This is awesome! It’s realllllly brilliant. I mean, this is how things should have been working all along!
Just joshin’! So here’s what the smart thing is: Massdrop is a website that pools together product orders from different customers wishing to purchase the same item. Once the number of orders is sufficient to make a bulk purchase, Massdrop bypasses retailers and buys the items directly from the manufacturer, saving all involved a pretty penny. Why are we covering this on 3DPI?
Well, Massdrop’s platform can be used for almost anything you can think of: board games, headphones, weight gain supplements, even 3D printers. The way that items are chosen for bulk ordering is based on a community poll. If you’d like to see something on Massdrop, you suggest it and the community votes. Once an item is selected by the group, Massdrop calls the manufacturer and negotiates a discounted price. Each product is sold at three different price points. If you can only find a small number of people to go in on a discounted item with you, the price will be shaved off just a little. The more people you can find to join “the Drop”, the bigger the discount will be. If the product doesn’t gain a sufficient amount of interest, the Drop doesn’t go through and you’ll have to go somewhere else to buy it at full price.
According to the site’s spokesperson, many of their customers have begun taking interest in 3D printing. One user, Will, initiated a vote on which 3D printer Massdrop should pursue. The winning machine was the Printrbot Jr. V2, beating out products as diverse as the Form 1, Cube, and Bukobot. As a result, they negotiated a price with the printer manufacturer to offer the Printrbot Jr. V2 kit at a $90 discount; that is, if you can find 30 people to buy it. If you can only find 10 people interested in the deal, the discount would be about $30. It’s not too late to activate bulk discounts for the aforementioned machines, as long as enough people vote to have them sold on Massdrop. Thanks to the unique voting method on the site, customers can also purchase ABS filament at discounted prices, too.
You can imagine that such a scheme doesn’t always work out, with some products just not pooling enough interest from the community, so the Massdrop platform is dependent on a combination of an item’s popularity and the social networking power of those seeking discounts. If you can spread the word around Reddit, Twitter and various 3D printing forums, you can get better prices.
I’m not a spokesperson for the company, but the site has a tremendous practical and conceptual appeal. Because Massdrop plans on selling new 3D printer components weekly, it’s not difficult for me to imagine members of the RepRap community getting together to “unlock” bulk prices on NEMA stepper motors, threaded rods and Arduino boards. At the same time, I love that Massdrop sort of measures the Zeitgeist with a dollar sign. If it grew in sufficient popularity, you could use Massdrop to measure the popularity of given consumer goods the same way that Twitter is used to track conversations on a global scale. So, even though they’re not paying me, I still think it’s a great idea.