Introduction: Transform Your Oyster Travelcard With Sugru!

Picture of Transform Your Oyster Travelcard With Sugru!

We love our oyster cards in London. They are electronic ticketing RFID cards that make travelling around London so simple — just tap in and tap out on the tubes, buses, trams and even boats down The Thames! No more fumbling around for change to buy a ticket ever again, yay!

But we're a bunch of makers and hackers here at sugru, we like to tinker with things...

So the other day, Jude from team sugru (you'll probably know him as Hey Jude on Instructables), came in with a big grin on his face. This usually means one thing, he's been making something cool!

Well we were right, he had deconstructed an Oyster card and rebuilt it into a fully functional sugru Oyster key fob! (classic Jude). We thought it was so good that we've made a guide for the 'Ible community.

Tip: write down the card 'serial number' on the back before you dissolve it, that way you can still check your account information online.

NB — We're totally not the first to try this, we spotted Frank Swain's video from way back in 2008! But thought we'd give it a little sugru twist :)

Step 1: What You'll Need for This Project

Picture of What You'll Need for This Project

- an Oyster card

- nail varnish remover (acetone)

- latex gloves

- old cable flex (ours is salvaged from an old CD player)

- a glass chemistry beaker from the sugru lab (you could use a jam jar)

- a scalpel and cutting mat

- cling film (saran wrap)

- masking tape

- a piece of paper

- x2 5g minipacks of sugru (the colours are up to you!) — buy some sugru

Step 2: Dissolve the Oyster Card in Acetone

Picture of Dissolve the Oyster Card in Acetone

- Pour the nail varnish (acetone) into non-plastic container. You'll need it about 1cm deep *

Top Tip: you'll want to use some latex gloves while handling the acetone.

- We stole this glass dish from the sugru lab (shhhh!), but you could always use a jam jar (might want to wash it first!). Just don't use anything plastic because the acetone will probably dissolve it!

- Leave the card submerged overnight (6-12 hours)

Step 3: Remove the RFID Chip From the Dish

Picture of Remove the RFID Chip From the Dish

- After 6-12 hours, the card will be a mushy shadow of it's former self

- Look for the little black RFID chip

- Make sure that the RFID chip and antenna are totally free from the plastic card before removing it

Top Tip:Careful not to pull the RFID too hard, as it pretty fragile

Step 4: Wash the RFID Chip

Picture of Wash the RFID Chip

- Once you have removed the RFID chip and antenna, wash it in acetone again

- The rinse it carefully in water and dry off

Top Tip: You might want to let it air dry somewhere warm for 20mins

Step 5: Time to Test the Configuration

Picture of Time to Test the Configuration

- At this stage before going any further, we'd suggest you test that the RFID still works

- To test ours, we used masking tape to attach the chip and antenna to a piece of paper and folded it into our wallet (helps avoid getting any funny looks!)

- Then we jumped on the nearest bus to try it out... beep!

Top Tip: Instructables user xenobiologista4 told us about this free Android app that lets you test your RFID is working! :)

Step 6: RFID Tested and Working? Time to Choose Your Sugru Colours

Picture of RFID Tested and Working? Time to Choose Your Sugru Colours

- For this project we matched the Oyster card colours - blue, cyan and white.

- If you want to mix things up, you can blend sugru colours to find the shade you want.

Top Tip: The sugru colour mixing chart will come in handy here

Step 7: Cut Your Piece of Wire

Picture of Cut Your Piece of Wire

- Choose the coloured wire you prefer and cut a strand about 10cm long. (this will be used for the tag)

- To get these wires, we travelled back in time to the 1990's to salvage them from an unwanted CD player ;)

Step 8: Time to Make Your Sugru Fob

Picture of Time to Make Your Sugru Fob

- This bit is really up to you, so get creative :) If you want to match the Oyster card colours, you can follow these instructions:

1. Mix 90% white sugru with 10% blue sugru to get a cyan colour
2. Roll the cyan sugru into a little sausage (we call it the 'Sausage of Cyan'!)
3. Roll out a flat piece of white sugru and wrap it around the cyan sausage
4. Roll out a second flat piece of blue sugru and wrap it around to make the outside layer.
5. Cut a little bit off the top and bottom of the sugru sausage (you can use these little bits for something else)
6. Cut the reminder in two, these will be your two halves (cut it quickly and confidently with a scalpel to avoid streaks)

(The panda version for Jude's wife – super cute!)

