Did you know that LEGO’s were designed by a Dane? As a matter of fact, my great-grandmother (Ollemor) went to school with the gentleman that created Legos. Growing up it was always a treat to go to Legoland on our way to visit our great-grandmother in the town of Give, just outside of Billund where Legoland is.
More fun facts about Legoland from Wikipedia:
This article is about the construction toy. For the company, see Lego Group.
|Inventor||Ole Kirk Christiansen|
Lego (trademarked in capitals as LEGO) is a line of construction toys manufactured by the Lego Group, a privately held company based in Billund, Denmark. The company’s flagship product, Lego, consists of colorful interlocking plastic bricks and an accompanying array of gears, minifigures and various other parts. Lego bricks can be assembled and connected in many ways, to construct such objects as vehicles, buildings, and even working robots. Anything constructed can then be taken apart again, and the pieces used to make other objects. The toys were originally designed in the 1940s in Denmark and have achieved an international appeal, with an extensive subculture that supports Lego movies, games, video games, competitions, and four Lego themed amusement parks.
The Lego Group began in the workshop of Ole Kirk Christiansen (7 April 1891 – 11 March 1958), a carpenter from Billund, Denmark, who began making wooden toys in 1932. In 1934 his company came to be called “Lego”, from theDanish phrase leg godt, which means “play well”.
It expanded to producing plastic toys in 1947. In 1949 Lego began producing the now famous interlocking bricks, calling them “Automatic Binding Bricks”. These bricks were based largely on the patent of Kiddicraft Self-Locking Bricks, which were released in the United Kingdom in 1947. Lego modified the design of the Kiddicraft brick after examining a sample given to it by the British supplier of an injection-molding machine that the company had purchased. The bricks, manufactured from cellulose acetate, were a development of traditional stackable wooden blocks that locked together by means of several round studs on top and a hollow rectangular bottom. The blocks snapped together, but not so tightly that they required extraordinary effort to be separated.
The Lego Group’s motto is det bedste er ikke for godt which means ‘only the best is good enough’. This motto was created by Ole Kirk to encourage his employees never to skimp on quality, a value he believed in strongly. The motto is still used within the company today. The use of plastic for toy manufacture was not highly regarded by retailers and consumers of the time. Many of the Lego Group’s shipments were returned after poor sales; it was thought that plastic toys could never replace wooden ones.
By 1954 Christiansen’s son Godtfred Kirk Christiansen had become the junior managing director of the Lego Group. It was his conversation with an overseas buyer that struck the idea of a toy system. Godtfred saw the immense potential in Lego bricks to become a system for creative play but the bricks still had some problems from a technical standpoint: their locking ability was limited and they were not very versatile. In 1958 the modern brick design was developed but it took another five years to find the right material for it. The modern Lego brick was patented at 1:58 p.m on January 28, 1958; bricks from that year are still compatible with current bricks.
Lego pieces of all varieties are part of a universal system. Despite variation in the design and purpose of individual pieces over the years, each remains compatible in some way with existing pieces. Lego bricks from 1958 still interlock with those made in the current time, and Lego sets for young children are compatible with those made for teenagers.
Each Lego piece must be manufactured to an exacting degree of precision. When two pieces are engaged they must fit firmly, yet be easily disassembled. The machines that make Lego bricks have tolerances as small as 10 micrometre.
Primary concept and development work takes place at the Billund headquarters, where the company employs approximately 120 designers. The company also has smaller design offices in the UK, Spain, Germany, and Japan, which are tasked with developing products aimed specifically at these markets. The average development period for a new product is around twelve months, in three stages. The first stage is to identify market trends and developments, including contact by the designers directly with the market; some are stationed in toy shops close to holiday periods, while others interview children. The second stage is the design and development of the product based upon the results of the first stage. As of September 2008 the design teams use 3D modeling software to generate CAD drawings from initial design sketches. The designs are then prototyped using an in-house stereolithography machine. These are presented to the entire project team for comment and for testing by parents and children during the “validation” process. Designs may then be altered in accordance with the results from the focus groups. Virtual models of completed Lego products are built concurrently with the writing of the user instructions. Completed CAD models are also used in the wider organization, such as for marketing and packaging.
