What led to LEGO thinning the plastic in the latter years of Bionicle and beginning of Hero Factory?

I’ve returned to Bionicle after a hot minute and decided to purge all common sense to buy some G1 stuff. I’ve never managed to keep any G1 sets ever since the 2000s, mostly from losing them like an idiot or throwing them away because pieces broke.

Something that just popped up in the back of skull is the recollection of fragile LEGO. This was particularly evident in Lesovikk’s set and everyone who had lime green pieces. Soon the gods above decided that lime green should not have all the fun and many ball joint connector pieces beginning with the Phantoka were thin compared to older sets. What was the reason behind this?

As someone who loves Bionicle, part of what makes me stay away from sets is the fear of breakage. Understandably, getting a used 2006 set would have weaker joints due to wear, but the era from 2008 and 2014 (the Hero Factory Breakout sets from I think 2014 had Av-Matoran heads) would break on me the first time I built them as a kid.

There was a really neat topic that I saw today (can’t find it because I’m dumb) that explained that the seam for post-2008 connector joints were in the socket parts for the ball joints themselves.

Did LEGO ever release a statement about this stuff? I always figured that LEGO had some financial hiccup in 2008, but I have yet to get a definitive answer.

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I’m not 100% sure if it is true, but I read somewhere that the 2007 lime pieces breaking was because of a bad cooling process of the pieces after leaving the mold, probably they cooled too quick. After 2008 they changed the molds and the pieces became far more easy to break, I think that might be because of what you are saying, maybe this new mold used just a little bit less of plastic than the used before, but when you make millions of pieces maybe the saved a lot of money there at the expense of being less durable.

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The idea was that the post-2008 joints had more friction than the previous ones, and in all truthfulness this was the case. However, in providing more friction, the moulds became thinner and more breakable.

Strangely though, I have more pre-2008 joints cracked than post-2008 ones.

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@Archivist_of_Metru_Nui That sounds about right. I don’t think I owned many LEGO sets outside of Bionicle that had any lime green pieces (EXO-Force maybe?), so I don’t know if it was only the cooling process itself or the specific plastic used for lime green that caused breakages.

@Mr.Monopoly Oh, definitely. Even when the post-2008 joints cracked they still held up better friction-wise than a lot of pre-2008 pieces I had.

Edited for Double Post - BioKnight

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Just wanted to add that the HF Breakout sets (which were from 2012) didn’t use Av-Matoran heads; they used Glatorian heads. It’s worth noting that for the Brain Attack sets in 2013, an improved head piece using a more durable CCBS-style socket was introduced… and then never used again. (2014 was the minifig-scale Invasion from Below wave, and then 2015 introduced the G2 Bionicle head.)

I don’t know why they didn’t replace the Glatorian head (or at least update the socket design) earlier. Nearly all of my Glatorian heads from HF sets have cracked, though most remain usable and haven’t broken any further.

It’s a good thing LEGO moved to the modern CCBS joints. The fragility of the 2007-2010 parts is downright shameful for a company that’s supposed to be committed to high quality products.

In my experience, CCBS joints hold up way better, though I have noticed a few of my parts breaking, though it seems to only happen to sockets that are attached to a transparent ball. Since the transparent parts are made of a harder plastic, I guess they’re putting a bit too much stress on the sockets in some cases.

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I got a new in box Mazeka in July and I took off two of the 8 leg joints. Both of them fractured, and one is about to snap at any instant. I also got a new in box Rockoh T3 in 2019 and I took off one of Pohatu’s arms. A few days later, it cracked. I think they just wanted to redesign the molds for the Y-joint and the socket-socket connectors. Good thing CCBS came along, though. I’ve been using CCBS for 5 years now and only 1 piece has broken on me (Melum’s white foot). However, some of my joints have cracks and are very loose.

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Interesting, my Melum also has a broken foot! (Well, the foot hasn’t broken entirely, but the crack is so big that there’s barely any friction left to keep it attached.) That was one of the examples that led me to speculate that sockets connected to transparent balls are more likely to break.

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Yeah, one of Melum’s feet is completely broken, while the other has cracks and is very loose.

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According to a (now offline) BZP interview from 2009 with Bionicle Set Designers…

Designers:
JD: Jeffrey Alan Davies
EF: Esben Fløe
MTJ: Michael T. Jeppesen
LT: Lars Thygesen
JV: Jes Vestergaard
CR: Christoph Röttjer
CR2: Christoffer Raundahl
AS: Andre Sang-Tae Stenbryggen

Question: Why do the ball socket cups break so often? There used to be ball connectors with rubbery arms, why don’t you bring those back?

Answers:
JD: Part geometry wasn’t perfect.
JD: The ball was actually the culprit.
MTJ: There was also a bad year for plastic.
EF: The ball cup was squeezing the element a bit, more than the older sockets.
KM The lime green color was improperly mixed, so it was more brittle.
MTJ: And AS never liked it.
AS: No! Don’t make me into a bad guy here.
EF: There was also a problem with the mold
CR: Lime green is OK now.
JD: It was a problem with the master batch of lime green, but it’s been fixed.
All: We’re always looking at geometry, to optimize the parts

Source is here. Have fun kids.

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“The ball was actually the culprit.”
Lol.
But yeah, 07’s lime plastic issue is unrelated, as 08’s sockets are faulty not duento the plastic but the mold.
It’s good to see that they acknowledged the mistake.

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Like someone further up said, I always figured they slimmed-down the sockets was because of/related to the '08 Recession, though I don’t know how much water that actually holds (interestingly, as Eljay pointed out in his '07 combo models review, the Manutri instructions use the design of the '08 sockets, so I guess this was something that was in the pipes before the financial crisis hit, like that interview above suggests).

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