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Today a made a 3D printed key for my Mini just to prove it could be done.  I was talking with a locksmith that was at my work today and we were discussing how 3D printing technology would change his profession.  I told him I could take a photo of a key and print a replacement using the photo as reference.  He said it was impossible.  Sounds like a challenge to me.  Thirty two minutes later... Video of it starting the car Mini Cooper 3D printed key test
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162 comments
 
The mini doesn't use a chip in the key to authenticate it?

I have a Dodge, and really need another key, but I think it uses the chip.
 
So now if anyone so much as sees your key while wearing Glass, your lock is useless.

Time to start making keys with the tumbling pattern hidden.
 
+Daniel Ward I had not even considered this implications of glass with this.  If you had the key in you hand it would just take a photo no better then the one I posted holding the key.
 
I am sure it can be done. But the key would have to be straight on, a stranger would have do some work to get a decent shot. 

If the ignition is chipped with a programmed key then it doesn't really matter. Well, I guess they could steal your stereo.
 
Yeah, a cell phone would take a better photo. That is what I used for the test.
 
Was it a straight transfer, or did you have to refer back to the key for the depth?
 
+Baron Arnold I use the image as a background in Lightwave, and traced the edges of the curve. I scaled it to measurements I took with a dial caliper.
 
Car keys?
This will work for house keys.

I would rather my car was stolen than my home was burgled.

 
I just ordered an Up Mini.  What machine are you using?
 
How many times can you use the plastic key? Metallic keys wear out, I can't imagine this one lasting much...
 
But don't some newer cars have a chip of some sort in the keys. 
 
This would open the car door but without a chip would not work the ignition.
 
cool. print it in metal :) can open a door I guess but without the chip the motor wont start..
 
+John Munro i was thinking the same, unless he had it close by and it engaged?  
 
Just print the key to the car owners home and go get the real car keys!
 
Or just lift the car onto a transporter(happens)
 
I think it`s really nice if you need a key very fast and have no time to get a metal one. But on the other hand i don`t think that it will make the job of the locksmith obsolete. Metal lasts a lot longer than plastic. A key cloning device isn`t really expensive either. You can get them on ebay for under 50$. 
So if you wanted to clone more often keys a key cloning machine would be a better choice than a 3d printer.
I see this as a very cool proof of concept but i don`t think that locksmith need to fear for their job now as long as we can`t print in metal at home and everyone has a transponder cloning device.
 
+Rznag Rmrod the point is that if this is possible then no one will want traditional keys for important stuff in the future.
 
+mats bro especially for important stuff i would prefer metal keys...but for unimportant stuff i could imagine to use plastic keys, printed some toy keys on my printer already, but just for fun...i think i can`t open some magic doors with my zelda key :D I just said that i think it will make the job of a locksmith not obsolete. No question if this is cool, it is very cool. 
 
i didn't imply plastic keys but electronic keys. i have one for my car now and it's works great. :)
 
+mats bro but this shown 3d printed key is a plastic key and has no electronics
Shen Ye
 
I believe all modern car companies use exactly the same tumbler pattern for all their cars, it's the chip inside the key that is the authenticator.

Source: Bought a replacement key for my BMW, generic tumbler pattern for BMW, works but there's a special way to pair the key to the car.
 
+Rznag Rmrod locksmiths do more than cut keys you know.


+Shen Ye .... All keys are different, there's nothing the same since most series have thousands of different changes. Everyone would be able to get into everyone's car....

Cool concept, automotive locks aside for a sec .... What about residential or commercial door keys? Since restricted high security keys are strictly mechanical then it would be easy to duplicate these keys. 
 
it's not a Mini goddamnit, it's one of those counterfeit "minis" made by BMW, also known as the "Twatmobile"
 
Thirty nine comments already and nobody yet spotted the obvious massive error in judgement in this post ? You've said how easy it is to make a key for your car from a photo. You've posted the photo on the internet. 1+1= ? Let's hope no 3D-printer-owning car thieves know where you live.
 
Look at the bigger picture. If they develop this technology in the next 10 year's we might all have a 3D printer in our homes.
And, how big can these printers get? Construction, medical, car production, military,, where is this technology going?
Scared now..
 
You have just enabled a tremendous increase in car thefts and valet break ins. Congrats 
 
A while back a few university students did a demo where they "cloned" a set of house keys from some distance. I'll dig around and see if I can find it, it's probably on youtube someplace.
 
A lot is said about 3D printing like they are some magical Star Trek replicator. They're not. They make models, not actual working everyday things. Did this key work? If not it isn't a key. It is just a model of a key.
 
