Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the tallest Lego tower on record was built last year in the Czech Republic. The tallest tower made from interlocking plastic bricks was made in August in Delaware. This story has been updated with the correct information.
I’m a Lego nut. I started building with Legos when my son turned 7, and I never stopped. My office is filled with displays that include vehicles, buildings and scenes from “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter.”
Do you know the history behind the building toy so popular that it was named Toy of the Century by Fortune magazine in 2000?
Legos were invented by a Danish carpenter-turned-toymaker named Ole Kirk Christiansen. The company began in 1932, but the bricks that are used today weren’t created until 1958. The name Lego comes from the Danish phrase “leg godt,” which means “play well.”
The factories that make Legos operate 24 hours a day and are almost completely automated. The process begins when colored plastic granules (very small fragments) are suctioned through tubes and sent to molding machines. The plastic is heated to 450 degrees. The softened plastic is forced into molds using 25 to 150 tons of pressure. The plastic cools in less than 10 seconds and is then ejected into large bins. Up to 2 million Lego pieces are made every hour. That’s about 33,000 per minute!
Christiansen insisted on making the highest-quality toys possible, which explains why Legos fit together so perfectly. Each Lego mold is accurate to within two-thousandths of a millimeter. For every million Legos made, only 18 are rejected because they didn’t meet the high standards set by the company.
In my opinion, the most amazing Lego sculptor is Nathan Sawaya. His work proves that Legos can be used to make art (www.brickartist.com).
Here are some additional cool facts about Legos.
• Lego makes about 22 billion pieces every year. More than 300 million of those are rubber tires for toy vehicles. That makes Lego one of the largest tire manufacturers in the world.
• Some estimates say that children spend 5 billion hours a year playing with Legos.
• Some Lego sculptures are not only glued together but also have steel reinforcements inside to keep them from breaking under their own weight.
• The tallest tower on record made from interlocking plastic bricks was built in August by students in Wilmington, Delaware, according to Guinness World Records. It was made of more than 420,000 bricks and stood 112 feet, 11.75 inches tall.
• Lego has 140 designers who create new products for their eager customers. The designers travel all over the world to find out what’s new and interesting to kids.
• Legos are made from the same plastic that’s used to make hard hats.
The next time you play with your Legos, remember this final statistic: Every 10 seconds, a parent somewhere on the planet yells “OUCH” because he or she stepped on a Lego brick with bare feet. (I actually made this up, but it’s probably true.)
Bennett is a Washington pediatrician. His Web site, www.howardjbennett.com, includes past KidsPost articles and other cool stuff.