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Escape room

Mechanical Locks in Escape Rooms

What would an escape room be without a huge assortment of locks? The whole concept would fall flat if there was no way of locking things up or away...
2020.12.21.

What would an escape room be without a huge assortment of locks? The whole concept would fall flat if there was no way of locking things up or away. And there's a huge assortment of locks we can put into play. One of the most common types used in many escape rooms around the globe is the trusty Mag-lock. Short for "magnetic lock" it consists of two parts, an electromagnet, and an armature plate. There are two types of Mag-lock, those that are either "fail-safe" or "fail secure". The latter means that if power is lost, the lock remains secure.

These locks are extremely popular because they are both cheap and effective. They are also very simple to install and they hold things well. You can buy them with any number of weight holding capacities even going up as far as 100 kgs. But other than electromagnetic locks, what other locking devices are there for use in an escape room. Let's have a look...

File Cabinet Locks

If you have something that slides and you need to keep it secure, then file cabinet locks will do the job. Their primary use is securing filing cabinets, though they'll work just fine on any type of draw. keep in mind that these will stay locked even when there's no power. So make sure as to where you place them. You don't want a situation whereby a player gets locked in! 

Pros:

Slim so they take up little space

Fail-secure so they are not constantly on
Affordable! 
You can find them for $10-15

Cons:

They only work on sliding drawers. 
They are not meant for hinged closures. 

If they fail, you can’t easily get it open them

Solenoids

These are great for locking up draws. But they do have some quite serious limitations. For one thing, they get really hot if left unlocked for any period. it's always better to have them reset themselves once they've been used. Also, the smaller ones can be difficult to open as they lack any real strength. But when they work, they do a stellar job. You need to be aware of their limitations when you're designing your puzzles. larger solenoids do have considerable pulling power but need to be situated in an object with some weight.

Pros:

Excellent for keeping boxes closed
Very easy to hook up and use

Come in various sizes and different lengths

Cons:

If left on for too long they get INCREDIBLY hot

Certain types won’t open if too much pressure is put against the bolt

Good ones can be bulky

Servos

The reason why servos aren't as popular as they should be is that on the whole, they will require an extra part called the controller. And these controllers can appear a little daunting to the amateur user. There are a lot of different types of servos, from standard to continuous rotational, from digital to analog, and from plastic gear to metal gear, and many, many other options. They also come in an eye-watering number of sizes. You should do some research to find the best one suited to the job at hand. One thing to keep in mind is that if you are using servos to hold something closed or that's going to be experiencing some force upon it, then make sure you install them with metal servo horns (the swing arms at the top) otherwise people will break them.

If you just want a servo to me from one point and back again, and you can't be bothered with a microcontroller, then get a servo trigger. They are really simple to use and they don't need programming.

Pros:

Easily available

A good amount of torque

Can be used to create animations as well

Cons:

Requires some sort of controller

Can be difficult to mount

A confusing number of options

Drop Bolt

So what's a "drop bolt?" Just as Mag-locks are designed to hold doors in place, these do the same job but in a completely different way. These are to all intents and purposes, a mixture of a deadbolt, a solenoid, and a mag-lock. They are mounted to the top of a door frame. When the power is cut, then the bolt retracts upwards into the device allowing the door to open. When power is restored, then it senses the magnets below, and the bolt "drops" down and resets itself, locking the door. On the whole, these are much more secure than Mag-locks. The real problem with mag-locks is that if they're mounted incorrectly or they're of the incorrect strength, then the door can be opened if enough force is exerted. With a drop bolt, you'll need to pull out the frame before you get the door open.

Pros:

Can’t be pulled open like a Mag-lock
Unique in the way they work

Cons:
Similar to cabinet solenoids, if there's too much pressure then the bolt won’t retract

Larger footprint than the other locks

Conclusion

The above locks are just a small sample of what's available. As we mentioned, there are many different types of locks and bolts to secure things and doors within your escape room game. But it doesn't matter what you use, just as long as you place it correctly. placement is everything, in that it will stop the players from trying to open something because they assume it's not locked properly. An example is a large lock on just one side of a box. You'll be surprised at how many players will try and force open the other side. So please do ensure that you place your locks so that it's crystal clear the item is meant to be locked.

Finally, we should mention that when installing any sort of mechanical locks in your new escape room, do ensure that you follow all safety instructions to the tee. Also, it's imperative that you know and understand your local fire and building code regulations with regards to the locking of exits and doorways. We suggest that you invite your local fire department to review your escape room set up before you open and as a precursor for your insurance premiums. 

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