Back in the 60s, the mechanical key-cutting industry was seriously trying to address the issue of coded keys for the automotive sector. Due to their incredibly rapid expansion, there was a need for new ideas very quickly. The ideas came from Cleveland, Ohio, home of Curtis Industries Ltd.
Even today there are those who speak excitedly of the legendary Curtis Clipper, the manual coded key-cutter developed in 1969. In America two out of three key-cutting businesses used it with specially trained operators (by which, incidentally, they saved their jobs in times of crisis).
The old Curtis, distributed worldwide by Barnes Distribution, worked like an office paper punch. It had a sort of trigger controlling a sliding trolley with a triangular-shaped piston in the form of a key-cutter. At each “shot” the trolley slid progressively further, cutting the various depths of the key.
The first automation devices to simplify work and increase productivity arrived in the 80s with the HPC 1200 Code Machine patented by Nick Gartner, founder of La Gard Inc in California, hailed as a real revolution in the industry.
Gartner had worked on the Apollo space program, acquiring knowledge of the latest production technologies that subsequently moved into different industries, especially security.
The HPC 1200 CM, acquired later by HPC, one of the largest producers of locksmith supplies on Earth, was an electromechanical semi-automatic machine that worked using cards with information about the depths of cut.
Camillo Bianchi imported it and distributed it throughout Europe, creating the cards necessary for European cars too. The HPC 1200 CM was an amazing machine but it had one flaw. It was slow, a problem that Camillo and Massimo Bianchi solved by introducing electronics into the key-cutting industry.
The first step was to compile an electronic database on all the information relating to car makes, models, series and depths of cut so as to create a small machining centre with a computer separate from the machine. The innovative concept of Computer Numerical Control (CNC) gave birth to the Unocode, the first electronic automatic coded key-cutting machine. So it was that, in the hills around Conegliano, a new era was born.