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LEGO parts made of Chinese plastic?


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#1 Henchmen4Hire

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Posted 01 January 2011 - 07:17 PM

I noticed a few people talking about official LEGO sets being made of Chinese plastic (not the Enlighten sets) and talking like they're some kind of scum of the earth. I was wondering what you folks were talking about?
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#2 Syn

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Posted 01 January 2011 - 07:25 PM

I'm not sure what your talking about, but then again I'm new. but I have noticed a large influx of Chinese Knockoffs that they basically just took a Lego Box put there Image and RED LOGO into the same square the Lego square is. But I would like to know more about this.
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#3 Brickdoctor

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Posted 01 January 2011 - 07:26 PM

LEGO outsources some parts (complicated mold or print, also non-licensed BPs) to a plant in China that uses different plastic. Notables are the Collectible Minifigs, Castle BPs, and ultra-detailed Star Wars molds (Tauntaun, Ewok, etc.) Quality used to be bad; it's getting better, but still not on par with European brick. For sets in boxes, look on the top panel where it says 'Components made in...' to check if it contains China Plastic. China Plastic feels a little lighter, isn't as shiny, and minifig limbs have numbered indentations on them on their inner sides (side facing the torso/hips)

#4 Henchmen4Hire

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Posted 01 January 2011 - 07:45 PM

 Brickdoctor, on 01 January 2011 - 07:26 PM, said:

LEGO outsources some parts (complicated mold or print, also non-licensed BPs) to a plant in China that uses different plastic. Notables are the Collectible Minifigs, Castle BPs, and ultra-detailed Star Wars molds (Tauntaun, Ewok, etc.) Quality used to be bad; it's getting better, but still not on par with European brick. For sets in boxes, look on the top panel where it says 'Components made in...' to check if it contains China Plastic. China Plastic feels a little lighter, isn't as shiny, and minifig limbs have numbered indentations on them on their inner sides (side facing the torso/hips)

Well, considering I don't like the high gloss and lighter pieces means for cheaper shipping, I'm okay with it  :tongue:

The collectible minifigs look fine to me, but I've only handled series 3. The little numbers at the armpit aren't even noticeable.

Thanks for the info, going by the disgusted tone people had when talking about it, I thought the Chinese plastic must be toxic or something!
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#5 vexorian

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Posted 01 January 2011 - 08:12 PM

 DrNightmare, on 01 January 2011 - 07:45 PM, said:

Well, considering I don't like the high gloss and lighter pieces means for cheaper shipping, I'm okay with it  :tongue:

The collectible minifigs look fine to me, but I've only handled series 3. The little numbers at the armpit aren't even noticeable.

Thanks for the info, going by the disgusted tone people had when talking about it, I thought the Chinese plastic must be toxic or something!
Before these recent years, the China-made parts were truly awful and easily recognizable. Minifigs from Battle packs were clearly just wrong, with their yellow being closer to lime and that awful gloss. That's why people hate that stuff. It has improved recently it seems. But even collectable figs have those offsets in some printing...

#6 Stash2Sixx

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Posted 01 January 2011 - 08:50 PM

Indentations on the arms are a coding system and do not neccesarily mean China.

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#7 Peppermint_M

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Posted 01 January 2011 - 11:35 PM

 Syn, on 01 January 2011 - 07:25 PM, said:

I'm not sure what your talking about, but then again I'm new. but I have noticed a large influx of Chinese Knockoffs that they basically just took a Lego Box put there Image and RED LOGO into the same square the Lego square is. But I would like to know more about this.

Those are bootleg sets attempting to creat confusion between their products and the well known brand products. Like Sonny electronics or Nikee sportswear (two things I have come across in my time) They use similar text and logos to look just enough like the well known brands that someone thinks they are and purchases some.

The "cheap chines platic issue" is a certain vocal minority complaining and taking exception to special elements being made in china. They believe that the plastic is of inferior quality or something like that.

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#8 Sirens-of-Titan

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 12:08 AM

The reason people are upset is because a lot of the alternate plastic parts fit quite poorly in the hands of minifigures (case and point are the Kingdoms battle pack in which the figures had difficulty grippinf the weapons and accessories).

The collectible minifigures look good, but they aren't as high-gloss as the normal ABS plastic, so there is a noticeable difference especially when you lay out unprinted parts next to regular Lego parts. (Just look at the legs piece in black, like the Gorilla in Series 3 and compare it with a regular set of black legs to see what I mean)

I also have a lot of trouble posing the collectible minifigure hands as they don't like to rotate in a smooth 360 degrees fashion, and seem to jump and get stuck in certain position until you apply a lot of force. People worry about this because Lego has always been synonymous with quality, and for their plastic to be so poorly molded that it cannot fit other pieces is a nightmare. I must say, although I'm OK with a few printed parts like shields, headgear and masks to come in a little baggie and be "Chinese plastic", but if the entire figure and accessories are made of it, I do get upset, especially if we have no way of knowing in advance., (Kind of like in NinjaGo  :tongue: )
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#9 Thrund

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 12:21 AM

 Sirens-Of-Titan, on 02 January 2011 - 12:08 AM, said:

The reason people are upset is because a lot of the alternate plastic parts fit quite poorly in the hands of minifigures (case and point are the Kingdoms battle pack in which the figures had difficulty grippinf the weapons and accessories).