Step 9: Adding the RFID and Antenna

Picture of Adding the RFID and Antenna

- Flatten out the two halves between two pieces of cling film

- Add the RFID and antenna to one piece (try not to cross the wires too much)

- Add your wire to the other piece, to create the key fob loop

- Between two sheets of cling film, press the two halves together (with the RFID and wire are on the inside)

- Seal the edges of the two pieces of sugru to ensure a good bond

- Leave it to cure for 24 hours!

Step 10: Now Go Show Off Your New Oyster Card... Beep!

Picture of Now Go Show Off Your New Oyster Card... Beep!

As always, thanks for being part of the sugru community!


ajmir (author)2014-06-24

this is illegal, the tfl ticket conductors (who are often looking to see if people have valid tickets) will fine you if you cause any damage to the oyster card. it happens all the time for people who cover it with stickers

They like to try but they can not fine you over this or even throw you from the train especially if the chip is topped up with the correct fare, it is merely a by-law which does not carry the force of Law and therefore can not be used against you.

robofw9 (author)2014-07-08

TfL conditions of carriage are here (just updated as cash is no longer accepted on buses):

These are by-laws. You are deemed to accept them automatically when you use a TfL service.

5.1 bans tampering "with in any way".

5.4 - 5.12 don't like changing any Oyster photocard;

6.1.4 emphasises Oystercards remain TfL property, "must not be

intentionally damaged, altered or tampered with in any way" and can be withdrawn or cancelled at any time.

There are regular manual checks and inspectors will want to see the card & its serial number to check against the online record.

So I suggest any creative reconstruction only be applied to plain vanilla Oystercards with small Pay as You Go credits No photocards, Zip cards, discounted cards, season tickets, nothing hard or slow to replace, nothing you absolutely depend for your day to day life.

However by-laws do not carry the force of Law so there is really nothing they can do even if they challange you they still can do nothing.

MatthewG1 (author)2014-08-12

While this process is undoubtedly cool, most transport concerns retain 'ownership' of the card and also are quite clear that you shouldn't tamper with it. So an inspector would be with in their rights to confiscate your modified Oyster (or what ever in your city) as it's quite clearly been tampered with. (Even though when they put 'tampering' in the conditions of use, what they meant was tampering with the data on the chip, not physical rebuilding the chip into something other than a card!)

The bracelet mod will probably work with a MiFare Classic based system, but the shorter reading distance of the newer more secure MiFare cards probably would prevent the pracelet mod from working reliably.

GeekTinker (author)2014-07-23

I have always thought that their should be a way to integrate an RFID card into a cell phone case. 99.9 % of the time, I'm going to have my cell phone on me whenever I need to use the RFID card. I use an Otterbox for my phone and I just slipped the RFID card between the phone and the rubber case cover. Worked like a charm. Of course, now I work from home, so unless I install RFID activated locks, I won't be using it much.

LeeG (author)2014-07-18

In reality I do not see why they don't issue a keyring version of the card anyway, there really is no need for them to be credit card sized. Then people could fashion removable Sugru sized covers.

keagz (author)LeeG2014-07-22

I don't know why I can just use my smartphone as my Oyster card. They've already enabled contactless cards on buses so I don't see why they can't do the same for smartphones.

imccann1 (author)2014-07-11

I live in Tokyo and we have multiple RFID cards for transportation and the two most common cards are the PASMO card and the SUICA card. I have a PASMO card and have been using one for many years. I would really like to make this because it seems really cool, but in order to charge the card with money I have to feed it into a machine (like an ATM). I wouldn't be able to charge the card with this hack and I'm really disappointed :(

emmak (author)2014-06-03

This is brilliant, my card has william and kate on it so its going in the acetone.

yamyams (author)emmak2014-07-03

emmak, if you've not yet done this project, would you be willing to trade your W&K card for a regular one?

Hey Jude (author)emmak2014-06-04

I have a Jubilee one too... sounds like we need a Top-Trumps of naff transit cards. (sorry Liz).

djsfantasi (author)2014-07-02

Don't have Oyster in the States, but wouold this work with RFID fobs?

callum3343 (author)2014-06-30

Are there any particular brand of nail varnish remover thats particularly effective?

The one i tried striped the Oyster card into its three parts but didnt fully dissolve it

harryjoseph (author)2014-06-03

Maybe I'm just a thick American, but once the deed is done, how do you periodically reload the new and improved Oyster with pounds for everyday, long-term use? I don't recall if there are non-LU shops that do that. Even if there are, wouldn't such a shop have a machine to feed the card into for the update?

digitig (author)harryjoseph2014-06-18

You don't feed Oyster cards into a machine to reload them, you just touch them on a pad (or reload them via the Transport for London website, if you remembered to follow the instruction about writing your serial number down).

