GE Partners with MakerBot in Attempt to Crowd-Source Future Smart Appliances

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firstbuildlogoBack in March, General Electric and Local Motors announced a new crowd-sourcing platform, called FirstBuild, which was created in order to utilize the talents of designers, makers, engineers and students around the globe to enhance GE’s current appliances, and create a new batch of smart appliances.

In April, when the company first launched FirstBuild, Chip Blankenship, the CEO of GE Appliances said, “This is global co-creation paired with a microfactory on site. We will innovate and bring products to market faster than ever before.”

firstbuild-geThe idea behind this innovative new idea is to allow the engineers and designers out there to have input in developing some of the smart appliances of tomorrow, through what GE refers to as “open innovation”. Today it was announced that GE has now teamed with MakerBot, one of the leading manufacturers of consumer level 3D printers, as well as TechShop, a membership based do-it-yourself workshop and fabrication studio, to help advance their FirstBuild platform.

“GE continues to foster collaborative relationships to drive innovation through cutting-edge manufacturing models and partnerships that are redefining how ground-breaking products are made,” explained Kevin Nolan, vice president of technology for GE Appliances.

The hope is that by bulding on the FirstBuild platform, the partnership with MakerBot and TechShip will “enhance GE’s collaboration with engineers and makers,” which will provide additional opportunities in engaging the FirstBuild community as they develop the next generation of major home appliances.

FirstBuild currently has two co-creation challenges running. One is for a “Micro kitchen”, where innovators are to make designs of kitchens that have a smaller footprint than traditional kitchens, while maintaining the same functionality. The other is the ‘Indoor grilling challenge’, where they are asking designers to create designs for an indoor grill. Once the challenges are complete, they plan on selecting the winners, and then having the global community help determine what the engineering specifications will be. The most popular products that are created will potentially be mass manufactured and sold, providing royalties to those who have contributed.

firstbuild-micro

Some of the examples of ideas that you will find on FirstBuild include:

  • The creation of an app on the refrigertor that produces recipe ideas based on food that is currently in the frig.
  • A wireless thermometer on an oven to show the current cooking temperature on a users smartphone.
  • Self cleaning juicers.
  • Vacuum technology in refrigerator drawers to increase shelf life of food.

It is not completely known yet, what MakerBot’s role in the partnership will be, however, it is safe to assume that they will be contributing via their ability to connect with ‘makers’.  On top of this, they could potentially contribute some of their 3D printers to the project.  3D printers will allow designers and engineers to prototype their designs, prior to submitting their them for products, and without having to spend large sums of money in order to do so.

What do you think this partnership between GE, Local Motors, TechShop and MakerBot will mean for the co-creation of smart appliances? Discuss in the FirstBuild forum thread on 3DPB.com

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