I'm fairly sure it was established that that particular one was nothing to do with the plastic or moulding, just the stress put on the hands by having them packed holding the weapons. Remove the weapons and let them sit for a while and the hand returns to its proper shape.

#10 blueandwhite

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 06:12 AM

 Thrund, on 02 January 2011 - 12:21 AM, said:

I'm fairly sure it was established that that particular one was nothing to do with the plastic or moulding, just the stress put on the hands by having them packed holding the weapons. Remove the weapons and let them sit for a while and the hand returns to its proper shape.

In fairness I'm not convinced that this is the case.  I've had some figs holding the same accessories for over a decade without issue.  While I'm not a fan of the matte finish or slightly translucent parts on some of the collectable figures or the battlepacks but I don't think that this has much to do with the actual plastic quality.  The problem with the hands could just as easily be an issue with the mold being used.  Still, as long as LEGO's overall quality doesn't slip too much for the sake of cost cutting I think most of us will be just fine.

#11 Karto

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 11:02 AM

Parts that are made of lower quality ABS are the result of TLG's choices, and not because they are made in a Chinese factory... I've seen such parts in all type of sets, including licensed ones. The latest I encountered were the minifigs and other specialty parts from the Toy Story theme sets.

#12 CDC

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 04:39 PM

 Brickdoctor, on 01 January 2011 - 07:26 PM, said:

-For sets in boxes, look on the top panel where it says 'Components made in...' to check if it contains China Plastic.

-China Plastic feels a little lighter, isn't as shiny, and minifig limbs have numbered indentations on them on their inner sides (side facing the torso/hips)

-Lol, never even thought of that ! :)

-Are you sure this is a sign of chinese plastic ? it obviously isn't cuz i just checked some sets and components aren't from China but minifigs have indentation on inner sides. At first i noticed this in a few Harry Potter sets and i thought figs were made in China because it's a licensed theme. But now when i bought a couple of new police sets all figs have indentation. Must be a new thing, TLG obviously started marking all figs like this?

#13 escortmad79

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 06:35 PM

The Ninjago stuff also has indentations on the inner arms & lacks the black square on the neck. The box stipulates that the pieces are made in Denmark & another Country which I can't remember & the box has gone out in the bin

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#14 Speedy

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 06:44 PM

I found particularly in the minifig series one and in the couple of magnet sets I bought, the plastic is not what it should be.  In those sets, if I hold the torso in one hand, and the legs in another, they wobble, which doesn't happen in regular sets.  While I'm not going to join an Internet campaign over it, it is very noticeable, and have adjusted my purchasing habits due to it.  (No magnets, and I'm in debate about following up on the minifig series)

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#15 Flare

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 07:04 PM

 Brickdoctor, on 01 January 2011 - 07:26 PM, said:

Quality used to be bad; it's getting better, but still not on par with European brick.

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#16 TheDesuComplex

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 09:15 PM

For me, this 'issue' is of very little base. The figs that I have that were made in China seem little different from regular sets- The only 'quality problems' I have experienced are loose hips. In fact, my s3 Tennis Girl is inseparable from other figs!
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#17 Sirens-of-Titan

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Posted 03 January 2011 - 03:01 PM

 TheDesuComplex, on 02 January 2011 - 09:15 PM, said:

For me, this 'issue' is of very little base. The figs that I have that were made in China seem little different from regular sets- The only 'quality problems' I have experienced are loose hips. In fact, my s3 Tennis Girl is inseparable from other figs!

Yes quality is acceptable, it's the aesthetic and the principle of the thing that is in question for most die-hard fans. If it looks slightly different it is annoying, but that is a smaller issue compered to the trend to introduce more and more alternative plastics into regular sets. First it was just the magnets, then magnets, chess sets, etc., then collectible minifigures, and this year the entire spinner set of NinjaGo is made of "Chinese plastic". People worry that if we say nothing of it, one day in the near future they may make a permanent switch to that kind of plastic and that is something that I and most people here are not OK with.
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#18 fred67

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Posted 03 January 2011 - 06:18 PM

I was under the impression they use the exact same plastic.  I would assume the raw materials are identical, it's perhaps the process that isn't as good - perhaps higher tolerance for error, and translucency is obviously the result of improper mixing (from what I understand, the plastic always starts as clear and color is added).  Perhaps improper mixing or finishing (which could account for the shininess) is also to blame for it's "weakness," although I don't know that I've ever seen that claim substantiated... plenty of "good" LEGO breaks, too.  If the Chinese make a lot of figures and parts that get moved and played with a lot, it's easy to see that even with quality consistent with Denmark that they could get blamed for poorer quality.

