Lego looking for a sustainable replacement for ABS

By Rhoda Miel
News Editor

Published: February 18, 2014 3:15 pm ET
Updated: February 18, 2014 3:23 pm ET

Image By: Lego A/S Lego is looking for a sustainable replacement for ABS resin.

Related to this story

Topics Materials, Sustainability, Toys, Injection Molding, Materials Suppliers
Companies & Associations Lego A/S

ORLANDO, FLA. — Lego A/S is setting a target to use a sustainable resin in its signature bricks by 2030, replacing ABS.

The search for that new resin will not be easy, though, said Allan Rasmussen, senior project manager for Lego. Not only must the selected material be able to meet the same characteristics as the locking building blocks, they must also blend seamlessly with bricks already in children’s hands.

“I need to find a material that is just as good as this one,” Rasmussen said. “I need to find a material that will be just as good in 50 years, because these are passed down from generation to generation.”

Speaking at Innovation Takes Root 2014 in Orlando on Feb. 18, Rasmussen said the sustainability quest is in its early stages, but the Danish company already has tested some bricks using an impact modified polylactic acid are “very, very close.” A problem with a post-molding “creep,” however, means that a few weeks after they are molded the bricks do not click and stick together as well as they should.

The ability to stay clicked together until a child separates them — what Lego terms the “clutch power” — is so key to Lego that it has a specific testing system for it.

Some of the issues with those tests may be that the machines are set up to meet the requirements based on ABS and are not compatible with other resins, Rasmussen said, but the clutch power is only one issue facing any replacement.

Lego, based in Billund, Denmark, has been using ABS for its bricks since the 1960s, following a brief period using a cellulose acetate.

It uses more than 6,000 tons of plastic each year — 70 percent of it ABS, “so that’s why I’m most interested in [replacing] that,” Rasmussen said.

It operates more than 5,000 molds on more than 1,000 injection molding presses at global production sites in Denmark, Mexico and Hungary. When Lego expands to Jiaxing, China, it will specifically be to supply the local market there, he said, so the company needs to ensure it has a global material supplier for all those locations once it is ready to change its resin.

It wants a resin that will make both economic sense as well as hitting environmental targets, and wants to ensure that it is coming from a non-food feedstock base so the business doesn’t find itself facing questions about using crops for toys vs. food.

The company also requires dual sourcing, with product available from multiple production locations, so that it can provide resin from another site if there are any problems.

In addition, its toys must meet the standards written within 3,082 pages worth of legislation regulating toys worldwide.

So obviously, there are major supply chain issues Lego must consider before making any material changes.

“If I were to say that we need to change the machines because something has a different shrink rate, I’m not going to be a very popular guy,” he said.

Then add the complications of matching the look and feel of generations of previous production.

Lego has to carefully track color blending to control colors, so that a red brick molded today will match a red brick molded 30 years ago or, for that matter, a red brick the company will make 30 years from now.

“When I get to a conference like this, I always hear people say: ‘Oh, Lego. That’s great. I played with Lego when I was a kid, and now I’ve passed it on to my son and to his son now, and it lasts. It’s perfect.’ And I’m really torn between that,” Rasmussen said. “On the one side, I want to say: ‘Thank you. We make a good product.’ On the other side, I want to say: ‘You’ve just shown why it is my job is so damn difficult.’”


Comments

Lego looking for a sustainable replacement for ABS

By Rhoda Miel
News Editor

Published: February 18, 2014 3:15 pm ET
Updated: February 18, 2014 3:23 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

China's Shide Group, BASF unveil 'revolutionary' all-plastic window profile

April 23, 2014 9:10 pm ET

SHANGHAI — The PVC window profile market in Asia is expected to increase four-fold by 2025, and Chinese building products maker Dalian Shide...    More

Worker dies in fall at Formosa Texas plant

April 23, 2014 4:04 pm ET

A subcontractor died April 22 after falling 25 feet during routine cleaning operations at a Formosa Plastics Corp. USA facility in Point Comfort,...    More

Image

Milliken expanding SC plant for additional PP clarifying agent capacity

April 23, 2014 3:42 pm ET

American chemical company Milliken & Co. has announced plans for a major expansion in capacity for its Millad NX8000 clarifying agent for...    More

Clariant says Asia holds the key to growth

April 23, 2014 3:52 pm ET

Clariant AG is based in Switzerland, but its eyes are firmly focused further east.    More

Image

How CEO Santi is changing ITW

April 23, 2014 2:48 pm ET

Scott Santi is showing he can do more than just cut costs at Illinois Tool Works Inc.    More

Market Reports

Market Data Book - Rankings & Lists

A one-stop download of Plastic News' exclusive annual lists and processor rankings containing essential data including sales, employees, end markets, materials and more.
EXCLUSIVE EXCEL FEATURE: full mailing address details for available plant locations.

Learn more

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook North America

This in-depth report provides analysis and discussions of economic and political conditions, market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies. In addition, there are reviews of 25 leading thermoformers in the packaging segment, assessing their growth initiatives and performance metrics over 10 years.

Learn more

Mold Making and Tooling Review and Outlook 2014 North America

This report provides in-depth analysis of the mold and toolmaking market for North America, including discussions of trends, opportunities, threats, the latest developments in production and labor and equipment trends impacting moldmakers.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

May 6, 2014 - May 8, 2014Plastics in Medical Devices 2014

May 12, 2014 - May 12, 2014Plastics News Brazil Pharma Summit

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

February 3, 2015 - February 7, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events