LEGO is the biggest toy company globally, with an illustrious history that no other company can match. The long history of this company has helped it to bring joy to kids and even young adults for decades. Several families love their model kits worldwide, and there is hardly any home that doesn’t have one.
You are probably curious about how LEGO achieves its set designs. We were, too, so we did some deep digging to bring you this guide. Read on and explore as we briefly follow their model kit manufacturing from concept to production. Let’s get straight to it!
What is LEGO All About?
As you may already know, LEGO is a Danish company. The name comes from the abbreviation of two Dane words which are “leg” and “godt.” These words translate to English to mean “play well.” Fortunately, they noticed that the Latin (legō) translation of the term means “put together.”
LEGO has its largest factory in Billund, Denmark, with three crucial sections. They are:
- The 4 towering silos – Here is where LEGO stocks its raw materials (unprocessed plastic pellets).
- 12 production lines – This is where LEGO bricks are made at an annual output of up to 21 billion blocks.
- A 23-meter-high warehouse – The building blocks are packed here, divided into categories, and shipped away.
The Manufacturing Process for LEGO Kits?
This section of the article will follow the LEGO kits series development from the design stage to packaging.
Designing LEGO Sets
Every building block follows a lengthy design process. In this case, designers re-examine the world in children’s eyes. For instance, designers may have to enter the actual police station, ride in police cars and use handcuffs to design “police building blocks.”
This group of detailed controls studies the brick by brick of the police station. The designers then make a design based on the scene observed with their eyes. For example, when measuring their height, they reproduce the room setting, up to the crowbar found under the cell’s bed.
Designers first provide hand-drawn designs of new elements. After this, the designs are made on CAD or 3D programs. Designers can choose different colors, textures, and finishes at this stage. They experiment with the design details until they get the best fit option for their intended kit.
Once designers are satisfied with the basic design, the next step is to create a prototype mold for the building blocks.
Creating the Prototype Mold
LEGO considers the mold as the soul of its bricks, and rightly so. All building blocks come from mold. The precision requirements of mold making in this company are now extreme because they want all blocks to join together normally. The precision tolerance for these molds can be as low as 0.002 mm.
Designers first analyze the structures of the intended toy and run them through 3D scanning to make prototype injection molding. They can make minor changes to the molds, removing all sharp edges that may injure the players. Robots help LEGO to polish the molds with brass. Upon completion, designers manually inspect the molds before sending the perfect ones to the workshop.
Forming the Mixture
All basic LEGO sets begin as plastic pellets, mainly acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) materials. The plastic injection molding process turns these pellets into bricks, requiring large equipment and very high temperatures. Therefore, machines often handle most Lego brick creations.
The plastic pellets are vacuumed into the storage silos available at the manufacturing facilities. Each silo at LEGO can hold up to 33 tons of ABS pellets. Upon the start of production, the granules pass through tubes into the injection molding machine. This machine melts the pellets at up to 540 degrees Fahrenheit.
Then, it injects the melted plastic into already formed molds while applying between 25 to 120 tons of pressure. The new parts are allowed to cool before they fall into the cargo box. The blocks are randomly sampled for quality testing. The tests include the size, height of the particles of the building blocks, and the grip of these blocks.
If fabricators discover any defective parts, they remove them from the group. Other blocks will enter the sorting box along with the conveyor belt. Once the box fills, there are robots ready to pick it up and transfer it to the assembly hall.
Automation and the Use of Robots
LEGO’s molding machines produce up to two million pieces per house. Sorting and assembling this will require increased human labor. This calls for the automation of processes and the use of robots.
Robots are responsible for taking away prepared cargo boxes through mechanical forks. The central mainframes alert them to harvest the building blocks and send the manufactured Lego into the conveyor belt that leads to the warehouses. The warehouses are classified, and only robots are there.
Four cranebots constantly move to arrange the large boxes of Lego sets into different categories before they enter the final stages of development.
Completing the Production
The final stages are the coloring, decoration, and packaging. Incredibly precise machines help paint and decorate LEGO bricks at a constant rhythm before sending them to the packing lines. The machine separates the Lego bricks at the packaging lines and uses optical sensors to count them. This classification robot is very accurate.
Once counting is complete, it filters the blocks according to the number and pours them into the sorting box to complete the packaging. The conveyor belt then uses the weight to determine if the box is correctly packaged. The machine drops the contents of a complete box into the wrapping machine to finish the binning operation. Fully packaged parts are shipped to different locations worldwide.
Every LEGO set you see out there is a result of the concerted efforts of various people, ranging from designers to technicians. The development process of LEGO building blocks perfectly represents a mix of industrial technology and human ingenuity in plastic injection molding.
This is also the case for every prototype injection molding and other prototyping processes. Developing a new product from the design stage to final production is never easy, involving a great amount of time and meticulous planning.
Also, the design to product process is not always smooth. Take injection molding for example; this process requires high temperature and pressure inputs which may cause the injection molding parts to fail.
Therefore, it is essential to work with expert technicians and experienced partners. This will make your design to product process more effective with high-quality end-result.