GE has partnered with 3D printer maker Stratasys to build and commercialize household appliances and accessories.
With help from design firm Local Motors, GE Appliances created FirstBuild, an affiliate that will develop a new prototyping model.
The business plan is to use crowdsourcing to gather ideas (individuals design and submit concepts) and then engineering students from the University of Louisville will work with Stratasys 3D printers at the FirstBuild's "micro-factory" to rapidly prototype and test the concepts.
Natarajan Venkatakrishnan, director of FirstBuild and Advanced Technologies for GE Appliances, said the 3D prototyping program will also give University of Louisville engineering students and others who work on this equipment at FirstBuild "a significant advantage as they pursue jobs in technical fields."
Through FirstBuild's website, individuals can design and submit ideas, and a community of home enthusiasts, designers, engineers and makers will also be able to test the ideas.
FirstBuild will then manufacture and deliver the next-generation appliances to customers.
"We believe that the prospects of tapping into the hardware innovation scene are very promising," Gilad Gans, president of Stratasys North America, said in a statement. "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."