A new ice age is upon us! The Opal lets you create a pound of crunchy nugget ice in an hour, right from home.
Contrary to what you may believe, ice is no longer just for chilling drinks, preserving meats and treating sprains. In areas like the South, it’s become a munchable snack for extremely hot summer days. Called nugget ice, this particular form of frozen H2O is soft and easy to chew, however outside of chain restaurants like Sonic and your local convenience store, it’s hard to come by. That was until now, at least.
FirstBuild — a co-creation space founded by GE and Local Motors — will let you satisfy your nugget cravings from right inside your own home with an affordable countertop maker. And while similar machines may already be on the market today, their price tag keeps them out of reach from most everyday consumers who aren’t looking to shell out upwards of two to three thousand dollars. Instead, Opal can soon be yours for a mere fraction of the cost ($499).
Having had the chance to see it firsthand at Maker Faire Bay Area, Opal boasts a sleek, aesthetically-pleasing design that will surely match the decor of any kitchen. The stainless steel device plugs into an electrical outlet and holds three pounds of ice, which is about as much as a typical refrigerator. Opal produces its first nuggets in 15 minutes, and can create a pound of ice each hour. The unit, which measures 16.5” x 10.5” x 14”, includes a crystal-clear, removable bin that easily slides out and tilts forward for access to the ice, as well as a capacitive touch interface for control. And you know what makes it even cooler (no pun intended)? It has an Arduino Micro (ATmega32U4) driving its indicator light!
What’s more, the Opal can be plugged into any standard 120V outlet and doesn’t require a dedicated water line to operate. The machine works by packing together small ice crystals, forming nuggets of soft yet crunchy ice. Not only do they cool down beverages like your coffee or soda faster than conventional cubes, the air pockets in each nugget absorb the flavor of the drink as it drops in temp, leaving a chewable and tasty refreshment for those who enjoy snacking on the ice when the liquid is gone.
For those unfamiliar with the community, FirstBuild is a new model of manufacturing that challenges Makers from around the world to dream up home appliance innovations. Earlier this year, Atmel had the opportunity to sponsor its inaugural 33-hour mega hackathon that brought together more than 200 DIYers, designers and engineers at its microfactory in Louisville to mod and build sci-fi-like equipment for the smart house of tomorrow. Evident by the sheer volume of ingenuity from that weekend, the crowdsourced design of Opal is just the beginning of real IoT applications generated by the Maker community.
Want one for your kitchen? The wait is almost over, as Opal made its debut on Indiegogo on July 28th — a date that also marked the one-year anniversary of FirstBuild. Keep in mind, this isn’t the co-creation community’s first crowdfunding effort either. Back in January, the team garnered over $316,000 for its Paragon Induction Cooktop, and the nugget ice maker has well surpassed its sibling’s success. The Opal ranks ninth on Indiegogo’s top 10 list of campaigns that have raised the most funds in 24 hours, and the 13th fastest to reach the half million dollar mark.
The initial batch of units is expected to begin shipping in July 2016 — right in time to help keep cool next summer!