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Key Cutting Vending Machine

Automatic key making machine
  (+7, -1)
(+7, -1)
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How it would work:

You drop your key into a chute in the machine, where it lands on a glass plate. Several cameras would take digital pictures of the key from several angles. A computer would convert these photos into a 3D model of the key.

The model would be adjusted into some standard orientation, then the computer would search it's database to detect what key blank to use to make your new key(s) from.

The computer would display the price to you, and wait for your money. Once you've put your money in, the machine would cut as many keys for you as you've specified, and return your original key.

For those customers who want dectorative keys, the machine would would *not* use pre-decorated enameled keys. Instead, it would have a roll of ShrinkyDink plastic, and a printer. It would print the user-selected picture onto the plastic, cut off the strip, and glue it into a loop. This loop would be slid over the key, and shrunk with a heat lamp. To avoid a distored picture, the computer would have a special "distortion map" for each brand of keyblank, and use that map to predistort the image before printing; When the plastic shrinks, the image distortions are canceled out.

goldbb, Apr 04 2009

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       I think the "distortion-map" is a bit much why not just have foam fill the gaps to let the shrink-wrap sit comfortably. [+]
FlyingToaster, Apr 04 2009
  

       Distortion is going to be caused because you're shrinking a cylindrical piece of plastic around a vaguely circular (or rectangularish, or trapezoidal, or pentagon, or other shape) piece of metal.   

       The only way I can think of to use foam to "fill the gaps" that would prevent distortion would be to use foam to make all key heads rectangular.   

       Since the shape of the key's head is a significant part of how people identify one key from another, this would be a bad idea.   

       For example, I have a Baldwin brand front door lock (with an octaganal head key), and a Kwikset brand lock (with a pentagonal head key) on my apartment door. I tell them apart by the shape of the heads. I would want be able to to put the same decoration on both keys, and still tell the keys apart by the shape of the heads. If the decoration made them both into square head keys, I wouldn't be happy.
goldbb, Apr 04 2009
  

       Given the degree of sophistication your machine requires, what's the point of using key blanks? Wouldn't it be easier to just mill an exact replica? (Half serious. In reality, you don't actually need a 3-D model.)   

       I don't want to drop my keys into a machine (which may or may not work and give it back to me.) Just let me stick it into a slot (but hold on to it); you get the same information, plus a pretty good hint towards orientation.   

       The distortion map is the only part of this that I think would actually be easy...
jutta, Apr 04 2009
  

       ah, I see... I thought you meant to cover for indentations in the metal... umm nevermind.
FlyingToaster, Apr 05 2009
  

       jutta:   

       If you mill the keys from scratch, there'll be *much* more waste. Keys cut from regular key blanks only need their teeth to be cut, which means cutting along one or two edges. Keys cut from scratch need to have their outlines cut out, their lengthwise grooves on their front and back faces cut, and finally the teeth cut. Not only do you need to start with more metal (which costs more), and remove more metal (which requires lots of mechanical energy), and dispose of more metal, but it also takes more time.   

       If you just stick your key in a slot, the machine doesn't see the head of the key. Maybe it doesn't *need* to see the head, but when a human is making a copy of a key for someone, the key's head is a major clue as to which keyblank to use. Furthermore, some types of key blank are identical *except* for the head -- for example, Baldwin and Schlage keys are functionally interchangable, but the heads of Baldwin keys are much larger and shaped differently, and say Baldwin on them, and cost more. A customer might be a bit unhappy to recieve a smaller, cheaper looking, key copy.   

       Also, the chute could be designed so that the customer could see all the way down from the place where he drops his key in, to the place where the key falls out. In this design, the key would pass by a motion sensor, and activate several high speed cameras which would photograph the key, from several angles, while it's in flight, on its way down.   

       Ian Tindale, I've actually thought of doing it that way, except for one major problem -- the typical customer who would want a copy of his housekey doesn't have the patience to do that.   

       After all, a large part of the goal of the machine is not to merely have the process automated, but also to make it faster than handing your key to a human expert, and having him do it.   

       I work in a hardware store, and sometimes I make key copies. If someone hands me a common type of key, one I recognize, I can make a copy in less than a minute. If someone hands me a more obscure brand of key, one I don't recognize, it can take me several minutes of looking at the various key blanks we have, before I can identify it. Of course, once I have the blank, it takes less than a minute to make the copy.   

       If a customer were trying his key into each of a over hundred different slots (yes, there are that many different key blanks), it would take him a quarter hour or more to find the right slot to get a key made, no matter how common a key it was.
goldbb, Apr 05 2009
  

       [goldbb] calipers ?
FlyingToaster, Apr 05 2009
  

       I'm pretty sure I've seen automated key-cutting kiosks in Walmart in the past few years, though I don't know how they work.
notexactly, Apr 11 2019
  

       One slot for the standard key.   

       Three (two face, one edge) micropin pinscreens could get measurements and check them against key database. A specialized milling machine then would cut the thickness and side slots of closest blank and finally cut lock pin profile.   

       A lock craftsman will always be needed for all those specialized keys for secure locks.
wjt, Apr 13 2019
  

       I saw the news about the new US bomber and it can be flown remotely. I would seriously recommend they don't copy the keys at Walmart.
not_morrison_rm, Apr 13 2019
  

       Agree with the idea of having 6 or so slots to stick in to match the blanks available. Then it reads the key info without you having to let go of the key. Then simply cut it.   

       The minimal saleable product. Add the fancy stuff as a separate patent later
WaffleWizard, Apr 14 2019
  

       // A lock craftsman will always be needed for all those specialized keys for secure locks.//   

       We disagree. With ever more exact laser scanning and 3D printing, such duplication will not only become technically possible, but cheap and ubiquitous.   

       Think of it this way. Scanner/printers are now present in many homes, enabling small-scale "photocopying". Soon, mamy garages will be able to "print" metal parts on demand. Domestic 3D printers are rapidly evolving from the toy/curiosity/hobbyist market into mainstream devices.   

       With a pocket 3D scanner, it will only be necessary to obtain access to a key or other small item for a few seconds to allow anyone to produce a functional duplicate. No more wax impressions or plasticine moulds, no skill required, no key blanks needed. Most importantly, no need to involve anyone else to make a key.
8th of 7, Apr 14 2019
  

       If your worried about nefarious key copying, forget it. Most break-ins don't involve anything subtle like opening a lock. But if you do want to open a lock, you can buy a bump-pick gun for £30 (or a battery-powered one if you're lazy, for £49) which will open even a good cylinder lock in about 3 seconds with no skill required.
MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 14 2019
  

       [Max] using a gun to open a locked door is considered gauche these days. Having a locksmith on staff to repair the damage doesn't really make it acceptable. Just train the chauffeurs and the butlers to unlock doors before you need to go through them.
pocmloc, Apr 14 2019
  

       [8th of 7] As soon as there exists a portable 3D scanner and partnered printer, there will be non-printable secure keys manufactured by artisan-bots.   

       Unless dribbling energy from atomic nuclei becomes possible and human value structures evaporate.
wjt, Apr 15 2019
  

       // A lock craftsman will always be needed for all those specialized keys for secure locks. //   

       "Computers/robots will never be able to do [specific task]"
notexactly, Apr 17 2019
  

       "Human beings are too intrinsically unreliable to ever be effectively replaced by machines "
8th of 7, Apr 17 2019
  

       Would this machine be coin operated? And, if so, would there be a lock on the cash box?
MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 17 2019
  
      
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