That will show Em! AWESOME
 
+Stanton Taylor check the video, it did work. I am surprised there's no electronic component to the keys, most of the cars I've owned recently need a chip to actually start the engine which would make it much more difficult to print.
 
You don't need a 3 d printer to make a key from a photo.
 
Pretty cool, some of these printers can make things with moving parts too. Just curious,how strong is the plastic? Could you print a wrench or a socket that would be strong enough to work on electrical equipment?
 
Most printers work with nylon, grab a zip tie for a feel of a typical chunk of the stuff.
 
Nice! 3D printing will influence our lifes profoundly in the coming years.
 
Personally I can't wait until we can get MIM stuff by the spool. Print and stick in a furnace, instant steel part.
 
So how long before I can take a picture of the inside of a lock and print out a key for it?
 
Hey Ryan, Can you tell me what 3D program you used before printing the key?
 
+Jeff Bower
The chip just has to be in the proximity of the vehicle, as I understand. So if he had the actual key with him, the car should start as expected. Maybe leave the key in the house and try again.
 
Ok, now prove that it can unlock the door and start the car... This seems like a really stupid thing to be advertising, btw. Very soon, every auto thief will own a 3D printer, all they have to do is get a picture of the key for the car he wants to steal. 
 
All you need now is a picture of the key's transponder chip and your away ;>)
 
This is really cool....I think 3d printing is really going to be a game changer in the way stuff is made. Eventually...... Think buying plans for shoes coming home and printing them out. if you haven't read up on 3d printing you should..... They are even talking about printing organs!
 
This is really cool....I think 3d printing is really going to be a game changer in the way stuff is made. Eventually...... Think buying plans for shoes coming home and printing them out. if you haven't read up on 3d printing you should..... They are even talking about printing organs!
 
This is really cool....I think 3d printing is really going to be a game changer in the way stuff is made. Eventually...... Think buying plans for shoes coming home and printing them out. if you haven't read up on 3d printing you should..... They are even talking about printing organs!
 
The exact same thing has been possible for ages as long as you had a proper metal workshop. The costs for the required tools should be about equal.
What really matters is: this type of key is absolutely useless, I wonder why it is still a thing these days. Basic electronic theft protection is dirt cheap. Sure, a sophisticated thief can work around that, but it takes a bit more than just a piece of metal or plastic.
 
That's totally amazing and scary at the same time.  You can print just about anything on a 3D printer these days.
 
Not that it would be incredibly easy for a stranger to duplicate (seeing as they'd have to take a good picture of your key and hope it's one of the increasingly few number of keys without chips in them) but every test of 3D printing I've seen lately shows how these should NOT be something you can just have in your house. When you can print almost anything, what does come out has to be monitored in some way - I'd rather have a bit of Big Brother than weapons and counterfeits in the hands of literally anyone.
As impressive as the technology is, and as much as I dislike corporate control of an industry, I hope we simply put these in Kinko's and special establishments like schools, where you can't just print whatever you want whenever you want.
 
+Alex Ander It'd be terrible if people were able to make decisions on their own and act responsibly, right?
I can't wait until everyone lives in a padded home with no door.
 
Newer ignition switches require an electric signature, so me thinks this will not always work. still pretty awesome. Hide yo keys!
 
The real question is, would it work with a house key? Transponder keys can be defeated for honest purposes, by the way. My dad's old Focus has one- what he did was copy the original key and just keep the transponder next to it when starting the car.

+Alex Ander I strongly disagree. I should be able to print whatever I want in my house.
 
+David Röll I mean, yeah, it would be terrible if people weren't allowed to have their own weapons production facilities or key copiers. God forbid we start banning meth labs too, that damn socialist government!
 
+William D. Most house locks can be picked in seconds to minutes. You don't even have to print a copy, just get lockpicks.
 
+Alex Ander Let's ban pressure cookers, too. The average housewife shouldn't be allowed to have access to parts that can be used to build weapons of mass destruction.
 
Like, I don't know if you're aware of what 3D printing can do (you probably are) but if left open for the taking it pretty much nulls any kind of weapons or counterfeit restriction laws.
 
+David Röll Locks only keep out the honest.

+Alex Ander Just about ANYTHING can be used to build weapons, sorry. Your argument 'it may be used to make weapons' is very weak. And if it can, so what? Why can't I build a plastic gun? Unless i'm going out to shoot people, where's the wrong in that?
 
I don't understand what you'd be using a 3D printer for, multiple times a day.
There's a difference between reassembling some appliance parts to make a crude weapon and clicking a button to get a semi-automatic in half an hour.
 