Since 1963, Lego pieces have been manufactured from a strong, resilient plastic known as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene(ABS).  As of September 2008, the engineers use the NX CAD/CAM/CAE PLM software suite to model the elements. The software allows the parts to be optimized by way of mold flow and stress analysis. Prototype molds are sometimes built before the design is committed to mass production. The ABS plastic is heated to 232 °C (450 °F) until at a dough-like consistency. It is then injected into the molds at pressures between 25 and 150 tons, and takes approximately 15 seconds to cool. The molds are permitted a tolerance of up to two micrometres, to ensure the bricks remain connected. Human inspectors check the output of the molds, to eliminate significant variations in color or thickness. According to the Lego Group, about eighteen bricks out of every million fail to meet the standard required. Lego factories recycle all but about 1 percent of their plastic waste from the manufacturing process every year. If the plastic cannot be re-used in Lego bricks, it is processed and sold on to industries that can make use of it.
Manufacturing of Lego bricks occurs at a number of locations around the world. Molding is done in Billund, Denmark,Nyíregyháza, Hungary and Monterrey, Mexico. Brick decorations and packaging is done at plants in Denmark, Hungary, Mexico and Kladno in the Czech Republic. The Lego Group estimates that in the course of five decades it has produced some 400 billion Lego blocks. Annual production of Lego bricks averages approximately 20 billion (2×1010) per year, or about 600 pieces per second: if all the Lego bricks ever produced were to be divided equally among a world population of six billion, each person would have 62 Lego bricks. According to an article in BusinessWeek in 2006, Lego could be considered the world’s No. 1 tyre manufacturer; the factory produces about 306 million tiny rubber tyres a year.
Since it began producing plastic bricks, the Lego Group has released thousands of sets with a variety of themes, includingtown and city, space, robots, pirates, trains, Vikings, castle, dinosaurs, undersea exploration, and wild west.
New elements are often released along with new sets. There are also Lego sets designed to appeal to young girls such as the Belville and Clikits lines which consists of small interlocking parts that are meant to encourage creativity and arts and crafts, much like regular Lego bricks. Belville and Clikit pieces can interlock with regular Lego bricks as decorative elements.
While there are sets which can be seen to have a military theme – such as Star Wars, the German and Russian soldiers in the Indiana Jones sets, and Lego Castle – there are no directly military-themed sets in any line. This is following Ole Kirk Christiansen’s policy of not wanting to make war seem like child’s play.
The Lego range has expanded to encompass accessory motors, gears, lights, sensors, and cameras designed to be used with Lego components. Motors, battery packs, lights and switches are sold under the name Power Functions. The Technicline utilizes newer types of interlocking connections that are still compatible with the older brick type connections. TheTechnic line can often be motorized with Power Functions.
Bionicle is a line of toys by the Lego Group that is marketed towards those in the 7–16 year-old age range. The line was launched in January 2001 in Europe and June/July 2001 in the United States. The Bionicle idea originated from the earlier toy lines Slizers (also known as Throwbots) and Roboriders. Both of these lines had similar throwing disks and characters based on classical elements. The sets in the Bionicle line have increased in size and flexibility through the years. Bionicle has been replaced with Hero Factory in 2010.
The Lego group’s Duplo product line, introduced in 1969, is a range of simple blocks which measure twice the width, height and depth of standard Lego blocks, and are aimed at younger children.
‘Fabuland‘ ran from 1979 to 1989. The more advanced ‘Lego Technic‘ was launched in 1977. ‘Lego Primo‘ is a line of blocks by the Lego Group for very young children that ran between 2004 and 2006. In 1995 ‘Lego Baby‘ was launched for babies.
One of the largest Lego sets ever commercially produced is a minifig-scaled edition of the Star Wars Millennium Falcon. Designed by Jens Kronvold Fredericksen, it was released in 2007 and has 5,195 pieces. It was surpassed, though, by a 5,922 piece Taj Mahal.
