GE’s Justin Brown and Taylor Dawson came by and spoke to us about why company’s appliance team started the FirstBuild maker community, how platforms can bring community and product builders together to accelerate development, and how IoT represents the promise of gaining benefits from technology as it connects to people.

Why would GE Appliances start FirstBuild?

Ideas take a long time to become products, but GE Appliances wanted to make the design and production ramp less daunting so young developers and engineers can create exciting new products.

See also: RW Video Interview — Monisha Perkash, founder of Lumo Bodytech

So it launched FirstBuild, a microfactory based on the University of Louisville campus, to give engineers the chance at prototyping ideas using state of the art machinery and a community of helpers.

Instead of the normal way of building and selling a product, the GE team wanted their own internal engineering groups to build their ideas alongside a community of “makers” that will help fix, refine, and improve the product.

Building the right maker partnerships

To do this, it has partnered with MakerBot and TechShop, two of the big names in the maker’s movement, to provide even more chances at being successful.

MakerBot and its parent company Stratasys will supply the FirstBuild microfactory with 3D printers and other machinery to prototype ideas without spending thousands, and TechShop has challenged its members to provide input, engineering advice, and tools to help projects succeed.

FirstBuild is calling for engineers to show their ideas off at its microfactory, which has 37,000 square feet, enough for 200 projects. Community director Justin Berger claims the concept is “taking off” with 20 people coming into the factory everyday to check out the machines and make ideas reality.

For engineers that want to win some money, FirstBuild has a competition that it runs regularly. Winners receive $2,500 and the microfactory builds the product and sells it in low-volume to test markets, with the opportunity to expand production if it sells quickly.

Two ideas have already made it through the competition, a micro-kitchen and indoor grill. And just last month, they had a winner for their “Cold Brew Coffee Challenge.” Nick Allen’s awesome looking Prisma Cold Brew Coffee Maker took home the win, and Justin and Taylor brought it to the ReadWrite offices so we could check it out.

We write and edit on deadlines, so we’re coffee people. Big, big coffee people. And this cold brew rocked. We look forward to more products out of the microfactory.