+Alex Ander I don't think you understand how laws work.
Let's make an easy example: there are laws against murder.
However, they don't make you unable to murder someone.
You'll get punished if you do.
So, you want laws that disable people from possibly building their own weapons.
That's not going to work.
 
Look, I'm generally totally against controlling things like this but there's no way this isn't going to end badly. Putting something together yourself using gathered parts is totally different from having a machine literally build it all for you.
 
+Daniel Grubbs that's quite possible, but I know mine needed to be VERY close to the ignition for that to work. That said, hiding it in the steering column to prove a point wouldn't be beyond the realm of possibility.
 
+David Röll He'll probably advocate that laws force you to not be able to buy them, which means there will be a black market. And if he advocates for restricting their printing interfaces, how does one do that, since the creative person will just print a different design? Or people will buy them on a black market anyway without restrictions, much like regionless DVD players in some areas where they are illegal for copyright reasons.
 
Its not different in any way, +Alex Ander . No way at all. Except plastic parts are brittle and break easily.
 
+William D. Because doing that breaks several major laws as it is? Whether or not it's ethically right, you can't just make guns as you please. You have to go through a very complex series of checks before you can purchase a recorded, authorized gun at a legitimate gun store, manufactured by a legal gun production company.

In order for 3D Printing to continue being public, we're going to have to remove all of those restrictions to begin with and after the Sandy Hook incident I don't think that's going to happen any time soon... 
 
+Alex Ander DOesn't stop people making or buying it on the black market. IN case you haven't paid attention, anything you outlaw just becomes available at a higher price from thugs instead. As far as printers go, again, any law you pass will be ineffectual and only hamper the technology, not even talking from the moral standpoint of pointing a gun at printer owners and say "THOU SHALT NOT MAKE OR ELSE"
 
Like, what I'm saying is that with our current law practices, open 3D printing is a contradiction of rules. It doesn't work. Either we make gun production open to all, or we restrict 3D Printing.
 
As a former locksmith I will say the majority of the locksmith profession is very threatened by new tech that will make their routines obsolete. They don't embrace change. Same goes for most everyone else too.
 
In other words, outlawing and restricting the tech will do nothing but monopolize the market. Which is precisely why Kinko's would support it, so they could control 3D printing.
 
Yes, the black market exists, and restricting 3D printing wouldn't end all 3D-printed guns, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be illegal. Many laws that are broken should still be laws.
 
+Alex Ander >Like, what I'm saying is that with our current law practices, open 3D printing is a contradiction of rules.
You're trolling, right?
Your arguments are so illogical, I don't even know where to start.
So how about this: nope.
 
Can I print underwear? I need new underwear.
 
+Cory Schmunsler As a former locksmith, just by me looking at a picture of a regular house key I could make a copy with a blank and file and also pick it much faster as well. Pictures of keys are a huge flaw and have been for many many years. 
 
I'm taking David's path and just goign to not bother. You aren't addressing any points aside from "someone MAY use this to do Bad Things so make it illegal", which I could use against cars... Someone might turn it into a bomb. Its really easy, actually, and can be done in only 30 minutes.

Or knives. Or pressure cookers, I can go on and on.
 
+William D. I mean, I said Kinko's but I meant authorized printing stores in general. It doesn't have to be one or even a few corporations - you can start your own 3D printing business!
 
Nope. Suppliers of 3D Printers would spring up instead. That being said, it would just be a case of supplanted industry, not replaced. As far as Alex goes, well, then I could just print off my 'weapons' there, instead, since even if I'm being an honest citizen, I'm treated as a criminal.
 
+Alex Ander You can make your own gun with a steel pipe, a lead ball, black powder (coal, sulfur, potassium nitrate), a drill and a hammer (I've actually done that at the age of twelve).
So, let's ban all of these things.
And no, you actually can't 3D print a gun. You can print parts of it, but that's not going to give you a chamber, a barrel or any other actually vital part.
 
And the ones they have printed in completion have all exploded after a couple shots. But hey, most of the prior materials can be made yoruself or bought from any contracting store.
 
+rob roy jr, as a former underwear maker, I can tell you from experience that it's just not feasible. Loom printers maybe, but not a 3D plastic printer-the underwear are either too rigid or, when you attempt to make them thin enough, too fragile and will crumble before fully pulling onto the body.
 
Yes, but it's totally different when you have a machine that can be used instantly and for the express purpose of producing weapons.
Materials aside, the person who makes the blueprint of the weapon might be accused of distribution of firearms if the law and prosecution are particularly harsh.

Look, I'm not saying it's right or wrong, only that people make bad decisions and that we should think about the consequences of making everything that can be made out of plastic freely available to everyone.

