General Electric’s (GE’s) FirstBuild initiative now has a place to fabricate its crowd-sourced, next-gen appliances. Today, the two-month-old online design community led by GE’s appliances division and the open-source hardware developer Local Motors opened its first micro-factory, which is located at the University of Louisville in Kentucky.
The news follows FirstBuild’s announcement earlier this month that it will partner with MakerBot, which manufactures consumer 3D printers, and TechShop, a network of local fabrication labs nationwide, to offer additional resources to its growing community of third-party designers and developers. FirstBuild is an effort by GE to bring professionals outside of its own research-and-development operation into the fold.
The new micro-factory will begin producing a suite of appliances conceived on and available for purchase through FirstBuild’s Web-based platform. Among them are: a refrigerator whose integrated water filtration system doubles as a removable pitcher; a streamlined garbage disposal fitted with a brushless motor and smart sensors to help prevent stalls; and a prototype oven that scans a custom barcode on prepared foods’ packaging to determine proper cooking conditions.
FirstBuild is also looking into design concepts. Last week, it named the winners of its first product challenge—to rethink the form and function of small kitchens. Designers of the five winning concepts, selected from 87 entries, received $2,500 each. The micro-kitchen challenge was judged by: Scott Lundberg, acting chair of industrial design at the Pratt Institute; serial entrepreneur Graham Hill; Natarajan Venkatakrishnan, GE Appliance’s director of research and development and FirstBuild’s lead facilitator; Alex Tepper, managing director at GE Ventures; Steve Diskin, industrial design chair at the Pratt Institute; and Lou Lenzi, GE’s director of industrial design.
While the winning micro-kitchens will be made at FirstBuild’s micro-factory, the company says it will determine production scale and volume based on demand.