FirstBuild is a global online community and makerspace/microfactory backed by GE Appliances, a Haier company. The physical space is located in the Engineering Garage on the University of Louisville's Belknap campus, and is open to students and community members who want to tinker and build. 

According to Brookings, citing a report from Deloitte, FirstBuild has been held up as “a model for adapting to a changing competitive environment that disadvantages large firms.”

Entrepreneurs, makers and students can use FirstBuild's advanced manufacturing and rapid prototyping tools, like laser cutters and 3-D printers. There's a space for brainstorming, demonstrating products, fabricating and assembly. 

Everything you need to bring your ideas to life, and maybe even get them to market. And because your ideas are protected under a Creative Commons License, you maintain ownership.

Let's get started. 

» Brainstorming

» Prototyping

» Fabricating

» Assembling

» Selling





Before you get started on your product idea, or maybe if you hit a bump along the way, you'll need to brainstorm. FirstBuild has space and tools for you, including: 

  • Whiteboards;
  • Conference rooms;
  • And co-working space. 

Or, you can solicit the help of the online maker community on FirstBuild's co-create platform. Got an idea to build a better toaster — maybe one that butters one side for you, or also cooks a perfect sunny-side-up egg. Throw your idea out to the online maker community, and get feedback and advice from other ideators around the world.



The co-working spaces on-site at FirstBuild's microfactory and makerspace are open to the community, but you'll need to sign in and get a badge. 

The online co-creation platform is also open. Just create a profile to get started. 


Now that you have your idea, you'll need a prototype. That's where FirstBuild's makerspace comes in, giving you access to the equipment and tools you need to make your idea a reality. 

Materials are also available for purchase in FirstBuild's shop, including sheet metal, plastic and wood. Here is a list of available tools and materials. 

Equipment in the prototyping lab includes:



The FirstBuild prototyping lab is open to community members older than 18, or those older than 13, if accompanied by a parent or guardian. The lab offers tools like Makerbots, electronics benches and a laser printer. 

Just sign in at the front desk and get your maker badge and a parking pass. 


You may also need fabrication. The machinery in FirstBuild's fabrication shop is advanced, and requires the skill and experience of a craftsperson to operate. 

Materials are also available for purchase in FirstBuild's shop, including sheet metal, plastic and wood. Here is a list of available tools and materials. 

Equipment in the fabrication shop includes:

  • Amada laser, for cutting thick metals;
  • Water jet, for cutting  aluminum or steel sheet metals;
  • CNC press/break, which uses hydraulics to bend sheets of metal;
  • Shop bot, for cutting, carving, drilling and machining a variety of materials;
  • And a vertical access CNC mill.



The FirstBuild fabrication shop requires a little more expertise, and is only open to those who qualify for "craftsmen" badges.

Craftsmen have past experience with fabrication tools like the ones in the FirstBuild shop.


Now that you have your prototype, it's time to put everything together.

FirstBuild manufactures and assembles many of the products it develops on-site at the University of Louisville. (You may be familiar with the Opal Ice Nugget Machine or the Paragon Induction Cooktop.)

For more information on the assembly space, please visit



Access to the microfactory assembly space is limited to FirstBuild employees only. 


After you go through the research and development process online or in-person, FirstBuild may even be able to help you sell and promote it. This may be done online, through FirstBuild's dedicated web store or in-person, such as in the microfactory.

Some really great projects may even be picked up by FirstBuild as its next big product. More information on compensation is available here