New GE Ice Maker Brings Sonic's Nugget Ice Home

If "nugget ice" is in your vocabulary, you'll want this machine.

Credit: GE FirstBuild

GE's FirstBuild microfactory has been on a roll. From its Micro Living concept, to its Bluetooth sous-vide thermometer, to its Paragon Induction Cooktop, the makerspace is really trying to shake up the kitchen.

Now FirstBuild is back in the spotlight thanks to its newest creation, the Opal Nugget Ice Maker. If you're an ice aficionado, your ears probably just perked up, because this little countertop machine will let you make the chewy ice made famous by Sonic fast food restaurants.

Ice cube hero flickr


How Does an Ice Maker Work?

The Opal was crowdfunded on Indiegogo, where it raised some $2,771,463 from almost 6,500 individual backers. That's downright impressive for any household appliance, and especially for an ice maker.

"We never considered it would be 300 percent funded on our first day," said Taylor Dawson, FirstBuild's product evangelist. Dawson spoke with us about the Opal, including the surprising fandom around nugget ice.

"People would go out of their way to go to a Sonic on the weekend, to pick up enough nugget ice so they could serve it at a party or have it for their family to use over the weekend," said Dawson.

"People would go out of their way to go to a Sonic on the weekend to pick up enough nugget ice."

He added that FirstBuild's research found a three-to-one preference for nugget ice over traditional crescent ice from home ice makers. Nugget ice is also more popular in the U.S. south, and among women.

The device makes nugget ice by scraping ice buildup off of an aluminum cylinder and packing it into a mold, yielding a result that's 50 percent air. The device can make 1 pound of ice per hour and hold up to 3 pounds of ice in total. Dawson said it makes ice faster than a refrigerator, and can store just as much.

The Opal has no water line, meaning you have to fill it manually. However, it will recycle water from melted ice in its bin and turn it back into fresh, usable ice.

While FirstBuild has been working on making appliances smarter, there is no smart functionality in the Opal. However, Dawson said FirstBuild will be taking feedback from buyers about what changes they would like to see.

If you'd like to get your very own Opal Nugget Ice Maker, you can pre-order one for $449. Once the device is released this summer, it will retail for $499.

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