One of the best parts of my trip to Lego and exploring their factory was the minifig production lines, where the head and body of the most famous toy citizen in world gets painted and assembled at uncanny speeds. To celebrate its 30th Anniversary, here's a video showing how they are built, from raw plastic to final assembly. [Update: we are also celebrating a video contest with original-and expensive-vintage sets as prizes]
You already saw part of the process in the article about the Lego Storm Troopers cloning facility, but here's the whole process:
• First, the raw plastic material is put into the molds to create all the parts: the head, the torso, the minuscule hands, the hips, and the left and right arms and legs, plus any minifig complements, like helmets or tools.
• The head and torsos are always decorated. This is a complicated process that makes the minifig the most expensive part of any Lego set. This is why sets like the Death Star diorama are among the most expensive. The stamping of the colors is usually made in several passes. In older times, the faces always had the same designs. Today, however, they have different features that require different layers (personally, I like the classic ones more than the ones with different faces).
• Once they are decorated, the torsos are put into the body assembly machine, where the left and right arms are put into them mechanically. The same machine then places the hands inside the arms with absolute precision at lightning speed.
• The torsos are then taken to the packaging production line, where they are put together in the bags along with the head, hair/helmet/hat, and legs with hips. Before, the machines also connected the heads and legs, so the Lego aficionado would find the minifig complete inside the box. Now, however, this is left for the player except for the vintage minifig set, which comes with the minifigs completely built.
Stay tuned for tomorrow's special features on the 30th Anniversary of the Lego minifig. We have some amazing surprises coming, including an exclusive Gizmodo contest that will let you win some of the most famous Lego sets in history.