Dash_Merc (author)harryjoseph2014-06-11

My only experience with RFID transit cards is in Chicago -- first with the ChicagoCard/Plus, and now with Ventra. For ChicagoCard and Ventra, you can just reload them at a kiosk or vending machine. For the ChicagoCard Plus and Ventra, you can reload them online through a web portal. As long as you register the card first, or make note of the numbers on the card before modifying it, you should still be able to use the online portal, and you should always be able to use the kiosks without issue.

I'm American also but I've traveled on various public transportation systems all over the country and if they are RFID chip cards, you just boop them on the machine to reload them. In San Francisco where I live now you can add to it online too, although you would have to save the number of your card before you desolved it!

Mr_Moustache (author)2014-06-04

Would this work for American Ventra cards?

Dash_Merc (author)Mr_Moustache2014-06-11

It should work for Ventra cards, too, as they use a similar contactless RFID technology -- the main question is whether they have been designed to be resistant to dissolving in acetone. I'm actually going to try this with a secondary Ventra card soon.

Ventra cards are also debit cards tied to a prepay account using the MasterCard network, and as such, modifying them may actually constitute some kind of fraud or other related crime -- I'm not really clear on the legality of anything involving stored-value cards, let alone ones making use of a major payment network.

kewpiedoll99 (author)2014-06-03

cool i'ble! how do you dispose of the acetone after you dissolve the card?

Hey Jude (author)kewpiedoll992014-06-07

Depending on the country you are in you can google your disposal regulations if you in doubt, but as far as I can tell from the UK MSDSs [material safety data sheets] for Acetone (Nail Polish Remover), you'd be using such a small amount that evaporation would be ok, as the comment from Industriald mentioned.

And read the back of the bottle, in case you have a particularly strong kind, etc.

The main point is not to pour it down the sink, as it can dissolve some cheaper plastic pipes!

industriald (author)kewpiedoll992014-06-03

Someone can probably correct me, but I would leave it out for the solvent to flash off/evaporate, then chuck the melted plastic into a normal garbage bin.

nmg196 (author)2014-06-04

I'm not an RFID expert, but don't these cards rely on induction to work? If that's the case, wouldn't be better to make the wire into a single coil rather than the zig-zag pattern picture as that would greatly increase it's effectiveness. The coil should also be fairly large (similar to how it was coiled originally).

Hey Jude (author)nmg1962014-06-07

I'm no expert either, I just did a bit of trial and error with mine... seemed to work reliably enough. I agree there is an idealised situation, but many devices like this are tolerant. If you find a better method do post a reply :)

Hey Jude (author)2014-06-06

Thanks to Reddit's MarkyMar88 for uncovering the illusive 'Urban Wizard' (RFID in his Wand) and of course to the man himself Jamie Whitby.

xenobiologista (author)2014-06-03

About Step 9: you say "try not to cross the wires too much" but it's still OK if they touch? I don't know anything about radio.

I have done up to Step 5 (melting the card and testing a "naked" chip and antenna assembly) with the SMRT system in Singapore. The EZlink cards do not dissolve or disintegrate unfortunately; I was not able to get the antenna out. The temporary tickets on the other hand delaminate easily in acetone nail polish remover. I was able to solder the EZlink chip to the antenna from a temporary ticket and it worked. The original idea was to stuff it inside my phone case like Andrew "bunnie" Huang's, but I found it made my phone run very hot and ate battery life - maybe interfering with the cell signal. I wish I had thought of this idea of making it into a fob.

By the way, a good way to test if it's working if your phone has NFC is the "Transit Card Reader" app.

this is great! thanks so much for posting xenobiologista really interesting to hear. The app is a brilliant addition, I'll add in a link :)

Hey Jude (author)xenobiologista2014-06-04

I think the wires are 'coated' so will not short-circuit exactly, but from my limited knowledge (from trial and error), you want to make the 'induction loop' as simple as possible - i.e. that it coils cleanly. so a 'z' shape is ok, but a '8' is bad.... [I'll get projectsugru to put a picture up, if this makes no sense in 'letters'!].

Interesting experiments with EZlink. I was thinking of putting a 'spare' in my phone too, as I often forget to top up on a night out and get slammed for full-price tickets.

Nice link from Bunnie. And really good shout on the App! Thanks.

