Engineers at the FirstBuild crowd-sourced product design collaborative are tasking the public with retrofitting the inside of your fridge.
FirstBuild Engineers at the FirstBuild crowd-sourced product design collaborative are tasking the public with retrofitting the inside of your fridge.

FirstBuild—a crowd-sourced, product-design collaborative launched in May by GE Appliances and Local Motors—is teaming up with MakerBot and online printables shop Thingiverse to rethink a common household appliance: the refrigerator. The group is challenging designers globally to create storage solutions that can be installed inside existing units and can range from 3D-printed organizers to electronic gadgets.

Called the Icebox Challenge, the competition's objective is to evolve the user experience of the refrigerator, a product that was conceived in the early 20th century as simply an ice-filled, insulated box and is now a Web-enabled casing engineered to optimize food preservation and convenience.

Project CAD files and other documentation can be uploaded to the FirstBuild and Thingiverse websites between Nov. 3 and Nov. 23. The 3D-printable entries so far include (unsurprisingly) beer racks, an end-cap for a stick of butter, and a tray for use crafting an ice sphere to elevate drinks served on the rocks. The winning project will be announced on Dec. 15 and displayed in MakerBot’s retail stores and featured on the Thingiverse website. Initial 3D-printable designs for the latest challenge created by the FirtBuild team include a pizza box holder (shown, above) and a motorized wine cellar.

This isn’t the first appliance that FirstBuild has tasked "the crowd" with improving. Winners of a challenge to design an indoor grill with the equivalent capacity of an outdoor counterpart as well as a challenge to develop a concept for small kitchens were announced earlier this year. In July, FirstBuild opened a micro-factory at the University of Louisville’s Belknap campus, in Kentucky, where it will prototype and fabricate products conceived through the challenges.

By targeting the broad scope of designers, engineers, and unlicensed tinkerers, FirstBuild—through collaborators like GE Appliances, MakerBot, TechShop, Local Motors, and Thingiverse—wants to increase the scope of research and development for household products while capturing the ideas at their source.