In May 2011, Space Shuttle Endeavour mission STS-134 is due to carry 13 Lego kits to the International Space Station, where astronauts will build models and see how they react in microgravity, as part of the Lego Bricks in Space program. The results will be shared with schools as part of an educational project.
Over the years, Lego has licensed themes from several cartoon and film franchises. These include Star Wars, Batman, SpongeBob SquarePants, Harry Potter,Indiana Jones, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Spider-Man, Ben 10, Toy Story, Thomas the Tank Engine, Prince of Persia, and Speed Racer.
Although some of the licensed themes, such as Lego Star Wars and Lego Indiana Jones, have had highly successful sales, Lego has expressed a desire to rely more upon their own characters and classic themes, and less upon licensed themes related to movie releases.
Lego initiated a robotics line of toys called ‘Mindstorms’ in 1998, and has continued to expand and update this range ever since. The roots of the product originate from a programmable brick developed at the MIT Media Lab, and the name is taken from a paper by Seymour Papert, a computer scientist and educator who developed the educational theory of constructionism, and whose research was at times funded by the Lego Group.
The programmable Lego brick which is at the heart of these robotics sets has undergone several updates and redesigned, with the latest being called the ‘NXT’ brick, being sold under the brand name of Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0. The set includes sensors that detect touch, light, sound and ultrasonic waves, with several others being sold separately, including an RFID reader.
The intelligent brick can be programmed using official software available for Windows and Mac computers, and is downloaded onto the brick via Bluetooth or a USB cable. There are also several unofficial programs and compatible programming languages that have been made to work with the brick, and many books have been written to support this community.
There are several robotics competitions which use the Lego robotics sets. The earliest, and likely the largest, is Botball, a national U.S. middle– and high-schoolcompetition stemming from the MIT 6.270 Lego robotics tournament. A related competition is FIRST Lego League for elementary and middle schools. The international RoboCup Junior football competition involves extensive use of Lego Mindstorms equipment which is often pushed to its extreme limits.
Related products and services
The Lego Group has used the Lego toy system to branch out into a number of other areas.
Lego has branched out into the videogames market with a number of titles, including Lego Star Wars: The Video Game, Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy,Bionicle: The Game Bionicle Heroes as well as the Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga and Lego Indiana Jones, a Lego Batman, Lego Battles and the Lego Universe MMOG. Lego Harry Potter: Years 1–4 was released in June 2010, and Lego Rock Band was released in autumn[when?] of 2009. Another game announced isLego Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues including Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and total remakes of the other movie’s levels was released in 2009. The newest additions to the Lego video games are Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, based on the first and second seasons of The Clone Warsand “Lego Battles: Ninjago” based on the short video clips on the website.
Lego Digital Designer is an official piece of Lego software for Mac OS X and Windows which allows users to build with Lego bricks on their computers. Users can then publish their creations online on the Lego Design by Me website, or purchase the physical bricks to build them. Lego Digital Designer includes some Lego products which only exist online, including models for the children’s television programs TUGS, Thomas and Friends and Speed Racer.
First launched in 1996, the Lego website has developed over the years, and provides many extra services beyond a shop and product catalog. There are moderated message boards, founded in 2001.
My Lego Network is a social networking site that involves items, blueprints, ranks, badges which are earned for completing certain tasks, trading and trophies called masterpieces which allow users to progress to go to the next rank. The website has a built in inbox which allows users to send prewritten messages to one another. The Lego Network includes automated non-player characters within called “Networkers”, who are able to do things which normal users cannot do, such as sending custom messages, and selling masterpieces and blueprints. The site also has modules which are set up on the user’s page to ‘grow’ certain things,[clarification needed]for showing picture compositions or both. The site includes instructions booklets for all Lego sets dating back to 2002.
Since around 2000, the Lego Group has been promoting ‘Lego Serious Play’, a form of business consultancy fostering creative thinking, in which team members build metaphors of their organizational identities and experiences using Lego bricks. Participants work through imaginary scenarios using visual three-dimensional Lego constructions, imaginatively exploring possibilities in a serious form of play.
