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History and Evolution of Lego Minifigure Head

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Since the new head (stud recessed) has been implemented, I wondered why this change have happened.

Some changes have a reason and I can understand why these changes have been made, but some I don't, so I'd like to debate all these with you.

I'm pretty sure classic collectors remember the stud solid head.

3626ap01.jpg

Since 1978, this is the head used for the minifigures we're familiar with.

Later, around 1990 this head became more rounded and I assume this change has been made due to a more beautiful looking and maybe some small plastic saving at the corners of the head.

In 1992 - 1993 this head remain as round as it became after 1990, but instead of being stud solid, it became stud hollow.

Unfortunately I couldn't find a picture with the top of the head, but I'm pretty sure everyone knows what I'm talking about because this head is used since 90's until one or two years ago.

I find this change has a reason, because this also suppose some plastic savings, and also can host a 4140303 part.

But now, since one or two years ago they replaced stud hollow with stud recessed.

3626c.jpg?1

I actually find no reason to do that excepting if they want to start a new era and they'd want to separate the 90's, 2000's with what is about to come.

Here are no plastic savings and it actually doesn't change anything to the head structure.

What do you think?

Why this change has been made?

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Perhaps they are more durable, for when you try to wedge a stick into the stud on top. I'm not an expert on these things but that seems to be the most logical reason to me right now. Although I might be mistaken.

Edited by Overcold

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Perhaps it's to keep more air inside and maybe that helps the head stick on to the peg? I know the old heads could let air out.

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I have had a few theories about this, all based on nothing but my own observations - so...probably all false. But here you go, everything based on the idea that changes to the head have been made to accommodate changes in the printing process.

Solid Stud. Worked great for printing the old classic smiley face. No problems. One color, one printing pass.

Pirates. The pirates' fault: Pirates are introduced and are the first faces with multiple colors and registration (Beards and such) - The first pirates have Solid Stud heads. Later, they make the switch to the hole in top...but not just an empty hole. It's one with three triangular divisions. My theory is it was done for "registration" on the prints. Some sort of mechanism that "locked" the head in place during each pass of the printing. Myth tells us the hole was for child safety and to allow "breathing" but I think that's bunk: 1 - if a kid chokes on it that tiny set of three holes is not keeping the airway patent. Plus, how often will it "fall" right into place during a choking episode?

2 - why would they switch back now?

Switching back to the solid, albeit recessed-in-the-center stud, allows the branding (Lego Logo back printed on the stud) to return. Also...does it seem they've switched to some thermal-magic-decal mode of printing the heads now? Or is it still pad printing? If the printing method has changed, it could verify my theory above. (Note some of the CMF series figs still have the "hole" head, right?)

Anyway - not to divert the thread, but also in regards to printing - what's the "black/silver/whatever" color on the front of the minifig-torso "neck?" I always assumed the same thing - that it let some machine see where the front of the torso was. Or maybe it added just that right bit of "clutch?"

Thanks for humoring my theories. First post on this site!

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No idea really, I don't tend to pay attention to such things, but the printing theory gets my vote. I also think the child safety and being able to breath through it is a load of old rubbish, It is just not big enough.

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I have had a few theories about this, all based on nothing but my own observations - so...probably all false. But here you go, everything based on the idea that changes to the head have been made to accommodate changes in the printing process.

Solid Stud. Worked great for printing the old classic smiley face. No problems. One color, one printing pass.

Pirates. The pirates' fault: Pirates are introduced and are the first faces with multiple colors and registration (Beards and such) - The first pirates have Solid Stud heads. Later, they make the switch to the hole in top...but not just an empty hole. It's one with three triangular divisions. My theory is it was done for "registration" on the prints. Some sort of mechanism that "locked" the head in place during each pass of the printing. Myth tells us the hole was for child safety and to allow "breathing" but I think that's bunk: 1 - if a kid chokes on it that tiny set of three holes is not keeping the airway patent. Plus, how often will it "fall" right into place during a choking episode?

2 - why would they switch back now?

Switching back to the solid, albeit recessed-in-the-center stud, allows the branding (Lego Logo back printed on the stud) to return. Also...does it seem they've switched to some thermal-magic-decal mode of printing the heads now? Or is it still pad printing? If the printing method has changed, it could verify my theory above. (Note some of the CMF series figs still have the "hole" head, right?)

Anyway - not to divert the thread, but also in regards to printing - what's the "black/silver/whatever" color on the front of the minifig-torso "neck?" I always assumed the same thing - that it let some machine see where the front of the torso was. Or maybe it added just that right bit of "clutch?"

Thanks for humoring my theories. First post on this site!

Seems logical enough! But now I really wanna know about the necks too. I'd never given it much thought...

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I have tons of minifigs and never even noticed, DOH! I would think the change was to help facilitate placing and removing heads, but the printing theory is solid too.

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I always assumed the changes in the head stud were just changes and improvements to the production engineering, and didn't really have any deeper meaning or purpose then "better mold release" or "cleaner print indexing" etc.

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One footnote on the first LEGO Minifig heads. The first heads were actually produced in 1975... for the 1975-78 Minifig "Stiffs" that had a 2 piece torso (no arms or legs) and a faceless head. These stiffs did use the minifig hairpieces that later regular minifigs used (such as the pigtails hairpiece that is so rare in white).

These first faceless Minifig heads are known in yellow, red, black, trans-clear and trans-yellow.

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I'd always assumed when Lego added holes in the minifig head in the 90's it was to meet some kind of "Children's Toy" regulation, in case the part was swallowed, so it might prevent a choking issue? They did the same thing to pen lids (e.g. Bic Biros..... other brands also available)

But this year I now notice they have done away with this and switched to the recessed stud? I cannot believe any regulations regarding children's toys has been relaxed?

