3D Printed Bump Keys

   August 29, 2014

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One of the hairier unintended consequences of cheap 3-D printing is that any troublemaker can duplicate a key without setting foot in a hardware store. But clever lockpickers like Jos Weyers and Christian Holler already are taking that DIY key-making trick a step further: They can 3-D print a slice of plastic or metal that opens even high-security locks in seconds, without even seeing the original key.

Weyers and Holler’s trick is to 3-D print a “bump” key, which resembles a normal key but can open millions of locks with a carefully practiced rap on its head with a hammer. Using software they created called Photobump, the two engineers say it’s now possible to easily bump open a wide range of locks using keys based on photographs of the locks’ keyholes. And even without a high-quality 3-D printer, those specialized bump keys can be mail-ordered from 3-D printing services like Shapeways or i.Materialise that have no restrictions on printing keys.

As a result, all anyone needs to open many locks previously considered “unbumpable” is a bit of software, a picture of the lock’s keyhole, and the keyhole’s depth, says Weyers, a competitive lockpicker and security consultant. “You don’t need much more to make a bump key,” Weyers told an audience at the Hackers On Planet Earth conference, where he first hinted at the key printing software last month. “Basically, if I can see your keyhole, there’s an app for that.”

Keywords: Mechatronic padlocks Programmable keys Electronic keys mechatronic lock