My problem right now is that I have many of the "problem" sets, including the Kingdoms BPs, but I haven't even opened them as I have no more display space.  I'll crack them open tonight to see if I notice anything.  I've not had ANY problems with collectibles so far (knock on wood).  I also have a couple of magnet sets that I'm certainly not unhappy with at all, although with the new gluing I'm not likely to buy them anymore anyway.

But I saw this on an EB post - Medieval Market Village practically trashed from cracked bricks, and they're not from China (AFAIK).  I guess I just don't want to excuse poor quality from Denmark as being "just a bad batch" while poor quality from Chinese production is considered endemic when ZERO of my own minifgures (so far) from China have quality problems, IMO.

EDIT: So I cleared some display space and opened up the packs and, lo and behold, I had the problem with the minifigure grip.  What I noticed was the shields were not fully placed in the hands, they were only halfway, forcing the hands opens for the entire time they've been in that package.  It wasn't all of them, and it wasn't on their weapon hands, just the shields.  I'm following the advice to just leave the hands empty for a while and hope they revert to their molded shape.  That said, it certainly seems like an issue of bad packaging and not "Chinese" plastic.

blueandwhite said:

In fairness I'm not convinced that this is the case. I've had some figs holding the same accessories for over a decade without issue....

I agree... I've had many a figure on the shelves for years and don't seem to have a problem but, as I mentioned, the weapons that were solidly placed in the hands did not cause any problems in the packs I opened - it was universally (across both lions and dragons) the shield hand where the shield was only partly inserted, keeping the hand in the forced open position for all those many months.  All the weapons hands seemed fine.

Edited by fred67, 07 January 2011 - 03:42 PM.


#19 MinifigFreak2010

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 12:54 AM

I just joined up. I'm beginning to read through the topics and it looks like some people quickly caught onto the cheap plastic.

After not being able to get my hands on any of the series 1 or 2 figures due to issues tracking them down, I finally managed to get my hands on a few packs from series 3 when picking up some PAB items on lego.

I knew something was wrong as soon as I opened the packs. I went to open all three and pour the pieces onto the table(each in their own pile) and I reliezed something looked really wrong. When I was assembling them, I noted difficulty getting the torso and legs to hook up together and it took more then one attempt b/c I was trying to be gentle. After I assembled them and began looking at them, I saw the plastic looked odd.

I pulled out three more figures to compare to see if it was my imagination. I compared the series 3 figures I got with a farmer(Just removed from a MISB package), a lego man(the man from lego advent 2010. hadn't been used in play yet), and a construction worker I had a minimum of a few months, probably longer.

I easily saw that the series 3 were the worst ones. I never could figure out why until a few hours ago. I went to the brickipedia to look at a close up image of a lego creator set and when i went to type it in into the search, the collectibles page showed as a past search result. When I went to it and began reading(for fun) I discovered, to my horror, that the series minifigures are made of a cheaper material.

I am still planning on trying to track down a few series 3 and maybe even series 4, but that's only b/c the figures are to unique to ignore

Lego probably thought that they could pull a fast one on lego fans.  :hmpf_bad:

#20 Destroydacre

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 06:51 AM

 Sirens-Of-Titan, on 03 January 2011 - 03:01 PM, said:

Yes quality is acceptable, it's the aesthetic and the principle of the thing that is in question for most die-hard fans. If it looks slightly different it is annoying, but that is a smaller issue compered to the trend to introduce more and more alternative plastics into regular sets. First it was just the magnets, then magnets, chess sets, etc., then collectible minifigures, and this year the entire spinner set of NinjaGo is made of "Chinese plastic". People worry that if we say nothing of it, one day in the near future they may make a permanent switch to that kind of plastic and that is something that I and most people here are not OK with.

I'd agree that this is the most important issue for most Lego fans. I don't mind the specialty pieces being made in China. The Ewoks, Bossk's head, 2-1B, the Atlantis rings, etc. Those are fine. But I wouldn't want every 1x2 brick made using the China plastic. I'd worry quite a bit about the quality and the clutch power of these bricks. Hopefully it's a change that never happens.