Merlin Entertainments operates four Legoland amusement parks, the original in Billund, Denmark, the second in Windsor, England, the third in Günzburg, Germany, the fourth in Carlsbad, California, and the fifth is due to open in Florida. On 13 July 2005, the control of 70% of the Legoland parks was sold for $460 million to the Blackstone Group of New York while the remaining 30% is still held by Lego Group. There are also four Legoland Discovery Centers, two in Germany (Duisburg and Berlin), one in Chicago, Illinois, and one in Manchester, UK. Two new Legoland Discovery Centers are scheduled to open in 2011: one in Dallas, Texas, and the other in Winter Haven, Florida.
Lego operates 46 retail stores (34 in the United States, five in the United Kingdom, five in Germany, one in Canada, and one in Denmark), including ones at the Downtown Disney shopping complexes at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resortsas well as in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. On 24 November 2010, a Lego retail store was opened inLima, Peru, at Jockey Plaza Shopping Center. The opening of each store is celebrated with weekend long event where a Master Model Builder creates, with the help of volunteers most of who are children, a larger than life Lego statue which is then displayed at the new store for several weeks.
Three of the recently opened Lego stores incorporate a new idea for the Lego retail side called Lego education. At these three stores (which are located in Concord North Carolina, Hanover Maryland, and Berlin Germany) there are separate areas to the side of the store that are used as classrooms where specially trained facilitators teach children ranging from 4–12 years old about numerous different subjects while using Lego product. This new concept is being tested, and has only been around for about 8 months.
Since 1993 LEGOwear Clothes have been produced and marketed by a Danish company called Kabooki under license from Lego Group. The clothes are for boys and girls from 0–12 years old and the partnership also ties in with other Lego products such as Bionicle.
Lego Games launched in 2009–2010, and is a series of Lego-themed board games designed by Cephas Howard and Reiner Knizia in which the players usually build the playing board out of Lego bricks and then play with Lego-style players. Some of the games are Race 3000, Wild Wool, Minotaurus, Magikus, Monster 4, Lava Dragon, Pirate Code, Ramses Pyramid, Atlantis Treasure, Robo Champ, Orient Bazaar, and Creationary. Like many board games, the games utilize dice. However, in Lego Games, the die is Lego, with Lego squares with symbols on Lego studs on the die. The games vary from simple to complex, some are similar to “traditional” board games, while others are completely different.
Films and television
In the past, Lego has turned down approaches from Hollywood to make a feature-length film based on the toy. However, this stance has since softened. A number of straight-to-DVD computer animated Bionicle and Hero Factory movies have been produced. A movie called LEGO: The Adventures of Clutch Powers was released on DVD in February 2010. This was a completely computer-animated film made by Tinseltown Toons. It is a crossover movie comprising many Lego themes.
It was announced on 12 August 2009, that a live action feature film was in development. The film is said to be an action/adventure-comedy that will combine both live action and animation, and feature Nathan Kress and Richard Donner, Lauren Shuler Donner, Lucy Fisher, Douglas Wick, Joel Silver as the portrayal of the Lego owner.[clarification needed] The film will be made at The Donners’ Company, Walden Media, Red Wagon Entertainment, Silver Pictures and Warner Bros. with Dan Linproducing. No release date has been set as of June 2010.
Books and magazines
Lego has an ongoing deal with publisher Dorling Kindersley (DK), who are producing a series of illustrated hardback books looking at different aspects of the construction toy. The first was The Ultimate Lego Book, published in 1999. More recently, in 2009, the same publisher produced The LEGO Book, which was sold within a slipcase along with Standing Small: A celebration of 30 years of the LEGO minifigure, a smaller book focused on the minifigure. In same year, DK also published books on Lego Star Wars (Lego Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary) and a range of Lego-based sticker books.
Although no longer being published in the United States by Scholastic, books covering events in the BIONICLE storyline are written by Greg Farshtey. They are still being published in Europe by AMEET. BIONICLE comics, also written by Farshtey, are compiled into graphic novels and were released by Papercutz. This series ended in 2009, after nine years. There is also the Lego Club and Brickmaster magazine.
In popular culture
Lego’s popularity is demonstrated by its wide representation and usage in many forms of cultural works, including books, films and art works.
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