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The Business of Making Things: FirstBuild™ Microfactory Opens in Louisville, Ky.

(NYSE:GE) — From the color of appliances to personalized features, consumers want the ability to customize the everyday products they use to suit their individual lifestyle needs. Through the FirstBuild™ Microfactory*, which officially opened today in Louisville, Ky., the online and local community members can design products and help solve engineering challenges that will fast-track community-driven innovation to market.

The FirstBuild lab features an electronics prototyping center, laser cutter, hardware components and ...

The FirstBuild lab features an electronics prototyping center, laser cutter, hardware components and the latest tools and technology. (Photo: GE)

Until now, customization and speed to market presented challenges for mass appliance manufacturers like GE Appliances, the parent company of FirstBuild. Today’s opening of the FirstBuild Microfactory will not only enable customization through small-batch production, but will help get these products to market faster than ever before without the cost and risk of traditional mass manufacturing.

“Partnering with a global co-creation community and using micromanufacturing to develop new products are unprecedented in the appliance industry. There certainly isn’t a ‘how-to’ guide for us to follow,” said Kevin Nolan, GE Appliances’ Vice President of Technology. “Shifting to a market and community-driven innovation strategy will help determine which products we reserve for customization and which are appropriate to transfer to our larger-scale production facilities.”

At the FirstBuild Microfactory grand opening event in Louisville on July 24, community-driven innovation became a reality and new products were unveiled that will soon go into production and will be sold on FirstBuild.com. In the coming months, consumers can buy the following products that were either developed by the FirstBuild online community and/or made by hand in the FirstBuild Microfactory.

  • Smart Pitcher: FirstBuild’s refrigerator will store a water dispenser inside the fresh food compartment. When the pitcher sits underneath the level-sensing dispenser—voila!—cold, fresh water fills the pitcher and stops automatically. FirstBuild’s first version of the product will include the smart-fill feature, with a planned upgrade to include water filtration this fall.
  • Space-Saving, No-Stall Disposer: This low-profile disposer design creates 4 inches of additional space under the sink, helps eliminate the accidental grinding of foreign objects and uses a brushless motor and smart sensors to sense a potential motor stall. The disposer is designed for easy consumer installation—it snaps in and twists into place.
  • Easy-Slide Oven Door: A dual oven with an ergonomically designed door makes it easy to retrieve dishes without reaching into the oven’s cavity. The top oven features a door that pulls out just like any other drawer in your kitchen. The easy-slide oven door also includes a “peek” feature, allowing cooks to visually monitor progress without disrupting the cooking process.
  • LineCook: LineCook is inspired by the desire to eliminate the variability that produces over- and under-cooked food. The idea gained traction through a project introduced by a member of Louisville’s most popular hackerspace, LVL1. “LineCook,” an oven that scans the barcode of prepared foods and automatically sets the cooking method, time and temperature, has become FirstBuild’s first community-led project, with commercial availability pending.

The opening of the FirstBuild Microfactory follows a recent announcement that GE partnered with Local Motors, the open-source hardware innovator, to launch a new model for the manufacturing industry, which pairs co-creation and micromanufacturing with a focus on speeding the time from mind to market. The partnership leverages advanced manufacturing processes and an open innovation approach to engineering—delivering benefits for consumers and enterprise alike.

Most recently, MakerBot and TechShop have partnered with FirstBuild. These alliances, and others to come, will forever change the way companies design, make and sell products. To learn more about how these companies plan to work together visit: http://pressroom.geappliances.com/news/makerbot-and-techshop-join-ges-collaborative-innovation-strategy.

FirstBuild.com community members will submit ideas, vote on which concepts become challenges or projects, and determine which products move on to production. Prizes and sales royalties will be awarded to community members who make significant contributions. To learn more, sign up at FirstBuild.com.

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About GE
GE (NYSE: GE) works on things that matter. The best people and the best technologies taking on the toughest challenges. Finding solutions in energy, health and home, transportation and finance. Building, powering, moving and curing the world. Not just imagining. Doing. GE works. For more information, visit the company's website at www.ge.com.

About GE Appliances
GE Appliances is at the forefront of building innovative, energy-efficient appliances that improve people’s lives. GE Appliances’ products include refrigerators, freezers, cooking products, dishwashers, washers, dryers, air conditioners, water filtration systems and water heaters. General Electric works on things that matter to build a world that works better. For more information on GE Appliances, visit www.ge.com/appliances.

*Microfactory, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of GE, and FirstBuild is a registered trademark of Microfactory, Inc.

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