Lego Company Looks To Change from ABS Plastic to New Bio-Plastic PLA

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( — February 25, 2014) Anaheim, CA — The ingenious design of the Lego brick has been around since 1949. During that period the plastic materials have changed, but the attraction to kids has not. Starting with a small range of square and rectangle bricks, and a load of imagination, kids have made millions of different ‘toys’ from these brick. Today the Lego Company produces more that just square and rectangles; they now produce 1,000’s of different sizes and shape for a virtually unlimited building experience.


How to ‘Grow’ New Bricks


Finding a renewable plastic material that can replace the ABS plastic material used since the 1960’s is proving difficult for the Lego Company. The global child toy block manufacturer is searching for a renewable grade of plastic to replace ABS. This is a daunting task, as Lego currently consumes 60,000 metric tones of the ABS material.


One contender for this replacement resin is an impacted modified PLA or Polylactic Acid material produced by Nature Works. Alan Rasmussen, a materials engineer at Lego says that this resin ‘is very close’. “I need to find a material that is just as good as this one,” Rasmussen said. The search for that new resin will not be easy, though, said Rasmussen. Several different Bio-Plastic resins are currently undergoing testing by the Company, but no further details have been released.


Clutching Power


The problem is finding a plastic material that has the same physical properties that the ABS material has. In early testing, the ‘clutching power’, a term used by Lego to describe the ability for the Lego bricks to stay locked together, has failed. The company insists on a high quality brick that stays together.  “I need to find a material that will be just as good in 50 years, because these are passed down from generation to generation”, Rasmussen said.


The ‘Click’


The clutching power is what is called ‘creep’ in the plastic world. With many plastics a problem with the post-molding of a part is the movement, or lack of dimensional stability. This would mean that the Lego brick would not ‘Click’ together nor would they stay together. The ABS plastic materials work very well for this application due to the low rate of creep. ABS is also used to mold other toys and products, as well as ABS Sheet and ABS Rod materials for model makers.


400 Billion!


The Lego Company will not tolerate any compromise. These bricks must meet all design parameters, and be totally compatible with the previous bricks. With more than 400 billion brick having been produced since 1958, compatibility is critical. There are approximately 62 Lego bricks per person for everyone on the planet. Lego’s are commonly passed from generation to generation, and large models remain on family bookshelves for years.


While the majority of current Lego’s are produced from ABS plastic (over 70 percent), other materials are also used. Some of the other resins include Polycarbonate, Nylon, Polyacetal (Copolymer Acetal) and Polyethylene. While all of these plastic materials may be used, some of the parts produced from these resins are not the bricks, but rather accessories and add-ons to some of the many kits.     


The child’s gift that keeps on giving and helps build small motor skills in kids, Lego’s build imagination. Lego’s have been a part of our lives for over 65 years, and are designing their way for the future.



Industrial Plastic Supply, Inc

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