I mean, let's be real, even if I'm wrong it's probably going to go in a similar way to what I'm thinking. Whoever manufactures the 3D printers will sell them at high prices if they don't open stores themselves, and the material itself will be sold in stores (I'm sure someone will find a way to make it overpriced). Once corporate sponsorship comes into play, it's going to be a lot easier for Kinko's to get a printer than an ordinary person. Though it will certainly change the way we use things in a really cool way, I still doubt most people will use it on a daily basis and it would be easier/probably cheaper for them to get it printed elsewhere than to have the machines themselves.
 
+David Röll No, not YET, but 3D printing is evolving so rapidly that I'm sure many kinds of materials will eventually be able to be integrated into a single product.
 
+Alex Ander So your fear is people will eventually be able to make dangerous stuff at their homes.
Welcome to erm, when did the human race evolve?
Yes, that long ago.
 
+Alex Ander Maybe, I'm not paying attention anymore, you've lost me way above.
See the "you don't understand how laws work" part.
 
+Alex Ander, don't mean to pick on you but 3D printers are already past the early adopters phase of a product. It's already in mass production (several manufacturers) and can be had for less than $500 for a very decent home model.

+everyone else that doesn't seem to know: yes, these are available for purchase today and are more affordable than your PS3.
 
+Alex Ander Have you ever USED a 3D Printer? I have used a Makerbot, a gigantic industrial printer, another one that used a drip feed and acid... They are neither instand nor fast for anything bigger than a keychain.
 
Am I really the only one who thinks there's a difference between taking a lot of separate parts from completely different things to assemble them in a haphazard way and clicking a mouse?

You're not really building anything with a 3D printer, it's building it for you. It's less like making a homemade bomb out of your own materials and more like paying a gun manufacturer to produce a weapon off the record.
 
+James Edington I plan to have one in my house after 2-3 years of saving. One of the lower-end models.
 
Yes, you are, because building with a 3D printer is not as easy as you make it seem.
 
+William D. Even if it was, I wonder what his problem is with people printing plastic knives or grips for their rifles.
 
+William D. Fast is relative. I don't mean like 5-minutes-fast or even more, but much more quickly than it would take for something to be made the old fashioned way, then packaged and mailed to a store, where you have to go and buy it yourself. Even faster than buying it on the internet.
 
+Alex Ander No, you said fast as in instantly, right away, at the click of a gun. You specifically said instantly. Stop changing your argument.
 
+Alex Ander
 "I don't understand what you'd be using a 3D printer for, multiple times a day."

Here's a simple answer based in freedom: until somebody uses what they've made to cause harm to another, it's none of your damned business what they're using their 3d printer for. Maybe I want to print custom legos, ad infinitum.  Maybe I want to print guns to see how far I can take the technology (not to go out and kill people).  Maybe I want to see if I can print some new whiz-bang approach to desalinating water, thereby ending water insecurity worldwide, and your "Kinko's" approach would be out of my reach, cost-wise, because I have to try thousands of prototypes.  In other words, please stop embracing luddite thinking and get out of the way.
 
Sadly, Lego's are cost ineffective, +Early Ehlinger :( Excepting new specialty pieces that are unique to you, of course. I've thought of that.
 
Many think this is not going to change EVERYTHING.  I think it will as the tech improves every day.  Soon distributed manufacturing will begin to be developed everywhere.  One day, you want a new car, purchase the license and print the parts at a local assembly plant an pick it up in a few days.  It WILL happen.  Now that is has been shown that this concept is REAL, new/future variations will extend the process to harder composites (maybe carbon fiber?).  There is no end in sight!

This may really help decentralize population centers and reduce the massive pollution caused by large cities.  Now many of us can live about anywhere there is a good Net connection.  Grow our own food (http://foody-hydroponics.com/), conduct business (http://free-agent-services.com/) and live healthier/longer lives.  With decentralized manufacturing, off-shoring will not be necessary, just local 'assembly points for large stuff and much may be created in homes or local fabrication plants (cost of devices will be high for a while).

It is an exciting future!  Now if society can somehow find some sanity, we may yet survive to colonize the Moon, Mars and beyond!
 
I have seen 3D guns that shoot good.also I saw in a medical book about making 3 D body parts like a liver.its no telling where 3D printing will go.great work on that key.

