(Image via flickr.com/photos/azken_tximinoa/6805447240/)
When you can make anything, the possession of physical objects no longer carries any particular value (sentiment aside.) And when security is tied to the possession of an object (e.g., a key), being able to programmatically replicate the object raises some interesting intellectual topics.
Now, there’s a whole industry around bypassing physical locks. Locksmiths, picking enthusiasts, manufacturers, and criminals continue to advance the trade. And for the most part, if someone with resources wants to bypass a lock, it’s going to happen. But the idea that a computer could replicate a key using a 3D printer is still fascinating. Add CCTV and computer vision to this, and you have a sci-fi future where simply displaying a key in public is enough to compromise security.
One approach for addressing this is to increase the machining complexity of a key. While simple keys can be made with a blank and hand-files, more advanced keys can require manufacturing equipment that’s out-of-reach for the average criminal. This is where 3D printing offers disruption.
To see it in action, check out “Physical Keygen: Now for Disc Detainer Locks“. It’s what happens when you combine the curiosity of an artist and a lock-enthusiast. Even more interesting, is that the 3D models were built using OpenScad, and open sourced at github.com/nrpatel/PhysicalKeygen/. The OpenScad files were written such that the key patterns are parameterized. For the supported keys, you print the Key Gauge, measure a working key, and enter the numbers into the OpenScad script to generate a matching STL. Print the STL, and you’re on your way to unrestricted access (or more likely, a broken piece of plastic stuck in your lock ;-)