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Unique Lego elements...

austwoodaustwood Member Posts: 2
edited May 2011 in Building and Techniques
Hello forum!

It would be interesting to really pin down the 'alphabet' of Lego. I was wondering if someone out there knew exactly how many unique Lego elements are currently in production (May 2011), and how many have been retired since the beginning, or maybe retired and later re-introduced. I think it would be easiest to exclude color from the discussion.

The evolving Lego alphabet is most obvious with the Technic elements, but I would be very interested to know if anyone has researched this topic.

Happy building!


  • thesinisterpenguinthesinisterpenguin Member Posts: 96
    I vaguely remember hearing somewhere that somebody has some CDs with this sort of information on. I'm sure they will present themselves here if they are relevant.
  • bluemoosebluemoose Member Posts: 1,716
    edited May 2011
    No one outside The Company will have accurate figures for any of this, and I doubt they would be prepared to share the information for commercial reasons.

    I guess the question would need some refining - what do you mean by 'in production'? There are fewer moulding machines than there are 'active' parts; not every moulding machine is producing the same part 24/7/52 ... in fact, I doubt many are; I've been told only the most common elements would have machines dedicated to their production. Element production is scheduled in batches, based on what will be needed for sets over the coming months. Once a batch of a particular element has been completed by a particular moulding machine, the mould in the machine will be changed & a different element produced, for a time. Some elements (like, say, minifig binoculars) that are included in quite a few sets, but only ever in small quantities, may only be scheduled for a production run every couple of years ...

    Once produced, the elements are stored in crates in a vast warehouse, until needed. Like element production, not all 'active' sets are being produced all the time; they are produced in batches too. When needed, the elements from the warehouse are moved to the packing plant; the right elements are selected to go into the right bag, then the right bags are selected to go in the right boxes.

    So, of the elements that are in a new set you buy today, some might have been made a few weeks ago, while others may not have been made for many, many months. The ones in your set have been sitting around in a warehouse for a long time, but still be the most recently manufactured element of that type.

    It's my understanding that once or twice a year there is a big meeting where all the set designers, parts designers, manufacturing folk, management, etal, sit down & decide which parts are to be retired. They also consider suggestions for new parts & decide which ones will go into production. At any given time, this will describe the 'active' palette of parts available to the set designers.

    Each team in the set design group gets an allocation of how many new parts they can have for the coming period; obviously the team that looks after Bionicle/Hero Factory get a lot of new parts allocated each time, but only because they retire so many parts each time too. It's advantageous when multiple teams can agree on sharing a new part (e.g. the new pitch fork for the Kingdoms & Alien Conquest themes, which come out of different design teams, or the cows that were developed for the City Farm theme, but first used by the 'Direct' team in the Medieval Market Village).
  • IstokgIstokg Member Posts: 2,362
    My ears were ringing.... I can give you pretty much a list of all parts that were retired prior to 1975. Since then the number of different parts has exploded from under 500 to the present over 10,000.... it's an almost impossible task to come up with all the parts retired in recent years.

    But for prior to 1975... I can give you some good indications....

    Here's just the Town Parts (1955-87) that exclude trees/bushes (separate chapter) and gas stations/garages (separate chapter)...

    I've got 2,200 pages of LEGO history in my LEGO CD including 1/4 million words and over 2,000 historic images. I'm selling it from my USA Bricklink store (Gary Istok Rare Bricks).

  • Cam_n_StuCam_n_Stu Member Posts: 368
    LEGO must be watching the developments in 3D printing with ABS plastic with interest. Once they quality improves sufficiently it could allow them from create on demand any low volume pieces from their library of current and potentially retired elements. It might even allow them to create elements that are physically impossible to create with molding techniques today.
  • austwoodaustwood Member Posts: 2
    Very interesting...I had no idea there were more than 10,000 elements. I would probably suprise myself if i went into my own collection and actually tried to sort out the unique elements. I thought it would be somewhere around 2,500. Thanks for the input everyone :)

  • bluemoosebluemoose Member Posts: 1,716
    In the video here ...
    ... Jorgen says there are "7,000 pieces". From the context, my assumption is that he's talking about the current element palette.
  • IstokgIstokg Member Posts: 2,362
    No he's right... there are over 10,000 sets... not elements... my bad. There are/were more like 8000 elements in total... lots of discontinued parts.
  • TonyV5TonyV5 Member Posts: 14
    Not sure if this is in the right section but here go's.

    Only having one set with pneumatics and very poor control (8421) it would be interesting to know what other components are a available, I know there is a reservoir but are there none-return valves, or any form of flow control, has anyone tried using the LEGO cylinders for hydraulics?

    I am looking forward to seeing how well the 8110 Unimog will work.
  • brickmaticbrickmatic Member Posts: 1,071
    edited June 2011
    @TonyV5 Seems like a candidate for a new discussion thread. You can click on the Start New Discussion button on the top right.
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