 
I'm not taking sides in the debates here, but I want to point out a few things:

- 3D printers are already available, cheaply (relatively) for home use.
- Makerbots has a 3D model file FOR a 3D printer, so you can print another 3D printer WITH a 3D printer.
- You cannot make a complete, working, reliable gun with current home 3D printers.  You need to machine drill the barrel out of steal.  The action must also be made of metal, as well as the firing pin.
- Look up "Defense Distributed".  This guy has youtube videos where he's making lots of gun parts and believes he may be able to make a fully functional gun, with the exception of the firing pin metal part to strike the back of the cartridge.  If it works, it may fire only one or two bullets before breaking.
- It's already against the law to manufacture guns without a laborious legal procedure, then when you are authorized, your permit is to mfr from a specific location.  That's what this Defense Distributed guy has done.

So, now you have some information to use, whichever side you may be on.
 
+William D.-There's also plastic recyclers already in development for mass production that will take a water bottle and spool it. Maybe Legos could be cost effective...hmmm.
 
+Chris Harpner Thank you. You've thus established that its already illegal and no new laws are necessary. I DID learn something new.

I knew you could make spools, calibration devices, etc. with the Maker for the Maker, but did not know you could make an entirely new printer with it. von Neumann machines!
 
+Chris Harpner The guy from Defense Distributed used the word "probably" to hedge in the interview about his yet to be built "all-[but... yeah well the firing pin, right?]-plastic gun".
However, the actual argument here is about banning people to use something they might use to build things to harm other people.
Doesn't get more slipperly-slope than this ;).
 
"+Chris Harpner The guy from Defense Distributed used the word "probably" to hedge his "all-[but... yeah well the firing pin, right?]-plastic gun".
However, the actual argument here is about banning people to use something they might use to harm other people.
Doesn't get more slipperly-slope than this ;)."

+David Röll Correct.  I'm trying to stay out of the debate and just provide "information" to use.
 
+James Edington
 Saw that a while back. I envision a device roughly the size of a pallet which has a plastic hopper on top, and a 3d printer on bottom.  I finish using a bottle, I throw it into the hopper. I want some little widget, I print it out.  This turns plastic from a use-once, disposable trash, into an abundant reusable resource. The cost reductions for everything because of that innovation are astonishing. Consider: virgin plastics are sourced from crude oil. So is gasoline. By reusing significantly more plastic than we currently do, demand for oil drops, and the price of gasoline subsequently drops.  Everybody wins.
 
But does it have the computer chip embedded to communicate with the car to allow starting?
 
+Early Ehlinger I'm interested in the amount of energy used to re-mfr our plastic over and over in the home in addition to the energy used to mfr the 3D printers.  I'm wondering which is more energy efficient and ultimately more "green", as well as the unintended consequences of how our society will change as a result of all of this.

I don't know the answers, but I think it's too early to decide that it's more efficient one way or the other at the moment.
 
+Jeff Burns No it doesn't, but it does allow you entry to the vehicle.  Often that's all a thief wants (or someone who locked their keys in their $100,000 car that you wouldn't be caught dead using a slim-jim on).
 
it won't work on some car keys because some cars has an electronic chip inside the key that needs to be programmed
 
Couldn't you then use the 3d printed key as a guide to machine a metal one now?
 
That's awesome....flat out awesome.

 
Perhaps you should have thought twice before giving us all a picture of YOUR key...... 
 
With newer cars that may not work to start the car
 
It i'll b credit cards next! 
 
Pretty cool, and not just a little bit scary. I'm more worried about house keys than car keys.
 
When did 3d printing come out anyway
 
May be working on the Mini Cooper. Now a day many new cars come with secure chip in the car key. It will not start up without the chip. But it will be cool to make a spare key at your 3d printer... =)
 
handy if you need a sports key that you can afford to get wet etc.
 
It will only work as long as the key slot doesn't have any electronic detection system, though. Once it checks if metal is inserted, or even performs an ID check on the key (if the key has a microcontroller) it won't work at all.
 
+Gareth Robins I have not seen the locksmith again yet.  He did not think the printer would be able to produce a key accurately enough to work. 
 
+Marco Meijer +Enan Irwin +Louis Fong  +Jeff Burns  Yeah, I found this out.  After I drove home using the printed key I tried to restart it again but it didn't start.  I tried again and broke the key off.  It was not too hard to get the broken piece out.  I think that because I had put the real key in the ignition before I tried the 3D key it authenticated.  It must be holding the authentication state after the key is remove for some period of time.  It operates the door locks perfectly.  It appears to be durable when used with door locks > 20 operations with no signs of distortion.   
 
Now just think about how a thief feels about this 
 
My car came with a plastic key kinda like this. It was designed to be an emergency key for wallets.
 
I want one of these for my Mini. Can you make me one? Fusionsport10@gmail.com
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