For those who have been following development of China clone bricks brand, a supplier called Gobricks had been talk of the town for last two years. After demise of LEPIN, a secretive supplier had been supplying top quality parts rivaling LEGO to various clone brands in China. Nowadays, whenever a new clone brand appears, first question asked: “Is the parts supplied by Gobricks?”. Who is Gobricks and what role it plays in China clone bricks scene? Today we are taking you a tour of Gobricks factories in Shantou （汕头) and Chaozhou (潮州）to understand their operation better. The article is based on recent field trips by CK and Max. We appreciated their contributions.
Gobricks or the full name is Shantou City Golds Precision Technology (高德斯精密科技) had two production lines in Guangdong province, one located in Chaozhou, another in Shantou. The Chaozhou plant had 200 injection machines, while the one in Shantou has 100 of them.
Raw Material Center
Rows of silos containing ABS pallets with 50 colors to chose from.
Each silo could store up to 4 tonnes of ABS pallets.
Removing the moisture before sending the pallets for injection molding.
Distribution pipes connecting to molding facility.
Each tube supplied different colors.
View of molding facility at Chaozhou factory.
The factory in Chenghai, Shantou had 100 injection molding machines.
Plastic bricks injection molding process.
Long technic parts that arranged in neat rows by the mechanical arm.
The parts are dropped into purple storage boxes and transported around the factory via conveyor belt.
High precision molding metal blocks that used in making the bricks.
The crane on the ceiling is used to swap the different metal molding blocks depending on the production plan.
Transportation of parts
Once the QR code scanned on the boxes, the parts are sent to AI storage area.
AI Storage and Sorting Area
The AI sorting area consisted of two levels.
The parts came from 1st floor.
Each row could stack up to 8 storage boxes.
The storage area could fill up to 120,000 storage boxes.
The mechanical arm could move 3 meters per second.
The AI distribution area collects the needed parts after weighing them, and remaining parts go back to the storage area.
The bricks are repackage based on order. See rows of flatten boxes waiting to have numbering bags stuff in them.
Different bricks mixed and sorted here into different packages. It has became a basic requirement to have numbering bags for each set.
Using imaging to count the number of parts that enter the bag using programmed algo. Unless there is error during pre-programming, in theory there shall not be shortage of parts.
Each bag will be measured in weight to ensure correct number of parts.
The bags that pass the weight test will go to purple boxes, the one with error goes to blue box to be weighted manually.
The daily production of 200 injection machines in full capacity could used up 314 tonnes of ABS pallets per week, enough to make 140 million parts. Ramping up production utilizing all 300 machines could produce up to 1 billion bricks per month. Gobricks AI automated warehouse could operate 120,000 boxes of parts. One could benchmark against LEGO Jiaxing plant which had fully automated warehouse that handle more than 400,000 storage boxes. Though it’s not an apple to apple comparison, we get an idea the size of operation of Gobricks factories in two location.
Gobricks had planned to expand further by adding another two facilities. This would increase its production capabilities to 3 billion bricks a month! Below is Gobricks future factory site.
Major clone brands that use Gobricks
Mould King, Sembo, Super 18K, Rael and Xinyu used Gobricks exclusively for over 90% of their parts need. Note that Decool is using Gobricks through its sub brand JiSi (积思）partially. Right now supplying big customers like Mould King is the major business for Gobricks and the automated warehouse is catered for that.
Pick a Brick the Gobrick Way
Gobricks had an online platform that sell their parts in pick a brick manner. Below is colors coding and naming reference between Gobricks, LDD and rebrickable.
The sale of parts to online customers are still being sorted manually. Literally it’s Pick A Brick the Gobricks way. Gobricks has plan to use AI to automate sorting of parts for online customers in future. That would be a blessing to MOCer who could order large quantity of different parts from single supplier. Below is storeroom where the online orders are being processed. As one MOCer in China said, the price of bricks may not be cheaper than bricklink, but advantage of sourcing from Gobricks is same type of part is priced equal regardless of colors.
Imagine young ladies going through the online orders counting the parts rigorously and sorting the parts throughout the days. What a back breaking job.
The online order typically shipped in a plastic container.
Gobricks Business Model
Perhaps Gobricks is learning from Foxconn, the contract manufacturers for most of the mobile phone brands. It offers the parts in low cost through scale of manufacturing while guarantee high quality that exceeded expectation of those who bought clone bricks. This had lower the barrier to entry for many new clone brands. The new entrants could concentrate on design, be it stealing from LEGO MOC or engaged in house designers that made own unique product. This could be threat to LEGO in long term as China clone bricks is no longer a low quality, lousy design products.
Potential Legal Missteps
If LEGO would like to clip the wings of Gobricks, there are two ways to do it.
1. Suing Gobricks on copying LEGO design. There were various “No Brand” sets that used Gobricks parts while copying LEGO design. For example No Brand Land Rover Defender below that copied LEGO 42110 and used Gobricks parts.
In early days of Gobricks, it worked with some Taobao sellers who tried to replicate LEPIN model. Though Gobricks had since ceased making the sets that referencing LEGO design, the Danish company could still build a legal case based on past offenses.
2. Potential consumer confusion arising from dual serial parts identification used by Gobricks. For unknown reason, Gobricks engrave LEGO serial on its parts. Example of Gobricks parts where both LEGO serial and Gobricks part numbers co-existed. LEGO “4162” is “Tile 1 x 8” which the equivalent Gobricks part number is 565. Note that the “-05” is the injection molding hole number. Searching either 4162 or 565 in Gobricks website will give you the same tile 1 x 8.
Another example below is where Lego part 11455 is “Technic, Pin Connector Perpendicular 2 x 4 Bent” and Gobricks part id is 1003. Both serial existed side by side.
This could be a point use by LEGO legal team building a case against Gobricks in which the maker is attempt to pass their products as LEGO copy with same serial imprinted.
The actual threat would come when LEGO MOCers turn to Gobricks or work with one of the clone bricks to market their design with actual set produced using Gobricks parts. If well known MOCer like Brickative would make their sets using Gobricks, the LEGO would face serious challenge as owning MOC piece is no longer expensive exercise for many. Imagine those who didn’t make it on LEGO IDEAS would sell their sets using Gobricks.
The Plan Forward for Gobricks
The Foxconn model certain work well for Gobricks for the time being. Gobricks may not be the only contract manufacturers for clone bricks out there, but they are the first to utilize AI for the time being. Having said that, the advantage as quality brick makers may not last long as it’s low barrier of entry for this line of business. Made in China means there are always people that could make it better and cheaper than you.