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Lego

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 five Lego theme 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 the Danish 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, originally 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 roughly 'only the best is good enough' (more literally 'the best is never too good'). 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, ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) polymer. 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.
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 36 billion per year, or about 1140 elements 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 tire manufacturer; the factory produces about 306 million tiny rubber tires a year.
Since it began producing plastic bricks, the Lego Group has released thousands of sets with a variety of themes, including town 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, the Toy Story green soldiers 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 Technic line utilizes newer types of interlocking connections that are still compatible with the older brick type connections. The Technic 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 was 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 brought 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.

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