What people came to Sneek for …

John Loughlin of Stanton Concepts came all the way to Sneek to show us
his invention. Together with his Bob Loughlin (his dad) they have invested quite some
time and money on this lock. And now John came to Sneek. To show us
how the lock works (with prototypes), and to maybe learn more about how
we would attack a system like theirs. First of all about the lock: it
is in fact a combination lock, as one would find on a safe. But
looking at the internals of the lock it does remind of Abloy too, with
all those disks and the sidebar. Look at this video to see the lock in
action, it really is a piece of art (or click on the image below to view the video).

TOC principle

The nice thing about this lock is that the combination is dialed with
a robot dialer. So the person controlling the key does not necessarily
need or have the combination. The key will dial it. It is also
possible to dial the combination by hand, using a special tool.

We have given John some suggestions. From covertly trying to record
the sequence with a contact microphone, and trying to figure out the
combination by listening closely how long it takes to rotate a disc,
to using a surface sander (abrader) to make the discs turn externally
by vibration. If the sidebar is in the top of the lock, the discs
might vibrate in the right position because of gravity. The part with
the cuts is the lightest of the disc, and will rotate cut-upwards when
vibrated. These are the kind of things you want to know before going
to mass production…

(Images by Eric Schmiedl)

10 Responses to “What people came to Sneek for …”

  1. Rainbow says:

    How about fake cuts on the disks and some mechanism to scramble the disks after use?

  2. Josh Nekrep says:

    Cool lock Barry. Thanks for sharing. I do wonder, however, about how practical it is. The electronic “key” looks huge – probably way too cumbersome to carry around, and the combination dial key seems like it would take a long time and require the memorization of far too many numbers. Seems to me that the usability of this lock would be its greatest weakness.

    Under the same philosophy, you could make a Group 2 safe lock much more secure by putting 10 wheel packs in it, but who would want to have to operate it?

    I do like the idea with the sander. Very clever. 🙂

    – Josh

  3. Langly says:

    It is important to note the specific application for this lock. The lock is designed to address chain of custody specifically for shipping containers and the like. I spent a bit of time discussing unique applications of this lock with John while at Sneek and it seems promising. Also keep in mind that this this lock is one of many prototypes and things like false gates, portable dialers “read smaller”, and others advancements are in the works. Thanks again John for your demonstration of this unique lock.


  4. It’s Schmiedl, not Schmiedel 🙂

  5. John Loughlin says:

    The tool demonstrated is a Proof Of Concept, made from off the shelf components. In production it would be quite a bit smaller, possibly 2cm X 2cm X 6cm. Also, the idea is that the user would not know what the combination is, the tool would know the opening combination.

  6. Noah Holzman says:

    A very neat lock. When I saw it in Eric’s photos, I was sure it was an Abloy. The palm sander idea has been played around with before, but I thought it was never very effective. How did it work for you?

  7. Julian says:

    We discussed the gravity-thing already in Sneek, and I think it’s very unlikely that the disks will find themself in the right position to let the “sidebar” drop after rotating them with the sander. All disks have two fixed notches on it, on one side to turn the previous dialed disk and on the other side to get turned itself by the next one. Those notches wil have more effect on the way gravity influences a disk than the cut in it, and their position on each disk are random, as the numbers are. Look at the second disk from left, lower part, for a sample of mentioned notches.

    It’s a great, small lock! But unless you have the big key for it, it is better for secure storage places than for doors you have to walk through quite often.

    Greets, Julian

  8. Barry says:

    Julian: I do not agree. The vibration technique has proven to be very
    effective against some safe locks. And these wheels in safe locks also
    have a little pin on each side of the wheel. The vibration makes the
    discs rotate, and when you apply light tension the sidebar will keep
    the openings of the gates locked. I honestly believe that it might be
    possible to open the lock like this. At least there is reason for
    serious concern and it would not hurt to add some fake cuts in the

  9. John Loughlin says:

    Barry: Your suggestion to incorporate false gates is a good one. Additional countermeasures might include increasing the rotational friction, reducing the disc weight, balancing the discs or intentionally adding weights to the disc in random locations etal. It’s always best to identify any potential issues before a product goes into production. For that reason I really appreciate everyone’s constructive comments.


  10. wabidoux says:

    can a “generic” chinese-made dimpled-key disc lock be easily picked or bumped? The keys have four dimple points on each side and in my case the key has one large dimple on one side and two small and one large dimples on the other side.
    Any info./input will be greatly appreciated! . . Thank You!