I will say that the quality of the figs made in China does seem to have improved more recently over the original figs that were produced in China, however the China figs still are not of equal quality. I've seen a comparison of the Darth Maul figs, one from the infiltrator and the other from the magnet set and the difference is very noticeable. While the Maul head print from the infiltrator has a deep red color, the Maul from the magnet set looks like some kind of shade of fuchsia. That's the kind of thing that I don't want to ever see in a regular set.

#21 Brickdoctor

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Posted 17 January 2011 - 08:30 AM

 MinifigFreak2010, on 17 January 2011 - 12:54 AM, said:

Lego probably thought that they could pull a fast one on lego fans.  :hmpf_bad:
No, we've been aware of the fact that the Collectible Minifigs were made of China plastic for a while. I'd say TLG thought that 16 different new minifigs of limited production runs would be really expensive to produce and that we wouldn't want to pay $5+ for a single 'fig.

And as far as I'm concerned, they thought right. If I had to pay $5 for one 'fig, I'd probably only get 2-3 of each series. Not to mention what people buying cases, Spartan armies, or complete series would be paying. Besides, for those who don't have a cheat sheet, the cheaper price makes it easier to keep guessing.

#22 Scorpion

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Posted 27 March 2011 - 10:05 PM

Pretty much what it says on the tin. I bought several sets that had the sign that denominated the origin of the lego parts included, and it included parts from various countries and also China. Now, combined with the "horror stories" of substandart lego parts and several faulty (mould lines, malformed or miscast) parts I got in several sets with Chinese parts, I would like to know if there is any way to tell the "Chinese" parts from the other, normal parts. So far, it seems to me that pearly/metallic pieces and several licensed specialized minifig accessories are made in china. But what the hell do I know anyway?

So, how could I distinguish chinese parts from the others?

#23 Dazmundo

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Posted 27 March 2011 - 10:33 PM

I don't know how to tell, but then surely if you can't tell the difference, what does it matter??

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#24 Aanchir

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Posted 27 March 2011 - 10:51 PM

If China is listed as one of the countries of production on the box, then some of the parts will have been made in China. Generally, in the sets released so far, the parts known to be made in China tend to be fairly special in one way or another. For instance, the Rock Monsters, Space Police alien heads, and Toy Story minifigure heads are specially-painted parts, and are known to be from the Chinese facility.

Minifigure parts that are "made in China" have a few distinguishing characteristics. Most of the parts use new molds, so there are differences from "classic" minifigure parts-- for instance, the arms production numbers embossed on the underside, and the necks lack the printed square that traditionally adorns the headless minifigure neck. However, these characteristics are entirely unrelated to quality, and in fact LEGO representatives have reported these as changes that will eventually affect all minifigures, so it's not even a perfect way of identifying whether or not the parts come from the Chinese facility.

Really, though, Dazmundo has a good point. If you can't tell the difference in quality, there's no reason to be afraid of Chinese parts. Most of the Chinese parts that get the most complaints are the collectible minifigure parts and magnet set parts, and with those there is a sort of a reason to be worried: as far as I know, neither is eligible for replacement parts from Customer Service. But with what most people consider "regular" sets, there's a similar risk of poor quality no matter where the parts come from, and if you get a poor-quality part you can easily get it replaced for no charge.

Some of the concern about Chinese parts is founded in reality-- a lot of the Series 1 collectible minifigure parts and a few from later series were visibly lower quality than parts from other facilities. But a lot of the concern is also just fearmongering, with people instantly associating Chinese production with low product quality. And this isn't a new fallacy by any means-- people have been blaming Chinese production for LEGO quality problems since before LEGO even began producing parts in China. The truth of the matter is that any LEGO product will carry a risk of low-quality parts, and the only time it really is worth a great deal of concern is with parts like those in "extended line" sets (sets that don't have four-or-five-digit set numbers) or the collectible minifigure series, which do not come with LEGO customer service replacement part support.

Pearl/metallic parts are made in all of LEGO's factories to my knowledge. For instance, the Hero Factory sets from this year include the two colors 315 Silver Metallic and 316 Titanium Metallic, two pearl colors Bricklink tends to misidentify under various names. This year's Hero Factory sets, however, are made only in Denmark, Hungary, and the Czech Republic-- neither the Mexican nor the Chinese plant is involved in production.

Edited by Aanchir, 27 March 2011 - 10:54 PM.

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#25 AndyC

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Posted 28 March 2011 - 12:26 AM

I'm inclined to agree with Dazmundo, if you can't tell why get worried over it? And I'm reasonably sure that even some of the people who think they can tell the difference will have some basic pieces made in China that they couldn't tell apart. The Maersk ship, for example, has pieces made in China but it doesn't have anything particularly special in it and I've never seen a single review pointed out any flawed pieces in it.

I think a lot of it stems from the cheaper production used on things like magnets and some historical quality issues when TLG first starting outsourcing to China. These days I think the difference is more perceived than actual.
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