If you’ve spent any time at all reading about recent tech news and developments, you’re aware of the shift toward smart appliances and a drive toward making the “Internet of Things” a reality. GE has taken a step toward that with the company’s recent announcement that it would offer 3D printable accessories for its line of smart refrigerators.
What’s behind the new push, and what can you print? What can you add to your fridge?
Kick the Dumb Fridge to the Curb
GE did more than just announce a new line of accessories. The company actually manufactured a refrigerator designed specifically for those who like to experiment with electronics and 3D printing.
The “ChillHub” is a new fridge that lets hackers and hobbyists tweak things to their hearts’ content. It’s in the same vein as the customizable Roomba robotic vacuum from iRobot, but goes much further.
Specifically, the new refrigerator was designed to let 3D printing fans create gadgets and new techniques for making their appliance smarter.
The new fridge was built on the FirstBuild platform, which is designed to be a sort of open source forum for makers. You can create gadgets, design them, and then upload your designs to the forum, where others can download and use them, or modify them to provide additional functionality.
It’s very much a “share and share alike” platform.
Currently, there’s only a single accessory available through FirstBuild. Called, “the Milky Weigh”, it’s a 3D printable scale that fits under a gallon of milk.
The scale weighs the jug and lets you know when you’re running low (in case you couldn’t see through the side of the jug). Users can calibrate the scale for the specific type of milk container being used (gallon, half-gallon, etc.).
After a certain point, the scale automatically alerts you that you’re getting low.
The scale connects to the fridge (and the fridge’s Wi-Fi capabilities) through a provided USB port, of which there are several inside the refrigerator itself. Aside from the obvious potential to create yet another tangle of cords in your life, this ensures that the scale’s processor is able to transmit necessary data, which is available to you through GE’s app.
As for the future of accessories, GE intends to do two things. First, they can be downloaded and printed at no cost to users.
Second, users without access to their own 3D printer can purchase the accessories they want from GE (which opens up a whole slew of licensing and rights considerations for developers signing up with the FirstBuild platform, but that’s another discussion entirely).
The ChillHub will be available to consumers for approximately $3,000 and is completely open source, relying on GE’s Green Bean circuit board for communication and hacking. There’s currently no price listed for the Milky Weigh, but the design is already available for those with their own printers interested in automating their milk consumption.