Jan 23, 2017 | By Benedict

Urban Alps, a lock and key specialist based in Zürich, Switzerland, has created the Stealth Key, billed as the world’s first metal 3D printed key with hidden internal mechanics. The key is built to withstand the rising threat of 3D printed key duplication.

Although there had been murmurs about the supposed security threats posed by 3D scanning and 3D printing since before the technology became mainstream, it took a high-profile incident in 2015 to really get the world talking about the issue. For it was then that a French Github user posted what appeared to be 3D printable CAD files for a TSA master key—the kind that airport security staff use to open private suitcases. Sure enough, several makers downloaded the files, tried 3D printing the schematics, and found that the key could successfully open TSA-approved locks. Though key duplication could be performed in many ways, it appeared that the practice had a new ally in the form of 3D printing.

With the threat of 3D duplication causing alarm for both homeowners and businesses, opportunity-sensing companies sought to deliver a quick solution. One of those companies was Zürich-based Urban Alps, a lock and key specialist who swiftly began working on the Stealth Key, a metal 3D printed key with hidden internal mechanics. According to Urban Alps, this key cannot be duplicated using high-quality images or 3D scanning, since the important, lock-opening parts are hidden within.

The Stealth Key is not the first lock-and-key solution to use “hidden” features, though it claims to be easily the most secure. For some time now, technologies like RFID chips and readers have been used in security systems to reduce the threat of physical duplication. However, Urban Alps warns that such technologies can be compromised by hackers; the Stealth Key, on the other hand, is a purely mechanical system, and therefore cannot be duplicated by digital means. The startup also notes that typical chip-in-the-key solutions are “three to four times” more expensive than the Stealth Key.

Although the Stealth Key has been designed to work on doors with built-in locks, Urban Alps has also created the Stealth Padlock, a metal padlock that works with the Stealth Key. The high-tech padlock also takes into account other security considerations, coming with a shrouded shackle to avoid cut attacks, anti-drill capabilities, and a high level of resistance to lock picking. It has been described by Urban Alps co-founder Alejandro Ojeda as “arguably the most beautiful and secure padlock ever released.”

For some, the emergence of technologies like the Stealth Key will be seen as an important step towards combating a serious security threat; for others, Urban Alps’ warnings may come across as hyperbolic. “The issue is not the professional burglar, but rather an ex-tenant, ex-girlfriend, ex-boyfriend, ex-cleaning employee,” the company half-convincingly states in the FAQ section of its website.

Given the expected price of the Stealth Key, and given the fairly lengthy process required to make a 3D printed duplicate of a key, it is possible that Urban Alps will be targeting its wares most seriously at retailers, hotels, and other commercial entities that a) have more money to spend on security systems and b) have more valuable items behind their locked doors. Since the startup is currently showcasing the Stealth Key at Intersec 2017, a security fair taking place in Dubai, Ojeda and co would appear to have a good chance of selling to that audience.

The Stealth Padlock is, until January 25, available at a lower price of €770 (€970 thereafter). The padlock comes with two Stealth Keys, and will be delivered by October 2017.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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