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the enigma that is badger

BrickArms Featured in Wire Magazine Cover Article!

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The Feb 2010 issue of Wired magazine features a wonderful article about small-scale businesses that use the power of self-guided and small-scale production to realize innovative ideas. Included in this group: BrickArms!

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The entire article can be read online here. Here's the section of the story that features BrickArms:

"And these days, when anyone can get access to manufacturing and distribution, that is actually a viable choice. Walmart, and all the compromise that comes with it, is no longer the only path to success.

For a final example of that, swing to the Seattle suburbs to meet Will Chapman of BrickArms. Out of a small industrial space, BrickArms fills gaps in the Lego product line, going where the Danish toy giant fears to tread: hardcore weaponry, from Lego-scale AK-47s to frag grenades that look like they came straight out of Halo 3. The parts are more complex than the average Lego component, but they’re manufactured to an equal quality and sold online to thousands of Lego fans, kids and adults, who want to create cooler scenes than the standard kits allow.

Lego operates on an industrial scale, with a team of designers working in a highly secure campus in Billund, Denmark. Engineers model prototypes and have them fabricated in dedicated machine shops. Then, once they meet approval, they’re manufactured in large injection molding plants. Parts are created for kits, and those kits have to be play-tested, priced for mass retail, and shipped and inventoried months in advance of their sale at Target or Walmart. The only parts that make it out of this process are those that will sell in the millions.

Chapman works at a different scale. He designs parts using SolidWorks 3-D software, which can create a reverse image that’s used to produce a mold. He sends the file to his desktop CNC router, a Taig 2018 mill that costs less than $1,000, which grinds the mold halves out of aircraft-grade aluminum blocks. Then he puts them in his hand-pressed injection molding machine, melts some resin beads, and pumps them through. A few minutes later, he’s got a prototype to show to fans. If they like it, he gets a local toolmaker to reproduce the mold out of steel and a US-based injection molding company to make batches of a few thousand.

Why not have the parts made in China? He could, he says, but the result would be “molds that take much longer to produce, with slow communication times and plastic that is subpar” (read: cheap). Furthermore, he says, “if your molds are in China, who knows what happens to them when you’re not using them? They could be run in secret to produce parts sold in secondary markets that you would not even know existed.”

Chapman’s three sons package the parts, which he sells direct. Today, BrickArms also has resellers in the UK, Australia, Sweden, Canada, and Germany. The business grew so big that in 2008 he left his 17-year career as a software engineer; he now comfortably supports his family of five solely on Lego weapon sales. “I bring in more revenue on a slow BrickArms day than I ever did working as a software engineer.” Life is good."

For folks that pick up the magazine itself, there's a great shot of Will standing at the back entrance of his new industrial space! The move came a few months back when it became clear BrickArms was getting too big to be contained in the Chapman garage. It's a good thing to, because with what Will has planned for 2010, he's going to need the space! :wink:

Enjoy!

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It's good to see more people recognising BrickArms.

They are a brilliant company and more people should know about them.

Thanks for sharing this with us. :thumbup:

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What a great read, it totally makes sense that the industrial world is changing now that communication is so easy.

*Starts the old idea machine*

Thanks for sharing! :thumbup:

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Very cool, this is great news for LEGO fans.

We are breaking into the media.

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Arg, this issue has been sitting on my kitchen counter for days! If I had only read deeper into the article... Ah well, as has been said, the press is great for AFOLs. Great point made by Will on the Chinese market thing, too.

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its great minifigs customizers are getting the recognition they deserve!

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I agree with the others; I think it is great that BrickArms is doing so well. The parts are superb and the customer service is terrific, a real class act. Honestly though, I had no idea that a nitch market like this could support Will and his family. This is wonderful news! Keep up the good work!

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