General Electric’s (GE’s) month-old FirstBuild open-source, Web-based product development platform added TechShop and MakerBot as design and fabrication partners, respectively, the company announced yesterday. GE launched the venture in May with Local Motors—a Phoenix-based open-source auto hardware developer—to combine the trend of crowd-sourced design and the proliferation of increasingly advanced custom manufacturing.
Open to the public since May 15, FirstBuild is intended to invite user input in the development of next-gen home appliances. So far, two projects are on the boards: a micro-kitchen for small residences and a full-scale grill adapted for indoor use. The four winning micro-kitchen designs will be announced on July 19 and awarded $2,500 each. The top three winning grill designs will be announced later this summer with its first, second, and third place winners receiving $2,500, $1,500, and $1,000, respectively. The designs will be manufactured at the FirstBuild microfactory at the University of Louisville in Kentucky.
In its statement announcing the partnerships, GE said it will work with MakerBot to 3D-print parts for the appliances, and with TechShop’s network of community fabrication and prototyping labs nationwide to generate design ideas for FirstBuild projects.
The news comes two days after President Obama visited a TechShop lab in Pittsburgh and on the same day that the White House hosted students and entrepreneurs representing more than 30 technologies, as well as Bill Nye (the “science guy”) and a robotic giraffe named Russell (h/t Roll Call), for its inaugural Maker Faire. The event is part of Maker Media’s event series of the same name held worldwide since 2012.
The event in Washington, D.C., also included satellite collaborations with more than 150 U.S. colleges and universities and 130 U.S. and Canadian libraries, as well as the release of the “Maker Mayors Action Report” from the Manufacturing Alliance of Communities, which represents more than 90 municipal governments in the U.S. The report outlines how communities are improving their manufacturing resources. Learn more about the faire’s exhibitors.
“New tools and technologies are making the building of things easier than ever,” Obama said at a briefing during the event. “There is a democratization of manufacturing that is potentially available because of technology. Across our country, ordinary Americans are inventing incredible things … and you never know where this kind of enthusiasm and creativity and innovation could lead.”
At the TechShop in Pittsburgh on June 17, Obama spoke about his administration’s continued efforts to spur small-scale manufacturing and retrain new and existing workers with skills required to operate advanced manufacturing equipment.
Watch Obama’s Maker Faire address below (begins at 02:02:25):