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GE Adds MakerBot To Majap Development Initiative

LOUISVILLE, KY. — GE Appliances has expanded its collaborative majap development and manufacturing initiative with the additions of desktop 3D printing leader MakerBot and TechShop, a workshop and fabrication studio for engineering enthusiasts.

The GE initiative, dubbed FirstBuild, was launched by GE in May as a global online community where engineers, scientists and home enthusiasts can collaborate on developing “breakthrough” white goods.

GE said it created the program to better compete with appliance manufacturers who, like BSH, LG and Samsung, can leverage their electronics expertise in developing next-generation majaps.

FirstBuild’s initial focus is on kitchen appliances, and the community has been tasked with creating an indoor grill and a space-saving “micro-kitchen” for urban dwellers. Concepts for the latter include a single integrated cooking, dishwashing and refrigeration unit dubbed the “monoblock,” a drawer-based modular platform that can contain a dishwasher, conventional and microwave ovens, and a convertible refrigerator/freezer.

GE plans to fast-track the products into small-batch production at a micro-factory it is opening this summer at the University of Louisville, and will sell the appliances online at and on-site in a factory store.

The most popular concepts may be scaled up for mass production, GE said.

GE is similarly collaborating with, and has taken an equity position in, a crowd-funded New York start-up called Quirky that openly solicits product concepts and works with various manufacturers and retailers to quickly bring them to market. GE is particularly interested in Quirky’s home automation spinoff, Wink, which has developed an open platform and such connected products as Aros, a room A/C that self-adjusts to usage patterns and can be controlled remotely via mobile device.

GE has also enlisted the help of Local Motors, a Phoenix business that, like FirstBuild, provides an online product development platform for professionals, enthusiasts and hobbyists worldwide, and also operates a growing network of micro-factories.

“To win in the appliance industry, we have to innovate faster than ever before since we are now competing with companies that apply their rapid electronic products introduction strategy to the appliance industry,” GE Appliances technology VP Kevin Nolan said at the time of the launch announcement.

“This new model will enable us to be more creative in the design and delivery of the products, and do so with lower risk and cost while drastically reducing the time from mind to market. FirstBuild will also enable us to move select products to larger scale production with more confidence because they will have been vetted by the new platform first,” he said.

The company said its latest partnerships, with Maker- Bot and TechShop, “will enhance GE’s collaboration with engineers and makers, providing additional opportunities to engage this community.”

Founded in 2009, Brooklyn-based MakerBot sells its desktop 3D printers through The Home Depot, Micro Center, Microsoft stores and its own boutique shops for use by engineers, architects, designers, educators and consumers.

San Jose, Calif.-based TechShop offers a workshop, fabrication studio, instructional classes and networking opportunities to members.