History of the largest toy manufacturer
But if it wern’t for a genius wood worker and a series of fires, no one would have known a company named Lego.
Once Billund was a village less known to the world, and Ole Kirk Christiansen was just a simple carpenter living there. This carpenter was a very ambitious man.
Christiansen turned his passion for wood crafting in to a business.In 1916 he opened his own shop.At first he produced ladders, stools and ironing boards in this shop. His ironing boards were very famous for its high quality.
But in 1924 while he was just about to expand his business in to succession, an unfortunate event happened. His sons accidentally lighted a pile of woods in the shop. This resulted in a devastating fire which burnt down his shop and the entire building, with the house which they lived in.
Instead of falling apart, he received this incident as a motive to build a larger workshop. However he was not so lucky. Misfortune began to follow him. In 1929 the American stock market crash affected him negatively and his wife died in 1932. Christian struggled with the personal and financial crisis and he lost most of his staff too.
Then he made a tough decision to use his wood to create cheaper goods that would sell more. He started creating cheap wooden toys.
At first he went in to bankruptcy. But his passion for toys pushed the company forward. Despite the difficulties he even renamed the company to reflect its new direction. “Leg godt”, or “play well,” became LEGO.
The toy factory once again burned to ground entirely in 1942, when the Germans invaded Denmark. But then he was well established, not only to start again but to think forward.
At the end of World War 2 , manufacturers faced difficulties finding traditional material for products. As a result many manufacturers were researching in to advantages of plastic as a cheap and alternative material. They found out that plastic injection molding was a good method to use in various industries including toys. In this method melted plastic is forced in to the cavity of a precise mold, to create things. However, due to materials shortages the Danish government forbade its commercial use until 1947.
Despite this ban, Christiansen obtained the first injection molding machine in Denmark in 1946, and began experiments on producing toys through it. In 1947 with the lift of the ban, he could finally use it in production. By 1949 the company was producing a plastic product called the Automatic Binding Brick.
This brick was inspired on another product, self locking bricks invented by the British company Kiddicraft. Lego says that Kiddicraft allowed them to use its design without obligations. However Lego formally bought the design rights for themselves, from their inventors decedents in 1981.
Christensen and his son, Godtfred improved this British design and began selling plastic bricks in 1949. Although they were not much popular at first, more and more popularity was gained overtime as years passed.
Christensen died in 1952.
Christensens son Godtfred invented the “System of play” concept. This means that all bricks should integrate with each other, can be built together and can be used in multiple ways. This also means that a brick purchased today can be fit with a brick produced in future. This concept led to the modern Lego brick. It took 5 years to find the correct material for this. ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) polymer was the material for modern Lego brick which was invented in 1958. It was patented on 28 January 1958.
In 2013 the largest structure created by Lego bricks were displayed in New York which was a 1:1 scale model of an X-Wing fighter made out of over 5 million bricks.