3D Printing Lock Picks

Over at the 23B hackerspace in Fullerton, CA, [Dano] had an interesting idea. He took a zip tie, and trimmed it to have the same profile of a lock pick. It worked. Not well, mind you, but it worked. After a few uses, the pick disintegrated, but still the concept of picks you can take through a TSA checkpoint was proven.

A few days after this demonstration, [C] realized he had a very fancy Objet 3D printer at work, and thought printing some pics out would be an admirable goal. After taking an image of some picks through the autotracer in Solidworks, [C] had an STL that could be printed on a fancy, high-end 3D printer. The printer ultimately used for these picks was a Objet 30 Pro, with .001″ layer thickness and 600dpi resolution. After receiving the picks, [C] dug out an old lock and went to town. The lock quickly yielded to the pick, and once again the concept of plastic lock picks was proven.

Although the picks worked, there were a few problems: only half the picks were sized appropriately to fit inside a lock. Two picks also broke within 15 minutes, something that won’t happen with traditional metal picks.

Still, once the models are figured out, it’s easy to reproduce them time and time again. A perfect lock pick design is then trivial, and making an injection mold becomes possible. They might still break, but they’ll be far easier to manufacture and simple to replace.

23 thoughts on “3D Printing Lock Picks

    1. I suspect it depends on where you are. In Virginia, the way the law is written it makes it sound like it’s legal to carry lockpicks as long as you don’t show “felonious intent,” but if you read more closely it actually defines felonious intent as having lockpicks while out and about without having the paperwork to legally work as a locksmith. All it would take is one agent getting antsy and asking the wrong superior “hey these are legal, right?” or one nosy busybody overhearing the conversation to cause…problems.

    2. I take my regular lock-picks through TSA checkpoints in my carry-on all the time. They are perfectly fine as long as you don’t try to hide that they are there.

      Plastic ones, designed to avoid detection however, may not actually be legal. Intent to deceive can easily be connected to intent to use. You are better off bringing the metal ones.

      Further, the TSA regulations are actually pretty vaguely worded when it comes to weapons. If you are being a dick about it, they can confiscate just about anything that CAN be used as a weapon. And that definition can be pretty broad.

      On the rare occasion that I have been a total dick going through, I’ve had them confiscate everything from me. Including my shoelaces and belt.

      Conversely, I have also taken a set of chefs knives, and a sword through as my carry on (at the same time) because I was not acting like an ass, and because they were worth more than the airline was willing to guarantee the safety of if I had checked them. (They offered to have them sent overnight to my destination, but the mail service could not guarantee delivery before noon)

    1. Been done. All of the obvious and most of the non-obvious has been done. Carbon fiber for instance tends to really rough up the pins, leaving brass dust everywhere. Plastic leaves particles that eventually jams up locks. Fiberglass does a bit of both. Less abrasive materials that don’t leave gunk in locks aren’t strong enough and bend or shatter rapidly. Tis just the limits of material science right now.

  1. Ceramic lockpicks instead of thin Objet (now Stratasys) plastic ones? Not sure how to 3d print those easily though. Could always waterjet them out of ceramic stock with a vacuum assist, low pressure pierce to avoid breaking the raw material.

  2. Just do what I do… Put your lockpicks inside your umbrella when traveling. I always have a small umbrella in my laptop bag and it’s construction–like nearly all umbrellas–is basically a whole lot of hinged wires. If you’ve ever seen an umbrella being xrayed you’ll know that lock picks will blend right in to that rat’s nest.

    Never been hassled by TSA for my picks but they *have* given me a hard time over basic electronics! Meaning, “he has exposed LEDs, wires, and mysterious through-hole components! Better question him and send him through extra screening.”

  3. I like how the big picture of the lock picks at the top of this article is just begging to be saved and used as a template…By the way best picks I ever made were cut out of old hacksaw blades. And if you’re going to try using 3D printed picks you may want to have a metal extractor ready. Counting from the left picks 2 or 4 and 8 are all you really need. Coat hanger wire makes a good torsion tool, just hammer the part that goes into the lock flat and file to fit.

  4. I actually have a magnificent PDF vector lockpick template package. Its the most complete I have ever seen and everything i 100% scale. These would be very easily to use for this project if you make some small adjustments to make them 3D instead of 2D. Please contact me or check my blog if you are interested. I will share them free of charge :-)

  5. Yes it works, but its ridiculously hard to pick any reasonable lock with that kind of picks. The 3D printed plastic has some minimum requirements which are still way to thick for smooth keyway entry. Also the plastics are bendable which isnt the best quality while trying to pick a lock.

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