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Both pieces 14418 and 22890 appear in quite a large number of sets, yet they are only available in light- or dark bluish grey. The reason I find this strange is that in many cases, they do NOT match the local colour(s) of the set they're in.

Is there a known reason for this? The only one I could think of is that perhaps the material properties for other colours might be slightly different (e.g. not enough or too much friction when connecting the two pieces), but I would be rather surprised by this.

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This is probably related to cost and not material properties.

There is some cost to each unique element that TLG manufactures. They must be molded, stored, and picked to produce sets. The fewer elements that TLG is producing at a given time, the more efficient their production process can be.

The two elements you mentioned are nearly always structural rather than decorative, so there isn't a strong need to recolor them. This is probably also part of the reason that many Technic elements (pins, axles, etc) are only available in a very limited number of colors.

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  • Well, the pins and axles might be bad examples, as their colors have historically been linked to their other properties (friction vs. not, odd vs. even lengths).
    – RSchulz
    Jan 5 at 23:35
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    Which was only possible because their color didn't matter as the elements were structural/functional rather than decorative, so it is an example of exactly the same. Jan 6 at 8:18

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