Tazmjm69 (author)2014-05-30

Great idea! You may want to use something a little stronger for the loop instead of the wire. With it bending and flexing all the time, it's probably not going to be long before it breaks. Still a cool idea.

projectsugru (author)Tazmjm692014-06-04

yep that's a good point thanks Tazmjm69 :) Any suggestions on other things that you could use for a loop?

JimTheSoundman (author)Tazmjm692014-06-03

I agree with Tazmjm, I'm betting that loop will wear out after a couple months. If you go to a fishing equipment store and get a leader, that would probably work great, they are really strong braided stainless steel, so I'm guessing that would last a LOT longer than the copper. You might find very small braided steel cable at a hardware store, but I'm betting they wouldn't have something small enough.

Here's an example of a fishing leader:

Hey Jude (author)Tazmjm692014-06-01

Yup - good shout. I used a lanyard for the Panda one, but actually reinforced the hole with a small metal washer on the inside. Was fun just experimenting with what I had to hand...

jleo1 (author)2014-06-03

why is the wire that long? when you top it up or swipe it its direct to reader. couldn't I put the rf chip in the back of my skull ring and swirl a little wire behind it? nice project a big thanks from me

heibert (author)jleo12014-06-04

Actually, it's not an antenna. It's a coil. Another one inside reader in the bus/train/etc. - it's like a trasformer. Reader emits electromagnetic waves, our panda-coil receives and transforms it into electricity, that powers up chip, chip starts to generate digital code signal, reader receives it and so on.

jleo1 (author)2014-06-03

I thought you could peel them open? guess they made that harder.

For a super fast solution get a big keyring like the ones they give at theme parks with photos in and using a pin pop the plastic out and put it inside then pop the cover back in giving you a see thru oyster or include a picture either side. if the rf chip is thick you may need to file out a area for It to sit in

mooseo (author)2014-06-03

This is awesome. I'd love to do it for my Clipper Card (for BART in the SF bay area) but the machines mess up so often that I need to visit an agent at least once a month.

harryjoseph (author)2014-06-03

Maybe I'm just a thick American, but once the deed is done, how do you periodically reload the new and improved Oyster with pounds for everyday, long-term use? I don't recall if there are non-LU shops that do that. Even if there are, wouldn't such a shop have a machine to feed the card into for the update?

Eh Lie Us! (author)2014-06-03

Genius! I wonder if you can meld the new fob into your HOUSE KEY?!!

two things in one? bam. You're welcome. Now go and tell the world!!

scarrington1 (author)2014-06-02

@kiteman @projectsugru - my understanding is that due to the fact the card remains the property of TfL, and the conditions of carriage require that you do not disassemble the card, it would be liable to confiscation if modified. I read somewhere that since the initial hacks (bankers embedding the RFID in watches, fancy dress wizards in wands etc) the cards have also been made tougher to dissolve.

FWIW all I can find is a reference to a 2008 article that TfL began to tighten up on Oyster modifications. - not sure what the current state of play is.

projectsugru (author)2014-06-02

Are you sure it's illegal Kiteman? There's nothing mentioned in the official TFL conditions of carriage. Apart from people running the risk of having any tampered cards confiscated, we couldn't see the harm but if you know something we don't, we're all ears :)

Kiteman (author)2014-05-30

I've transmogrified other RFID cards, but I understand that the Oyster people get a bit upset if they catch you doing stuff to their cards.

Just saying.

Hey Jude (author)Kiteman2014-05-31

Wow - liked your making an RFID into a Bracelet, didn't think of that. Nice work!

projectsugru (author)Kiteman2014-06-02

Are you sure it's illegal? There's nothing mentioned in the official TFL conditions of carriage. Apart from people running the risk of having any tampered cards confiscated, we couldn't see the harm but if you know something we don't, we're all ears :)

wliu3 (author)2014-05-30

So does it work with other RFID payment system? Like Hong Kong's octopus card based on Sony's chip and also some others?

Knight Lamune (author)wliu32014-06-01

All of these RFID cards use the same hardware-- just a little chip and the wire antenna. As long as you can extract them without damage, which is the tricky part, it should work with all of them.

TSJWang (author)wliu32014-06-01

I'm actually pretty excited to try this on an Octopus card.
Maybe embed the circuit in something else, like a phone case
or a sleeve
or anything

About This Instructable




Bio: The team behind Sugru, the mouldable glue that makes fixing and making easy and fun. Do-ers of the world it's time to get excited ...
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