A toy that’s “Made in the U.S.A.”? These days, that might sound like a contradiction in terms, what with so many playthings produced in Asia. Yet, it turns out that one of the most innovative, stimulating, and just plain fun toys in the stores is just that - made in America, with pride, unmatched quality, and total commitment to environmental responsibility, no less.
It’s K’NEX, a construction system comprising hundreds of different building blocks that children of all ages can use to create everything from fully-functional robots to model racetracks to working roller-coasters to ... well, you name it. And every single K’NEX rod, connector and brick - some 30 Billion - have been manufactured in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, just north of Philadelphia. They then travel to over 40 different countries around the world as the various K'NEX construction systems.
This marriage of fun and function started more than 50 years ago when The Rodon Group was founded as a company specializing in a manufacturing process called plastic injection molding. Injection molding was hardly new back then - it actually dates to the 19th century - but Rodon’s founders saw an opportunity to take the process to another level - to make it much easier, that is, to create large quantities of even extra-small parts with unheard-of quality. Until then, the small injection-molded parts were plagued by a host of flaws - bubbles in the plastic, imperfect shapes, and so forth - which greatly limited the yield, or portion of usable parts, in every manufacturing batch. That kept prices high and applications limited.