Minifig40 III: Printing Our Minifigure Elements and Putting Them together.

minifigure_production_funbuildToday we continue our 40th Birthday Exploration of the Minifigure’s journey: We have previously looked at the structural prototyping and moulds used for our minifigures.  Today, we will take a special look into the LEGO Factory at Kladno, in the Czech Republic,  The LEGO Group have sent The Rambling Brick (and other fan media organisations) some fantastic photos, taken by Jan Branc, as well as a video demonstrating some of the processes that our minifigures go through in the Kladno Factory, located in the Czech Republic.

Let us look at torsos, arms and hands; heads and, finally, the legs.

Shake Your Body:

Our minifigure torsos are take from a large bin, and put into a rotating shaker, with the goal of getting our figures lined up into channels.

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Our Minifigures are then picked up on a bracket with four torsos: they go past a series of printheads. First the neck mark: dark on light torsos; light on dark ones. Then the from torso printing.  The bracket rotates, so that the back can be printedjanbranc.com-3557janbranc.com-3579janbranc.com-3615

From here, the torsos are ejected onto a conveyer belt, and moved into a large bin.

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As you can see, these double sided torsos are mostly armless.
Time to give them a hand:

We return to the dishes, designed to get the parts all lined up. Torsos, arms and hands.  While these arms are all right, there will be another bowl of left arms.

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The torso are lined up, and the arms are attached.  The mark on the neck is used to ensure the arms are attached on the correct side.  Because nobody wants a minifigure with backward facing arms.

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And time to plug in the hands, one at a time.

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And, with the arms and hands attached, they are conveyed to the big box of torsos.

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Its Time to Get A Head.

Again, our elements go into the sorting and lining up bowl, so that all of the heads can be fed mounted on another bracket:

The heads are fed onto a bracket that holds six.

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The faces are printed on one side

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And rotated so that they can be printed on the other.

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Then our heads are ejected from the carrier bracket, and return to the Big Box, where they wait until they are needed to pack into a set.

Do we have a leg to stand on?:

The left and leg moulds have seperate moulds. As such, they must be attached to the hip element before they are printed.

First our hips and legs go through the same lining up process observed with the other components.

Then they are played out, with room to move

janbranc.com-3857Here you see that the elements are squeezed together, to produce the leg component.janbranc.com-3918

Then they go to the printing line.  Many dark elements need a pale undercoat first…janbranc.com-3909

And then the ink is given a quick dryjanbranc.com-3868

Subsequent layers of colour are addedjanbranc.com-3896janbranc.com-3873janbranc.com-3878

And it’s off to the big box of bits, waiting to be bagged up.janbranc.com-3885

And there we have them:

With so many different head prints and torsos, the possibilities, while technically finite, are pretty extensive. There are over 600 printed heads to date, and more produced every year.

Once more, with movement:

Many of these processes can be seen taking place on this video, focussing on different aspects of the assembly line. While the whole process is quite mesmerising, I was especially amazed by the way that the hands are inserted to the arms. I hope you enjoy it:

 

And there you have it! From pellets to injected moulded elements, to printed assemblies, ready to pack,  our minifigure has undergone some amazing processes.  But how shall we sell it? Come back soon to the ramblingbrick, as we continue to celebrate the 40th Birthday of the LEGO Minifigure. Until then,

Play Well!

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