Elizabeth Montalbano

October 3, 2014

3 Min Read
Stratasys Adds 3D Printing to Next-Gen Smart Appliances

Stratasys will lend its 3D printing expertise to GE's community effort to build the next-generation of home appliances.

The 3D printing manufacturer and service provider is providing 3D printers as part of a new partnership of FirstBuild, an affiliate of GE that aims to use the ingenuity of technologists in an online community to build more intelligent appliances.

3D printers from Stratasys will go to work in the FirstBuild Microfactory in Louisville, Kentucky. The printers will join woodworking, welding, and other tools as part of the initial testing and building of products.

"FirstBuild has many printers from Stratasys, including FDM technology from the Fortus 400 and uPrint, as well as Polyjet multi-material color printing with the Connex3," Bruce Bradshaw, director of Marketing at Stratasys, told Design News. "FirstBuild has also partnered with MakerBot, a Stratasys company, and has several MakerBot 3D printers on hand."

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FirstBuild is a partnership between GE Appliances and Local Motors that attempts to create a new development model for the appliance industry by bringing together a community of industrial designers, scientists, engineers, hobbyist inventors, and early adopters to foster innovation and use existing technology for next-generation designs.

The organization then will manufacture designs in its Microfactory in Louisville, with a goal of rapid product introduction and iteration.

Once products are built, they will be sold through FirstBuild's website and also a retail store onsite at the factory, as well as through traditional retail channels.

For example, one member of the community created an induction charging mat that can be installed under a kitchen countertop to create a "powered" surface. Another created a temperature sensor and plug-in cooktop that takes the temperature of food or liquid inside pots and cycles heating based on user selection.

While 3D printing is becoming more prevalent in fields like aerospace and medicine, home appliances are as yet a largely untapped market, Bradshaw told us. The company thought that partnering with FirstBuild was a good way to bring 3D printing to a new space as well as support an interesting project.

"There are few stories like FirstBuild that highlight products each and every one of us are impacted by daily," he said. "Clearly appliances are a prime example of just this. FirstBuild also is focused on bringing cool ideas to market quickly, and 3D printing is the ideal tool to enable this to happen."

FirstBuild, too, sees Stratasys' participation as a boon to the project, said Natarajan Venkatakrishnan, director of FirstBuild and director of Advanced Technologies for GE Appliances, in a press release.

"Incorporating Stratasys' leading additive manufacturing technology into our micro-factory capabilities provides an enormous benefit in both product development and production by saving us time, money, and resources," he said.

The partnership also gives engineering students at the University of Louisville an opportunity to work with 3D printers and thus gives them an educational advantage when they enter the job market, Venkatakrishnan added.

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About the Author(s)

Elizabeth Montalbano

Elizabeth Montalbano has been a professional journalist covering the telecommunications, technology and business sectors since 1998. Prior to her work at Design News, she has previously written news, features and opinion articles for Phone+, CRN (now ChannelWeb), the IDG News Service, Informationweek and CNNMoney, among other publications. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she also has lived and worked in Phoenix, Arizona; San Francisco and New York City. She currently resides in Lagos, Portugal. Montalbano has a bachelor's degree in English/Communications from De Sales University and a master's degree from Arizona State University in creative writing.

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