It’s been a great week exploring the intricacies and details of the minifigure as we celebrate it’s 40th anniverary. Today I’m looking in depth at the assembly process. We’ve seen the patents, the prototypes, and the design and manufacture process. It makes sense to put them all together now.
So, we’re off on an excursion! We’re heading to Kladno in the Czech Republic, to the LEGO Factory, and our tour of the assembly starts with the torsos. After going through a big bin to get them all lined up for the conveyor, the torsos get printed, first the neck print goes on, then the front and back torso print.
The neck print, while not seen after the head goes on, serves a very important function. The black mark (it’s a lighter colour on the darker torsos) tells the machine that the side with the mark is the front, so the arms go on the right way. Not all torsos have them though. The minifigures manufactured in China go through machines with more sophisticated technology that can read the torso print.
The printing is done in layers – one layer of detail, then a quick blow dry, print, dry, for as many as it takes. The printing is applied with what looks like a balloon. It takes the ink from a plate, and moves it over to the element.
Once the printing is done, it’s pushed off and put in a big bucket. They get lined up again (yep, one of those buckets), along with other buckets filled with left and right arms, and hands. Along the way, these get attached to each other. After they’re complete, into a final bucket they go.
A similar process happens for the heads. Into a bucket for picking up to the conveyor, for printing six at a time.
Printing for the heads is much the same as the torsos, with the balloon transferring the print over layer by layer. These all then get put in yet another big bucket ready for packaging.
Lastly, there’s the leg assembly. Like the torsos, each of the three parts comes from a big bucket to be aligned, and gets laid out on a specialised plate.
The machine then squeezes them together, to join the legs to the hips. After they’re joined, they go through the printing procedure.
The image above is great, as you can see the design on both the transfer plate and the printed element to the right.
To make this easier for you, LEGO has shot a brilliant video, covering the entire assembly process from start to finish. It’s fascinating stuff!
We’re almost at the end of the process! Tomorrow I’ll be looking at the different advertisements from around the world. These are all for the older sets, so are fascinating to check out.