The Opal Nugget Ice Maker is an affordable nugget ice maker for your home. Outside of a few restaurant chains and gas station snack bars, however, nugget ice is hard to come by. Also, the nugget ice machines qualified for home use, they’re exorbitantly priced at about 2 to 3 thousand dollars a pop. GE’s FirstBuild microfactory plans to disrupt the nugget ice market with its fresh appliance, the $499 Opal Nugget Ice.

Opal nugget ice is made by scraping the ice flakes off the inside of a chilled aluminum cylinder. The flakes are extruded through a round hole, compacting them into frozen nuggets of air and ice. Nugget ice is about 50% air by volume, and those tiny pinholes of air between the ice flakes are the secret to soft, chewable, flavorful ice. Simply add water to the filling reservoir under the bucket. 6 cups of water is enough to make 3 pounds of ice. The reservoir has a max fill line that indicates the amount of water to be added to the icemaker.

Designed to produce sought-after nugget ice at home and with speed, the more affordable Opal Nugget Ice Maker is also compact and made to fit easily on to cramped kitchen counters. The Opal will boast a bevy of high-tech sensors too for automatic operation plus feature multi purpose controls and a colorful LED status light. Occupying the center of the appliance is a large, transparent ice bucket. Deeply recessed into the machine, it almost sits flush with the Opal’s front face. This helps the clear container act as a window to ice production and provides a fast way to check how much ice you have on hand.

Just because it’s small doesn’t mean the Opal Nugget Ice Maker isn’t built to perform. The Opal Nugget Ice maker can create 1 pound of nugget ice per hour. Given this speed you’ll be able to hit the Opal’s maximum ice capacity of 3 pounds in 3 hours. By comparison your average kitchen refrigerator’s ice maker needs a full day to make the same amount of ice. Hidden underneath the ice bucket is the Opal’s 6-cup reservoir, which should supply enough water for 3 pounds worth of nugget ice.

Above the bucket is the Opal Nugget Ice’s only control, a circular thumb-size button. Ringed by an LED that changes color to match which mode the machine is in, the button will command the Opal to perform various duties and also indicate the device’s status. These include modes for standby, error, and of course ice making. At the time of my Opal Nugget Ice demo, though, FirstBuild engineers said they were still hammering out details for the control’s operation.

Opal Nugget Ice Maker is smart enough to know when to start and stop making ice. It’s equipped with a sensor that will identify the fill level of the bucket to turn the ice maker on and off. Just like in any cooler, ice will slowly melt within the air-insulated bucket. Opal will automatically turn on to make sure that the bucket is refilling with ice.