Sorry robbers, this super key can’t be cut or copied

By Kitty Knowles 13 April 2017

3D-printing the key of the future.

The humble key has come a long way.

They started back in 2,000 BC with Egypt’s wooden keys. And today we’re moving into an age where our fingers, eye retinas, and even our voices, act as digital ‘biometric’ keys to our devices.

Key flaws

Until digital technology becomes sufficiently affordable and ‘hacker proof’ there will, however, still be a reliance on physical lock and keys to keep our most valuable assets safe – like our homes.

The thing is, metal keys can easily be copied – a couple of minutes with a key-cutter, and you’ve got a replica, and even a quick smartphone snap can be turned into a computer file and 3D-printed.

That’s why future-gazing locksmiths are 3D-printing your keys:

Dr Alejandro Ojeda believes his Stealth Key is the key of the future.

What makes the Stealth Key special?

What sets a 3D-printed key apart is that it can be created from the inside out, to feature lots of intricate internal features.

These remain hidden from sight, making them almost impossible to copy – especially if you don’t have the right 3D-printer.

Each key is made from titanium, and created using the same laser processes used to make jet engine parts.

A single key takes half a day to print (although the machine can print 850 different keys in one time).

The future key

Dr Ojeda has already partnered with 3D-printing expert Felix Reinert and lock designer Jiri Holda to found UrbanAlps.

The Swiss company is already open to pilot customers – although each pair, together with a lock mechanism will set you back around $200 (£159).

With deals on large order, the company is initially targeting industrial customers to start with, with a view to creating padlocks for the general public due course.

The big downside? If you lose your Stealth Key, getting a replacement isn’t just costly, you’ll have to complete a full security check, and wait at least a day for the duplicate.

The future key is stealthy, but it’s not for the forgetful.