April 17, 2014

Back in March, GE announced its plan to parnter with Local Motors, the first car company to co-create vehicles online with its virtual community, to create a new model for the manufacturing industry. On Wednesday, GE announced its first micro-factory, FirstBuild, will be in Louisville, Ky., GE Appliances' headquarters.

Image: GE

The new 35,000-square-foot FirstBuild micro-factory will be located on the University of Louisville (UofL) Belknap Campus and will officially open this summer. The location will enable easy access for engineering, advanced manufacturing and other student activities to build a strong local network of on-site community members.

The new FirstBuild community will also provide a platform for a global community of innovators to prototype, iterate and refine existing GE products, as well as surface new designs.

The company chose Louisville for its first micro factory because of support from U of L and the city, said Kevin Nolan, GE Appliances' vice president of technology. "It is also important to be close to GE Appliances' design and engineering teams to ensure real-time iteration as small batch production of community designs are transitioned to larger scale production."

Local community members will be encouraged to work alongside FirstBuild employees to bring the community designs to life.

UofL, which owns the building where FirstBuild will be housed, will be much more involved than a typical landlord. UofL and GE Appliances have plans to create an Advanced Manufacturing hub where students can conduct research while getting practical training on the latest 3D printing and technologies in the micro-factory setting. Officials said the facility, which will be open three days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., will include a showroom and kitchen demonstration area, along with metal and woodworking shops.

FirstBuild employees and on-site community members will use social media tools daily to keep community members around the world appraised of the progress being made at the facility on the designs they helped to create.

UofL will invest $1.3 million to renovate the space which is scheduled to open in July.

"To win in the appliance industry we have to innovate faster than ever before since we are now competing with companies that apply their rapid electronics products introduction strategy to the appliance industry," Kevin Nolan, GE Appliances' vice president of technology, said in the release.

"This new model will enable us to be more creative in the design and delivery of the products and do so with lower risk and cost while drastically reducing the time from mind to market. FirstBuild will also enable us to move select products to larger scale production with more confidence because they will have been vetted by the new platform first."

Posted in Hackerspaces

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