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LEGO my... wait.
November 29, 2006 6:50 AM   Subscribe

Oh, you never would believe where those LEGO bricks come from. Well, you might. It turns out it's a pretty awesome process. BuisnessWeek gives us the behind the scenes info on LEGO bricks. Did you know LEGO is the world's largest tire manufacturer?
posted by SansPoint (29 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
where does it say they are the world's largest tire manufacturer? I do not see that in the article (quite short) at all.

Cite please...
posted by parmanparman at 7:11 AM on November 29, 2006


Oh, tiny rubber tires.

That, my friends, is a really dumb claim to make.
posted by parmanparman at 7:12 AM on November 29, 2006 [1 favorite]


@parmanparman:
Impressive numbers, considering that the LEGO Group is producing 15 billion components a year—that's 1.7 million items an hour, or 28,500 a minute. Tire production accounts for some of that number; the factory also produces 306 million tiny rubber tires a year. In fact, going by that number, LEGO is the world's No. 1 tire manufacturer.
Granted, really, really, tiny tires - but amusing, nonetheless.
posted by jeresig at 7:14 AM on November 29, 2006


Um, how many tiny tires would it take to make one real full sized tire? A buttload?

Still, I always enjoy a peek behind the scenes, especially when it comes to Legos. Thanks for the post.
posted by fenriq at 7:16 AM on November 29, 2006


I have gotten the opportunity--living in Denmark for some time--to both visit legoland and the business HQ and see part of the manufacturing process.

Fascinating stuff!
posted by jckll at 7:33 AM on November 29, 2006


Good stuff.
posted by davebushe at 7:50 AM on November 29, 2006


The boxes move down a conveyor belt and make their way to a loading area, where they are met by a robot.

This sentence has brightened my morning.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:52 AM on November 29, 2006 [1 favorite]


That giant warehouse full of shiny, untouched Lego bricks neatly sorted into huge bins by color, size and etc.? And sorted by robots, even? When I was 10 that was simply a wild dream for me. I would have killed for that. I had no idea it really existed. When I read "sorted by robots" it was just perfect (except I really wanted it to be a humanoid robot that looked like it was made out of Legos).
posted by caution live frogs at 7:54 AM on November 29, 2006


LEGO has been making that jokey claim for years and years now -- apparently since 1983.
posted by dhartung at 7:58 AM on November 29, 2006


What's really amazing is the super-exact tolerances Lego bricks are built to. We have bricks at home that are probably 30+ years old and they still fit with brand-new bricks perfectly.

15 billion components a year and I've never, ever had one that didn't fit right. (though I don't test them all).
posted by GuyZero at 8:00 AM on November 29, 2006


The bricks are so versatile that the LEGO Group has calculated that just six eight-stud bricks can be arranged in 915,103,765 different ways.

How is this possible?
posted by arcticwoman at 8:12 AM on November 29, 2006


..no dumber than saying or typing "Lego bricks" instead of simply calling them "Legos".
posted by wfc123 at 8:17 AM on November 29, 2006


The image series is sooooooo cool! Thanks!
posted by grouse at 8:17 AM on November 29, 2006


Fascinating post. I always assumed, to the degree I put any thought into it at all, that Legos were simply molded like any other cheap plastic toy.

This reminded of a McSweeney's feature from the other day.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 8:25 AM on November 29, 2006


Did anyone else notice how many bricks were scattered all over the floor in the p-box label/scanning image? Is that typical in manufacturing? Wouldn't they be worried that a brick could gum up the whole mechanism by getting lodged somewhere in there?

Oh, and awesome post.
posted by educatedslacker at 8:26 AM on November 29, 2006


Great FPP. Austin's Statesman did a story on Billund - the town where Lego is located, and how they are moving Lego production to Mexico and Czech Republic. (try this print link if the first doesn't work)
posted by forwebsites at 8:40 AM on November 29, 2006


LEGO toys are still much beloved by children and parents alike... (from the article)

Evidently the writer at Business Week is not a parent who has stepped on one in the middle of the night or had to dismantle a vacuum cleaner to stop the horrible noise a Lego (Brick) makes when it hits the impeller.

Having said that, Legos and this post are great.
posted by TedW at 8:43 AM on November 29, 2006


The bricks are so versatile that the LEGO Group has calculated that just six eight-stud bricks can be arranged in 915,103,765 different ways.

Good question. I came up with 60 ways to uniquely layer two bricks(*), and 605 is close (777600000) but not quite equal.

I suspect up-down-up-etc. layerings of more than two bricks prevent certain arrangements of overlapping bricks, but add the missing unique arrangements. Catalan numbers may apply here but I don't have access to the article from home.

(*) 4 corner-studs, 12 pair-studs, 5 quad-studs, 2 six-studs, 4 triple-studs, and 1 eight-stud = 30 arrangements. 30*2 if the second piece is stacked underneath instead on top.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:01 AM on November 29, 2006


I came up with 60 ways to uniquely layer two bricks...

This made for an educational guessing game with my kids. Try (without looking) to put two pieces in the same configuration as the other person's two pieces.

Did you know LEGO is the world's largest tire manufacturer?

They are likely measuring that in terms of sales, not pounds of rubber.
IIRC I also read in BusinessWeek that Mattel is the largest ($) manufacturer of women's clothing. Barbies sell at the rate of one per second.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:41 AM on November 29, 2006


I wish there was a bit more meat to the article because what's there is so cool.

Anyone who thinks the tire claim is made in seriousness, or deserves censure because they think it's serious, should build themselves a new sense of humor.
posted by OmieWise at 10:01 AM on November 29, 2006


Seen here is an up-close shot of the mold used to make a three-spud LEGO brick.

Ah, the one that would be useful if they gave you enough of them.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 10:15 AM on November 29, 2006


They are likely measuring that in terms of sales, not pounds of rubber

I think if people RTFA it is quite clear it is number of tires made per year.

It is no more complicated than that. Do not start estimating number of lego tires per normal belt radial or cost per ounce of lego tire rubber to dunlop winter tire rubber etc..
jebus.
posted by Frasermoo at 10:18 AM on November 29, 2006


Detailed Flash presentation explaining how Lego blocks are made with video
posted by grouse at 10:33 AM on November 29, 2006


Do not start estimating number of lego tires per normal belt radial or cost per ounce of lego tire rubber to dunlop winter tire rubber etc..

Well, I mean, unless you want to. Because now I'm curious: just how many little Lego tires can you make out of one real tire, anyways?
posted by chrominance at 11:05 AM on November 29, 2006


Parmanparman.... are you some kind of humbug?

Thanks for the link, this was cool.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:23 AM on November 29, 2006


Legos Legos Legos Legos, dammit! Legos!
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 11:54 AM on November 29, 2006


As an interesting aside, I always thought the quality on legs was very high until my spouse grabbed a handful of bricks and taught me what to look for. IIRC, most of the issues were from inconsistent or incorrect temperatures, probably sacrificed to increase total throughput.
posted by plinth at 1:52 PM on November 29, 2006


On a related note, some friends of mine are shooting a documentary on the worldwide impact of plastic, and they had nothing but praise for Lego's environmental stewardship.
posted by gompa at 2:24 PM on November 29, 2006


it takes that much pressure to make one brick? no wonder it took so long to get a bite mark in one...
posted by Doorstop at 5:53 PM on November 29, 2006


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