Since 2012, GE has been taking its mobile fablab, the GE Garage, on a US tour, allowing public access to a range of neat Maker tools, like CNC machines, laser cutters and 3D printers. Most recently, the GE Garage popped up in Washington D.C. to expose tourists, politicians, lobbyists and whoever else may be hanging around the nation’s capital, to its hi-tech equipment. The best part of the marketing campaign is that ordinary individuals get to play with extraordinary stuff, as you can gather from this 2012 SXSW GE Garage video below:
This particular program however, which launched on March 21 and extends until April 9, is located at 1122 Connecticut Ave NW in Downtown Washington, DC, just half a mile from the White House. This is a prime spot to attract tourists to use the company’s MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printers for such projects as printing smartphone cases, in addition to the demos, workshops, and classes being offered by the fablab. Sponsored in part by Skillshare, Quirky, Make, and Inventables, GE Garages are meant to inspire participants to pursue their own inventive ideas through the exploration of GE’s tools with the help of technical experts, which GE hopes will “reinvigorate America’s interest in invention, innovation, and manufacturing.” After treating people in the US to “Build Your Own Weather Clock” and “3D Printing 101” workshops, as well as opportunities to design GE’s next fridge, GE will be taking their garages on a global tour.
While on tour, the manufacturing multinational will showcase its Firstbuild program, an extension of GE’s crowdsourcing efforts. Firstbuild is a “radically open community” where anyone can work to innovate GE’s existing products or design new ones. The initiative was developed in partnership with Local Motors, responsible for the crowd-designed Rally Fighter automobile, and plans to take community sourced designs through the traditional manufacturing steps of testing, rapid prototyping and small-volume production. Firstbuild will launch in summer of 2014, but you can get a sense of what it will be like by watching the video below:
Both the GE Garage and Firstbuild concepts are interesting ways for revamping the company’s image. Firstbuild is an especially intriguing way for the company to exploit the 21st century crowdsourcing model for its own ends. The question is whether or not these new gimmicks reflect a mere change in GE’s public face or a change in the way the company itself does business.
Source: Tech Cocktail
 What could be more radical than something driven by the 26th largest corporation in America, the ninth worst air polluter in the United States in 2010 according to the Political Economy Research Institute, responsible both for the designs of the reactors at Fukushima and the designs of Ronald Reagan?