and others that are leaning towards PLA. The softer stuff should be safe and not break.

That was my biggest concern as well. I haven't snapped it off in the lock yet, but odds are fairly good that it would snap off ragged instead of a sheer at entry meaning it would be retrievable with pliers. Further, at this thickness it demonstrated considerable resilience -- more than I expected in fact. Sufficiently so that I'm going to experiment with more locks. Still, this is /not/ a replacement for a metal key. If you want a working key, do it in metal. For custom fabbing a CNC mill would be better than using 3d printed plastic.

Try using whatever method was used on the Liberator to harden the key. There's probably a method for adding a little life to the key.