How to Transplant RFID Chips


Introduction: How to Transplant RFID Chips

About: My name is Jason Poel Smith I am a Community Manager here at Instructables. In my free time, I am an Inventor, Maker, Hacker, Tinker, and all around Mad Genius

RFID (radio-frequency identification) systems are all around us. They help us get through toll booths faster. They help stores keep track of inventory. They are even in a lot of toys.

But there is no reason why the RFID chips need to stay in their original housing. In this project, I am going to show you how to transplant a RFID chip into a different housing to make it more convenient or at least more fun use. You can make an RFID reactive wallet, multi-tool, or cell phone case. The only limit is your imagination.

Step 1: Select a RFID Chip to Transplant

The first thing that you need to do is select a RFID chip that you would like to transplant into a different housing. As an example, I am going to be using the chip from a security key fob. This kind of chip is normally used to unlock doors in an office building.

Step 2: Carefully Open the Housing

The best methods for disassembling the housing will vary from model to model. I have a HID ProxKey 1346 Proximity Keyfob. This model has a seam around the middle where the two halves are glued together. So I initially tried to pry it open with a screw driver and then a knife. Unfortunately the seam was too shallow and the plastic was too soft for this to be effective and I only succeeded in scratching up the surface.

The best method that I found for opening this kind of housing is to crack the glue seam by squeezing it. I wrapped the key fob in a napkin to avoid scratching it. Then I squeezed it at one end with a pair of pliers perpendicular to the seam. This caused the two halves to separate slightly at the end. I stuck a screw driver into the opening to hold the two halves apart. Then I repeated this process moving down the side of the key fob until the two halves where mostly separated. At this point I was able to just pull it apart the rest of the way with my fingers.

Alternatively, you can cut the housing open with a knife or rotary tool. If you do this, then you need to be very careful not to cut too deeply or you risk hitting the chip. 

Step 3: Carefully Remove the RFID Chip

You need to be extremely careful when removing the chip! I broke the first chip that I was using for this project. So be aware that RFID chips are fragile and it is very easy to accidentally break them. If possible, you should avoid applying any direct pressure to the chip or its sealant.

I decided that the safest way to remove the chip from its housing was to cut it out with a rotary tool. First I cut off the bulk of the attached material. Then I carefully shaved down any remaining chunks of plastic. Remove only as much plastic as you absolutely need to. The more that you cut away, the more you risk damaging the chip.

Step 4: Choose a New Housing for Your RFID Chip

You can use anything as the new housing for your RFID chip. For instance, you could put it in your wallet or inside your cell phone case. However, considering how fragile the chip is, I recommend using a housing that has hard rigid sides such as the inside of a multi-tool. Or you can get creative and put the chip in something unusual.

My favorite housing for an RFID chip is an ordinary stick. That way you can wave it around like a magic wand and it will actually do something like unlock your door. To mount this kind of chip in a wooden dowel or stick, all you have to do is drill a hole in the end that is just big enough to fit the chip.

Step 5: Glue the Chip in Place

Glue both holds the chip in place and helps to protect it. The hardened glue acts as a shell. So feel free to use an excessive amount of glue. Just don't use a glue that greatly shrinks or expands when it cures. If one side changes shape faster than the other, then it can actually bend the chip and break it.

Step 6: Test It to Make Sure That the RFID Chip Still Works

Once you have transplanted your RFID chip and the glue has fully cured, it is time to test it to make sure that it still works. If all went well, it will still function normally and you will be able to use just like a regular key fob.



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25 Discussions

at work we have these white cards (size of a credit card) to open doors. does anyone know if those cards have these ID inside? if so, how can I open them up? great project.

3 replies

Actually... this. I didn't realize it at first because as MrHoudini pointed out, this is actually a proximity ID rather than an RFID. Hope this is still relevant!

Hey! I was just issued one of these for work and had the same idea. Acetone will dissolve the plastic while keeping the metal intact! I'm planning to get a flexible housing, like cloth, to make a wristband. There is a circular circuit that cannot be broken, so be very careful with it!

Yes, they do have a similar card inside of them. But you probably don't want to try to open it up. These cards will have antennas that are made of very thin wire and they are glued in place. So if you open it up, you run the risk of accidentally breaking the wires just from the glue pulling on it. And the wires are so thin that they are very difficult to solder back together.

While similar, you are actually transplanting a Proximity ID, not a RFID.

Is the pet implanted ID-Chip on the same frequency??
So better to take your Cat or Hamster close to the sensor for dooropening..... :-)

2 replies

Not the same frequency, and the RFID only emits a number when activated. So your pets are safe.

Avoid scratching the fob:
" I wrapped the key fob in a napkin to avoid scratching it."

Then cut up the fob:
"I decided that the safest way to remove the chip from its housing was to cut it out with a rotary tool. "


Thanks, nice idea!

1 reply

Love it! I have been toying around with the idea of implanting an RFID chip into my wrist to unlock my doors to my house. You know never ever being locked out again!

I saw the title and i thought you were going to implant them into humans.
I've installed a few into animals and its no fun.

Yeah, my job definitely would not allow me to modify my RFID holder. After all, its theirs not mine and I'd have to give it back if I I quit.

4 replies

Many jobs only require a $5 (or similar) replacement fee for a "lost" RFID tag. Mine even allows for one "free" loss.

Be careful, my job changes the 'lost' cards into instant alarm sounding cards. They are talking about making it secure the outside and inner doors so the person using it can't escape without breaking a window...

Yeah, I guess I could just lie about losing it if I ever had to turn it in since my job doesn't charge either.