I’m female. I own a refrigerator. And you could say that I have an attitude when it comes to trying to put “intelligence” into my fridge. What on Earth for? I’m a consumer as well as an engineer, and I’m not convinced that I need a fridge sending me messages. (I get enough email.)
That being said, a recent design competition for items for this smart refrigerator was held that involved 3D printing and connectivity based on the Internet of Things. The goal to develop potentially useful “smart” items for the refrigerator resulted in some clever designs.
MakerBot and FirstBuild, GE Appliances’ global co-creation community, have been encouraging inventors and engineers to “hack” the refrigerator and create 3D printed prototypes that could become new accessories for the FirstBuild ChillHub—a refrigerator that they say is as smart as you. The ChillHub GE refrigerator will have Internet connectivity and integrated power sources inside the refrigerator. Users will be able to communicate with it through USB ports and a mobile app.
MakerBot and FirstBuild hosted the Icebox Challenge through Thingiverse.com and FirstBuild.com. The ideas entered ranged from purely 3D printed pieces to battery-operated electromechanical devices.
The three top entries, selected from almost 200 submissions from around the world were announced at CES. The winning prototypes are showcased in the MakerBot booth, #72711, at the Sands Expo Convention Center in Las Vegas.
First prize for the Icebox Challenge went to the Odor-Eating HotSpot by Kurt Hamel of Providence, Rhode Island. Hamel is a marine mechanical engineer who created this winning entry with inspiration from his wife. She helped guide his original idea of combining power and data to tackle a common issue: the use of a box of baking soda to keep the refrigerator smelling fresh.
Second prize went to the Rad Reindeer by Sebastian Kerner of Wismar, Germany, a mechanical engineer who is currently enrolled as an industrial design student. His Rad Reindeer bottle holder was inspired by his life as a student: His refrigerator was often filled with fast food and countless bottles and cans that would roll around.
For me, the design that I think is the most useful is the one that won third prize—the Butter Pig by Steve Weber of Indianapolis, Indiana. Weber is a software developer in the automotive industry. The inspiration for his design came when he was cooking dinner and kept needing another pat of butter. He would intermittently slice the butter, then put it back in the refrigerator, and then cut it again, each time dirtying a knife. His idea was to make a simple butter cutter with a guillotine on one end, but he needed a way to push the butter toward the cutting mechanism, so he came up with the corkscrew idea.
The first-prize winner and second-prize winner receive a MakerBot® Replicator® Desktop 3D Printer and a MakerBot Replicator Mini Compact 3D Printer, respectively. The third-prize winner receives Thingiverse and FirstBuild T-shirts, and his creation will be featured on Thingiverse and displayed in the MakerBot Retail Stores. All winners have the potential to see their winning design featured in the new ChillHub smart refrigerator, available at FirstBuild.com. (I think the third place winner Weber deserves a MakerBot too.)
The ChillHub is a 27.7-cubic-foot french-door ice and water refrigerator. It retails for $2,999. For more information about ChillHub, visit FirstBuild.com.