Monday, March 27, 2017

Cloning a VingCard "Original" punch-hole keycard

(Update 20190122: here is my STL file.  I moved out.  Enjoy!)

This is the most interesting hotel key you've never seen.  It's space-age, and hails from a time where tossing plastic in a landfill involved no thought for the future.  One word.  Are you listening Benjamin?  Plastics.

This is the original asymmetric key-pair.  Hotels order a stack of keys, that consist of a programming side, and a "guest" side.  The staff use a conventional brass key to open the door.  Once open, they slip the programming end into the back of the lock, and it programs the lock for the corresponding "guest" portion.  You snap it apart, hand the opening part to the guest, and toss the programming side in the trash.  The programming side can't open the door, and the opening side can't be guessed from knowing the programming side.  (Okay not a likely reality with today's computing power, but back then quite possible.)

Flawless security!  And it's from the future!  So let's see if I can copy one.

Looking over a patent for a device that can detect the pin configuration currently configured, it appears that the key, when inserted, selectively pushes up some ball bearings allowing a plate to move freely.  That's about all I can figure out.  So, is it the holes, or the lack of holes that's important?  Maybe it's both.

Well, gift cards are only a little thinner than this thing, and I can cut one down to the right width.  So I "borrow" an empty gift card from a local purveyor of coffee.  Drop the key on top of it, trace the outline and holes with a sharpie, and take a pair of small, pointy scissors to it.

Nope.  Looks like at the very least, the not-holes are significant.

Fine.  Be that way.  But, I live in the future, too.  I put a request for bids up on People Per Hour, including pictures of the card, and ask what a professional will charge me to send a ready-to-print 3D representation of it.  The answer?  $120.  And that's only because the person had a one-hour minimum.

A day later, and I've got the file in-hand.  Upload to thingiverse, enter my credit card, pick a swanky color.  And a couple days later it arrives.

It works!

So far I've only seen this sort of key once.  It was a building that used to be a hotel, and then I think it became a residential hotel, and now it's mostly apartments with art school students packed in, two per two-hundred square foot efficiency unit.

Not cheap, to copy those things.  But for an art student who's perpetually losing their key, it could come in handy.  The building charges fifty dollars each, to replace these antiques.  And they can't help you at four AM, when you realize you lost it.  Having a spare on-hand might be worth it.


  1. masurements for the card?

    1. The drawing that is posted is to scale so you should be able to extrapolate the measurements. It was longer than a credit card--that much I remember. I can't recall if it was the same width as a credit card though.

    2. I've updated the post with an STL file, so you can actually print one yourself without having to guess

    3. Hello, I'm from Poland and I have printed on a 3D printer Your stl file of a VingCard. It's working. Thanks!

  2. These locks were installed new at a hotel we build in 1988. They operated similar to what you mention in that a 'key' had a 'programming' side and a 'key' side. We had these in pairs so that we had 2 keys for each room as well as a spare programming card once the other programming card was installed in the lock. The programming card was basically just the holed section of the regular key card inserted into the back of the lock under a door that required a special tool to unlatch the back door. A minus screwdriver from underneath would also work to unlatch it as the latch was just spring loaded, but how to get a screwdriver at the right angle with the handle in the way will be the challenge.

    Once the door is opened on the back of the lock, you remove the old programming card using the same tool to open the back of the lock by putting the tool in a small notch in the programming card and pulling out the old programming card. This was sometimes a bit hard depending on how the pins (what you call ball bearings) were lodged into the programming card. The lock worked this way--a series of spring-loaded pins were made into a pattern by the programming card when you inserted it. For the lock to open, a key from the front side had to match this series of pins to allow the lock to open. Pretty simple actually and it worked flawlessly.

    As you mentioned, a master hard key could actuate the lock as well from a cylinder in the front of the lock. This cylinder could mechanically acutate parts of the lock inside the lock motise case in the door including the deadbolt if it was the right key. Typically the 'GK1' master could only acutated the lock and not the deadbolt, while the 'EK1' 'Emergency Key' master could acutate both. (I still have my EK1 somewhere from back in those days. I actually think I have several of these locks too.)

    These locks were the forefather of the current Vingcard product line including the venerable 2100 and 2800 series locks which used basically the same design as this series except changed to a electronic card reader, added a control modules, batteries and some really badly done wiring. Our new property we built in 1995 was one of the first to use the 2100 series and learn about all its issues, many of which came from pinched wiring or odd behavior due to the elements since they were outdoor locks. But the newer locks used essentially the same motise case as the previous series and the mechanical parts were interchangable if you knew what you were doing. My brother and I could actually change a left hand mortise case into a right hand and vice versa even though it technically couldn't be done. We were Vingcard lock experts before we were even 20 years of age.

    Today's Vincard locks with separate rfid, handle, and deadbolt sections I think have moved away from the mortice case design of the first series. But I wouldn't be shocked if it was still the exact same--no need to break something that doesn't need fixing.

    I'm actually quite surprised you ran into these locks functioning in any form today. I guess that means that these locks I have still have some value as spare parts. :)

  3. I found some links that show the original keycard as well as the lock construction. Acculock actually still sells these Vingcard 1050 locks. (I finally figured out the model number.)

  4. I have these locks on my apartment in state college. After getting locked out today I came across this post with the same idea of 3D printing a spare.

  5. Apparently these are still widely used in old 2-star hotels in France.

  6. Does anyone still make the locks for these? I'd be interested in getting my hands on some.