Will your next refrigerator be 3D printed? That's a real possibility, as Stratasys Ltd. (Eden Prairie, MN), a global innovator of 3D printing and additive manufacturing solutions, announced its partnership with GE affiliate FirstBuild (Louisville, KY). The partnership combines co-creation and micro-manufacturing to build and commercialize the next evolution of various GE appliances and accessories by leveraging 3D printing and other advanced manufacturing processes in an open innovation approach to engineering.
GE Appliances, a subsidiary of General Electric Co., in collaboration with Local Motors (Phoenix, AZ), established FirstBuild, a new model for the appliance industry aimed to allow concepts to rapidly reach the marketplace. Individuals design and submit ideas, and a community of home enthusiasts, designers, engineers, and makers tests out the ideas and creates the products with the help of Stratasys 3D-printing technology. FirstBuild will then manufacture and deliver the next generation of major home appliances to customers.
"We believe that the prospects of tapping into the hardware innovation scene are very promising," said Gilad Gans, President, Stratasys North America. "This is an outstanding opportunity to help revolutionize the way things are made. This is an open-innovation environment, where FirstBuild users will be able to use our cutting-edge technology to accelerate product development phases and create real products."
Stratasys 3D printers will go to work in the FirstBuild micro-factory, located in Louisville, KY, which is where ideas may come to grow into real products. 3D printing along with woodworking, welding, and other tools will be used to test and build the initial products. The micro-factory will manufacture products and sell them through FirstBuild's website and retail store, located at the micro-factory, and through traditional retail channels.
"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," said Natarajan "Venkat" Venkatakrishnan, Director of FirstBuild and Director of Advanced Technologies for GE Appliances. "It will also give the University of Louisville engineering students and others who work on this equipment at FirstBuild a significant advantage as they pursue jobs in technical fields."
GE announced on Sept. 8 that it has sold its appliance division to Swedish appliance maker Electrolux AB for $3.3 billion. According to releases from GE, this will be the first time in the company's more than 100-year history that it will no longer sell products directly to consumers, but will be a supplier to other businesses through its aviation and industrial product divisions.
When asked by PlasticsToday how the sale of the appliance division might affect its partnership with FirstBuild, Stratasys responded, in a statement, that it "does not anticipate that the FirstBuild partnership will be affected by this acquisition."
In other GE news with respect to additive manufacturing, the Cincinnati Business Courier reported on Sept. 19 that GE Aviation plans to bring more than 50 new jobs to West Chester, OH, as part of its new $140 million Additive Development Center. According to Andy Brownfield, a journalist for the Cincinnati Business Courier, the Ohio Third Frontier Commission awarded $2.5 million to the company on Sept. 18 to modify the center. "GE Aviation is expected to create 53 new jobs and retain 87 existing jobs as a condition of the Third Frontier support," said Brownfield.
The Additive Development Center is an outgrowth of GE Aviation's April 2013 acquisition of Morris Technologies Inc. (Sharonville, OH). The center uses 3D printing (additive manufacturing) to manufacture components for GE Aviation jet engines.