FirstBuild + Upverter

A New Way to Innovate

FirstBuild is a wholly-owned subsidiary of General Electric Appliances in Louisville, Kentucky and is in partnership with Local Motors who provided a cutting-edge model for how they planned to co-create new appliance products. A micro-factory on the campus of the University of Louisville is where the company of about twenty employees work full-time, but anyone can contribute. The micro-factory itself builds prototypes and does low-volume manufacturing, but when an idea is really successful through FirstBuild it can later be scaled up to be a GE product. FirstBuild has developed a truly open way of creating new products by not only soliciting ideas from the community but also freelance contributions to the project where contributors are rewarded for their efforts. FirstBuild needed a new electronics design tool that enabled the kind of collaboration that would allow them to openly and cooperatively source design efforts from the hardware community.

FirstBuild is changing the emphasis to speed to market. The model, that we’ve learned from Local Motors, is that we have this community that creates products with us. What Upverter allowed us to do is work more closely with the community in a way that, say, the mechanical engineers, haven’t been able to yet. Portrait of Tim Gillespie

Tim Gillespie

Electronics Manager, FirstBuild

Collaborative and Accelerated Electronics Design

FirstBuild chose Upverter for their hardware design platform because Upverter is the only electronics CAD suite that has collaboration built-in. Speed and ease of use were equally important to FirstBuild’s success.

One thing that really sped up the PCB design flow was the ability to toggle between schematic and layout with just one button, there’s no netlist export/import process. Changes are immediately reflected in the layout that you made in the schematic. At the click of a button I can retrieve gerbers, that all adds to speed. There’s not a lot of wasted time and the outputs are reliable.

Tim Gillespie

Electronics Manager, FirstBuild

Upverter’s speed also provides a safe environment to quickly try out new ideas. Its subscription-based license as well as its streamlined, easy to use interface is welcoming to new electronics designers. This friendly way to learn hardware design was attractive to FirstBuild’s plan to harvest help from the wider community.

I can use it anywhere and I can quickly prototype and ‘tinker’ with it. A lot of the traditional CAD tools collaboration was going to be a big obstacle, with either the cost of the license or the learning curve for the open community. That was not an issue with Upverter.

Tim Gillespie

Electronics Manager, FirstBuild

Success with Chill Hub

FirstBuild launched a product where they retrofitted an existing GE refrigerator with USB terminals inside the fridge and their own previously developed Green Bean module to create their Internet of Things refrigerator, the Chill Hub. Every aspect of this project has been open source, and community members contributed to its success. FirstBuild’s vision was to build a backbone that would provide power and a connection to the cloud. Their goal was to enable further innovation for people who want to design accessories.

FirstBuild Chill Hub image
FirstBuild Chill Hub image FirstBuild Green Bean image

Upverter Goes Above and Beyond

Upverter’s tools include world-class service and support at your fingertips. Live-chat enables one of our readily-available engineers with hardware design experience to help you through any troubles you might be having.

Upverter’s support, the chat and how responsive it is to get answers and new features, how rapidly they come out. Working in the past with other EDA tools, we pretty much relied exclusively on in-house experts instead of using their support.

Tim Gillespie

Electronics Manager, FirstBuild

The Upverter tutorials are done really well. If you want to learn you go through the tutorial and then you have the basics of what you need to use the tool. It just kinda does the things you expect it to do.

Tim Gillespie

Electronics Manager, FirstBuild

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