The LEGO Company has built its brand on delivering quality products and experiences that boost creativity in children around the world. Every hour, more than 1.4 million LEGO parts are produced, making up the 100 million LEGO sets produced annually. For LEGO, each part and change – even small changes in material usage – has a tremendous impact on costs. To validate products before they go into production, maximizing safety, minimizing time-to-market and costs, the LEGO product development team uses MSC Marc, MSC Patran and MSC Nastran simulation software.
Over 300 engineers and managers develop new designs for the approximately 200 to 300 new parts designed each year. When you’re the leading manufacturer of products to stimulate creativity, imagination, fun and learning, you have everybody’s attention: customers and competitors. So maintaining state-of-the-art product development tools is imperative.
LEGO analyzes parts for strength, stiffness, thickness and fatigue. The big goals are to ensure product safety, reduce overall cycle time, increase the functionality of toys, and make material/structural knowledge available to more people within the organization. By determining how a part will behave at an earlier stage, there are fewer changes made to tooling, so the costs associated with making a physical prototype and making changes to molds can be substantially cut.
FEM was implemented as a three-phase process, including proof of concept, training and production implementation. During the first phase, LEGO benchmarked different FEM products, deciding on Marc, Patran and Nastran because of their features, ease of use and technical support. The second phase included training, and comparing simulation tests with known results to better understand how the software should be utilized. And the third phase, included implementing structural calculations in the development phase and establishing a FEM team that is capable of avoiding structural problems in LEGO tools and parts.
Testing conducted at LEGO Company specifically for safety includes compression, torque, tensile, drop and drop tests, as well as tests for sharp points and edges. Examples of these tests include linear stress analysis on a tool part for the 2×4 LEGO brick, using Nastran, and Marc, contact analysis on the same part to define a more realistic boundary condition. Additionally Marc non-linear analysis is utilized to simulate a compression test on the 1×16 LEGO TECHNIC element. On this same part, Marc can simulate a torque test or generate a force displacement diagram for contact analysis.
One of many benefits LEGO Company has realized with FEM is improved design. Simulation provides an opportunity to try more solutions and, in the business environment where time is money, have the confidence that virtual solutions will work in real life.
With simulation, LEGO has reduced the overall cycle time, from concept to finished part. Another tangible benefit of simulation is understanding where the stresses are and where they are not. With this knowledge an engineer can make what might seem to be a very insignificant change of mass. But the resulting material savings can be great, especially for high volume parts.
At the end of its two-year simulation implementation program, LEGO Company is quickly achieving its goals ensuring that safety and quality are the focus of new product development. At the same time, LEGO Company has reduced dependency on physical prototyping, eliminating costly changes to tooling, as well as substantially reduced manufacturing costs, including material and service life of molds.