Tech by VICE

This Guy Built an Elaborate Lego Sorting Machine

An inspiring entrepreneurial story.

by Samantha Cole
May 1 2017, 6:30pm

What do you do when you have too many Legos unexpectedly on your hands? Build an industrial sorting machine, of course. At least, that's what Jacques Mattheij did.

After visiting Legoland in Denmark and observing the rabid fandom of collectors hauling tubs of plastic bricks home, Mattheij saw an opening to disrupt the market. If he could quickly sort the more valuable pieces from the chaff bricks, he could resell them individually or in complete sets for a markup. He did what any among us might, and bid way too high on way too many Legos, and went to bed. When he woke up, he had won nearly every bid and was about to greet several very large shipments of plastic bricks at his doorstep.

He documented this scheme on his blog, and while it sounds like a pretty mundane idea—build a machine to automatically sort Legos—what he ends up creating is honestly wild.

Using Python code, re-purposed industrial equipment, a treadmill, and a camera, Mattheij's machine sorts more than 38,000 shapes in 100 possible colors and shades. The pieces are hauled up the belt on a ladder, slide down a chute, are photographed and then taken to their appropriate bins on another conveyor belt.

He doesn't mention whether he's had luck so far turning this into a lucrative business. It's moving pretty slowly in the video demonstration, at about a brick per second, but he writes that it can run much faster. I, for one, would like to see him crank this thing up to 10.

Jacques Mattheij