GE's FirstBuild facility opens its doors

The FirstBuild microfactory opened today, and it has already generated a number of small-batch appliance concepts.

Megan Wollerton Former Senior Writer/Editor
3 min read

Watch this: GE's new microfactory wants to recruit you

FirstBuild, a co-creation space dreamed up by GE and Local Motors, officially opened its doors to the public today.

At FirstBuild, you can take a slightly left-of-mainstream appliance concept and collaborate with fellow designers and engineers to realize your idea. A partnership with MakerBot makes small-batch production possible, and products built in the microfactory will be available for purchase in limited quantities on the FirstBuild website. Any appliances with particularly wide appeal will move on to larger GE manufacturing facilities for mass production.

A first look inside FirstBuild's finished facility (pictures)

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To mark its grand opening, FirstBuild showcased four appliance concepts that were already built on-site: an autofill, no-spill water pitcher; a food disposer that takes up less under-sink space and has anticlog sensors; a double-oven range with a top oven that opens like a drawer; and an oven that reads barcodes and uses custom instructions to prepare your meals for you. Sound pretty good? Read on.

FirstBuild's Smart Pitcher. Colin West McDonald/CNET

The Smart Pitcher is actually a plain ol' pitcher outfitted with magnets. When you stick an empty pitcher under the dispenser inside FirstBuild's modded refrigerator, it begins to fill with water automatically. As the pitcher fills up, the lower magnet begins to float toward the upper magnet. Once the two magnets meet, level sensors in the dispenser stop dispensing water. FirstBuild plans to add a water filter to the system next.

While the Smart Pitcher is still in prototype form, you will be able to buy the smart dispenser fridge and pitcher or the dispenser component and pitcher in a separate kit and retrofit them to your existing fridge (assuming you already have the corresponding model at home).

FirstBuild's Space-Saving, No-Stall Disposer. Colin West McDonald/CNET

FirstBuild also created a Space-Saving, No-Stall Disposer. Where traditional disposers take up a ton of room under the sink, this low-profile version is about 3.5 inches shorter and is designed to keep from damaging that wedding ring or other foreign object that accidentally made its way to the disposal. This concept also has a brushless motor and built-in sensors that help diagnose a potentially stalled motor. That should make clogs and frustrated calls to the plumber much less frequent.

FirstBuild's Easy-Slide Oven Door. Colin West McDonald/CNET

The Easy-Slide Oven Door is another new FirstBuild concept. Where you may have to reach inside a traditional oven to grab your food, this oven door slides out like a drawer. It also has a "peek" feature that lets you crack open the door to see what's going on inside without having to fully interrupt the cooking process. I'm not sure why FirstBuild deemed the oven light insufficient here, but I'm intrigued nonetheless.

FirstBuild's LineCook Oven. Colin West McDonald/CNET

LineCook is an oven concept imagined by Louisville hackerspace, LVL1. Since food is so often under-or overcooked, LVL1 wanted to find a way to get rid of the guesswork. The LineCook oven scans barcodes and QR codes and autosets the time, temperature, and method (broiling, baking, roasting, and so on) so you don't have to.

The pitcher, food disposer, and easy-slide oven are all expected to be available on FirstBuild.com in the next couple of months. The LineCook oven is also due out this year, but a bit later. There's no word on pricing for any of these small-batch products as of yet.

GE today also announced new updates to its mainstream appliance lines.