Sunday, January 5, 2014

Oh, patents! Tegu® blocks

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Have you ever played with Tegu® blocks? They are small, exquisitely crafted wooden blocks, engineered with magnets, enabling you to create structures that are otherwise impossible to build with gravity sensitive blocks or even with more engineered plastic blocks such as Legos®. 

The blocks are called Tegu® in honor of Tegucigalpa, the name of the capital city of Honduras where they are manufactured. They are made from sustainably harvested mature wood and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the blocks is returned to the local communities for re-planting trees. With just the purchase of a small pouch of magnetic Tegu® blocks, you will have replanted 1 tree.

The toy company, co-founded in 2006 by Chris and Will Haughey, was also committed to creating a for-profit business that had a real positive and transformative effect on the lives of the people in the Honduras community where the blocks are manufactured. So Tegu® blocks also bring jobs and a stable future to the workers involved in the manufacture, and education to the children in neighboring schools..

The most striking feature of these blocs, beyond the impeccable social entrepreneurship, the “clic-clac” sound of two blocks coming together, and the endless creative and gravity-defying possibilities for play and building that they afford, is their texture, and the completely, seamlessly invisible, encasing of the magnets. Tegu® magnetic blocks look and feel like magnetic wood.

It is this special engineering of the blocks with magnets that is patented in WO2010111189, titled Magnetic blocs and method of making magnetic blocks.

The manufacturing algorithm discloses insertion of the magnets inside the machined pockets of two non-extrudable, grain-matched, block parts, with prior or subsequent cutting or shaping of the exterior Tegu® block.

Below, you will find the abstract of the invention, to the right an exploded patent drawing of the magnet and block part assembly, and in color some of the marketed shapes and creative play constructions.

Abstract  WO2010111189
A method of making blocks with internally disposed magnets (108). Pockets (106) for the magnets are machined into a non-extrudable material such as wood. Strong permanent magnets are disposed in the pockets to cause the faces of the block to exhibit a desired polarity magnetic field. The pockets are then sealed to permanently retain the magnets. The exterior shape of the block may be formed either prior to or subsequent to machining and sealing of the pockets.

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