Mitigating the growing threat of unauthorised 3D printed restricted keys


Restricted keys are used widely in the Australian commercial sector and have always been considered a safe solution. Mainly because only an authorised person can ask for a restricted key to be cut and this can only be done by a authorised service centre.

However, there are ever growing concerns amongst industry experts such as the Master Locksmiths Association of Australia and global leader in access solutions, ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions around the threat of 3D printing to customers of restricted key systems.

“The industry has been very well protected by an internal code of ethics. It’s within our bylaws that you just don’t cut anyone else’s restricted keys, whether they are protected or not. The industry has abided by that for quite some time now,” says Master Locksmith Association of Australia Chief Executive, Peter Johnson.

He continues “Some of the 3D printed restricted keys may be in plastic or nylon. I have had some interesting discussions with people who question if this is an issue since this material means it might only work once and then it will break. However, if it’s used once for the wrong purposes, such as getting into premises where people shouldn’t, then it matters – and it has done its job. If it’s used for illegal or inappropriate reasons then one use is all they need.”

“You always have criminal activity out there and previously it was very difficult to get the technical details required to make duplicate keys. Now there is easier access to technology including smart phones with cameras, scanning devices and 3D printers. 10 -15 years ago, these were high-end items for commercial application and cost a fortune to use.  Now it is available to anyone,” says ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions Product Manager, Stuart Smith.

“The other risk (of unauthorised restricted key copies) is that you lose control. The whole premise of restricted keying systems is that every restricted key is cut to code using software. So, they are all cut, recorded and allocated, meaning you know where all the keys are and who has them,” says ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions National Sales Manager, Steve Weeks.

According to Steve, “ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions has three keying systems that are not vulnerable to 3D printing. This includes our ABLOY® PROTEC2, ABLOY® PROTEC2 CLIQ and our purely electronic keying system, eCLIQ.”

The PROTEC2 key has a unique rotating disc cylinder that offers several unsurpassed and superior security features and benefits. While the PROTEC2 CLIQ incorporates both the rotating disc cylinder, as well as an easy-to-use access control system.

“We’re at the forefront of technology at ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions. We are the only ones in the market that have a hybrid mechanical electronic key. This is targeted at larger customers as a way to keep costs down.  They can have the electronics on critical areas and on less critical areas, they can use the mechanical platform,” says Stuart.

While the purely electronic keying system, eCLIQ, is a flexible and cost-effective solution for businesses. It is a physical key with a clock and access rights system programmed into it. This means they can restrict access rights ensuring people only have access during certain hours on specific days, meaning that people are held accountable.

“Another added benefit of these three products are that the cylinders can retrofit into existing doors and locks, without the need for wiring,” says Steve.

According to Steve “there will always be a place for the mechanical key as they are used in most commercial buildings in Australia. However, the trend we are seeing both in Australia and from our sister companies in Europe and America, is a move towards electronic keying systems.”

ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions are at the forefront of technological innovation, with a range of next generation electronic keying systems already available. To find out more visit