I'm inclined to agree that the holes would not make much difference if you did choke on it, about 4 years ago I choked on a 2x2 round plate and that had a hole in it!

Simply inhaled whilst I had the piece in my mouth, and it went straight down!

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I might suggest the depth of the recess is such to make it compatible with system dimensions. Perhaps a future development in new head-gear, or what seems perhaps more likely to me, is more extensive use for those molds such as the use in clear as street-lights in the module sets. We may see these used more commonly in future sets not as heads, but in other places where it may be easier, or more properly, facilitated having the recess as a depth limiter.

I'm inclined to agree that the holes would not make much difference if you did choke on it, about 4 years ago I choked on a 2x2 round plate and that had a hole in it!

Simply inhaled whilst I had the piece in my mouth, and it went straight down!

I agree also. If, in fact the Lego piece were stuck in such a manner that the only air to the lungs were to pass through the very small, and very restrictive hole in a minifig head, it would not be enough to breathe properly. Just put one up to your lips and try breathing through one, see how long you can do it. This is why I have always been skeptical of that claim.

Edited by dvsntt

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The best explanation I've heard (and I feel like I read it somewhere 'officially,' but maybe that too was just a theory) for the new 'stud recessed' is so that LEGO can put the LEGO lettering on there. There are lots of competitors these days, perhaps even more than before, so having properly branded parts makes sense.

The CMF line did have the hollow-ish stud after regular sets had almost entirely switched over to the stud recessed, but Series 11 seems to now have the solid stud recessed. I imagine it's just because the CMF line is made in an entirely separate place from regular sets, and they hadn't yet switched to the new mould.

@dvsntt LEGO used their hollow head plenty for things other than minifigs. The Adventurers line had a fair share of usages, from yellow sandbags on hot air balloons to trans-yellow light on the Dragon Fortress and Passage of Jun-Chi set. I've had the Dragon Fortress built basically since I got it when it came out, and the heads have never had any problems, so I doubt the change is for wider use as things other than minifig heads.

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heads_zpsdb28307e.jpg

Perhaps it is so kids can breathe if they stick a head with the holes into their nostril. I tried and I can breathe through it but it was tough to get out.

Edited by dr_spock

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I'm glad to hear I wasn't the only one who didn't believe the "the hole prevents choking" thing...although, I can totally understand if it was indeed put in place to satisfy a regulation that, itself, didn't make any sense (like the pen-caps - good point! As father of a now-toddler, I'm really happy to see how safe everything is made, even to the point of absurdity) and has now become antiquated. And yes, I think with them having so many competitors, and with the rulings that essentially say they can't protect (with copyright or patent) basic geometry, branding is now more crucial than ever - especially for one of the iconic pieces of their identity, the minifig head.

@dvsntt - I don't know - I think the depth of the recess, whether it was a hole or the current "flat" recess, was still limited the same amount in either head. I was playing around with google+ earlier this year and shared this pic about this same conversation -

- it may help illustrate. Also, ignore micheal keaton batman and the robotech figure in the background. I don't know what they are doing in the shot.

[edit - d'oh - just behind @dr spock]

At the time I hadn't seen that the new recessed stud heads had LEGO printed inside the stud, or at least didn't see the sense in it...

Edited by WaysofSorting

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The best explanation I've heard (and I feel like I read it somewhere 'officially,' but maybe that too was just a theory) for the new 'stud recessed' is so that LEGO can put the LEGO lettering on there. There are lots of competitors these days, perhaps even more than before, so having properly branded parts makes sense.

Sorry to dredge up this old thread, but saw it linked, and figured I'd add more detail. I heard this confirmed directly from a LEGO designer when he came to visit. I asked why they changed the stud, and he elaborated:

The solid stud design was identified as a choking hazard in the late 1980s, and a new mold was introduced in the 1990ish ballpark to help prevent possible injuries. There was no actual mandate from any government that they had to be in compliance with-- this was just LEGO trying to be a safer product. It's possible that they heard about children choking on a minifigure head as an incident, or that some similar event triggered the examination, but that's not really clear.

Recently, as pointed out, LEGO has been facing more and more competition and copycat brands. So to help combat this, LEGO has had an initiative to make their name appear on as many elements as possible, especially prominent ones like minifigure parts. The company wanted to put the name back on the minifig head, but they didn't want to re-create a choking hazard. So they did some research and re-evaluated the risk. What they found (apparently) was that it was basically overkill, and that it wasn't necessary. Hence, they could do away with the hole, and write "LEGO" on the inside again. However, they couldn't return to the solid stud design, since various models over the years have made use of the hollow stud (which now wouldn't be possible with a solid stud again).

DaveE

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...they did some research and re-evaluated the risk. What they found (apparently) was that it was basically overkill, and that it wasn't necessary.

Hang on a second! Exactly how did TLG determine what was safe? Sounds like some extremely unethical experiments were conducted. *oh2*

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Hang on a second! Exactly how did TLG determine what was safe?

No idea! He didn't know the details either at the time.

My guess is that they probably did as much research as possible to find occurrences of children choking on LEGO to see the kinds of elements involved. And then probably used simulators to try and mimic the behavior of children's throats and what the elements would do if lodged inside. I might actually be curious if it's easier to dislodge without the air holes, but I'm obviously not sure.

DaveE

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Hang on a second! Exactly how did TLG determine what was safe? Sounds like some extremely unethical experiments were conducted. *oh2*

My thoughts exactly! :laugh:

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