Photos courtesy of YOXO
Over the weekend, my family stopped by the YOXO toy company to check out its new St. Paul digs. The company is best known for its YOXO building sets—tapeless tube connector systems that let kids build anything out of “Y,” “O,” and “X”-shaped links. The pieces are made out of wood pulp and soy-based ink, recyclable, and so natural that you could probably eat them. They are also compatible with all those paper towel and toilet paper rolls in your recycling bin at this very moment.
In 2013, YOXO’s popularity took off so fast they sold out during the holidays. But now, three weeks in at a new warehouse, and on the eve of holiday shopping madness, the team has installed a machine that will boost productivity by 1,500 percent.
Fondly dubbed “Bennie and the Jets,” the machine (from Minnesota-based company Jet Edge) pressurizes water to 55,000 pounds before shooting it through diamond-tipped nozzles to cut wood pulp. The speed of the water breaks the sound barrier. It sounds like a jet engine. We covered our ears. About a minute later, we had finished toy pieces in our hands.
Jeff Freeland Nelson, founder and CEO of YOXO, says Bennie will turn out about 14,000 toy pieces a day, which will eventually be used by kids of all ages, for play and for work. Students are learning about engineering and physics with YOXO in classrooms. The University of Minnesota has partnered with YOXO to study therapeutic effects on elderly residents in a St. Paul assisted living facility. But mostly kids are stockpiling empty toilet paper rolls to build with YOXO whatever awesome stuff their minds can conjure.
And they are not texting or staring bug-eyed at the television.