LEGO® toys began with the work of Ole Kirk Christiansen, a Danish carpenter who lived in Billund. The wooden toys that Christiansen began creating in 1932 became the LEGO company in 1934, with the name deriving from the Danish phrase leg godt, which means “play well.” Christiansen took the first two letters from each word to make the company name. Today LEGO ranks as the sixth largest toy manufacturer in the world.
The basic element of the LEGO® building system is the brick, which comes in various sizes and colors. Bricks are named by the number of round protruding connectors they have. With over 900 million ways to combine just six of the eight-stud bricks, it is clear that sets with large numbers of bricks provide openings for imaginative play, along with the ability to build models for which instructions are given. The bricks are also easy to take apart, with the purpose of allowing children to reimagine new things continually.
In their 2007 report, LEGO reported that they were making 19 billion play elements per year, or about 36,000 each minute. The LEGO® bricks are all manufactured in Denmark, as well as made by external suppliers, in a process that requires heating the plastic to 449.6º Fahrenheit (232ºC) and injecting it into molds. After about 7 seconds of cooling, the elements are ejected. The sizing of the elements through this process is estimated to be within 7.87401575 × 10-6 inches (0.0002 mm). Only 18 elements in 1,000,000 fail the quality control standards inspection.
One of the LEGO company’s product specialties is themed models, both for typical adventure and building scenarios, as well as tied to successful movie and television franchises. The first type of themed model includes LEGO® city, racers, pirates, agents, castle, creator, bionicle, and factory sets, among others. The second type includes LEGO® sets tied to SpongeBob SquarePants®, Indiana Jones®, Star Wars®, Harry Potter®, Spiderman®, Batman®, Bob the Builder®, and Thomas & Friends®.
Besides building elements, LEGO has expanded into other products and areas. There are now LEGO® games, books, bags, watches, and clothing. With downloadable LEGO® Factory, you can now design your own LEGO® sets, purchase them, and build them.
LEGO also now has theme parks in Billund, Denmark, where the headquarters is, as well as in Windsor, England; Carlsbad, California; Günzberg, Germany; and Berlin, Germany. The parks feature models built with millions of bricks, as well as family activities and attractions.