After several successful steps in the process of commercializing their 3D printed bicycles, Superstrata and Arevo are now selling 3D printed carbon fiber bikes and e-bikes online via the Superstrata website. Customers can visit the online store and purchase personalized carbon fiber bikes 3D printed using Arevo’s unique technology. The development has significant implications for additive manufacturing (AM) and specifically carbon fiber 3D printing as a whole.
In August, Arevo announced a $25 million series B funding round that allowed it to launch its newest carbon fiber 3D printer, the Aqua 2, with which it could produce continuous carbon fiber composite objects up to one cubic meter in size at a rate of four times faster than the company’s previous system. Silicon Valley bike brand Superstrata then launched a successful crowdfunding campaign that allowed it to raise $7,227,867 from almost 5,000 backers to produce the first of its carbon fiber bicycles and e-bikes using Arevo’s technology.
With the campaign, the company was able to get its products off the ground and has now opened its online store. Customers can use a made-to-order configuration platform called the Superstrata Studio, where one can enter their own measurements, as well as select riding style and preferences, color, design and other options to purchase a personalized bicycle.
According to Arevo Chief Revenue Officer, Tuan TranPham, Superstrata is a powerful demonstrator product for the company:
“We wanted to show what we can do, and the scale at which we can do it so we can find partners we could serve. We wanted to print something complex. Something big. Something you couldn’t have produced from a traditional 3D printer or composite fabrication process.”
Maneesh Jain, Arevo VP of Engineering and Operations, echoes his point:
“The Superstrata embodies the convergence of the most exciting aspects in additive manufacturing to date: an innovative, fully customizable design that can be produced at scale and speed, enabled by cutting edge technology in robotics and materials science. This project reminds me a lot of the excitement I had when I was working at Tesla.”
They’re not wrong. The production of carbon fiber reinforced parts is a time and labor-intensive one. Previous methods for automation were mostly limited to the aerospace industry, where businesses could afford the expensive layup equipment available. Now, a host of startups have developed methods for 3D printing parts with fiber reinforcement. While Markforged may have been the pioneer in the space, Arevo is on the way to delivering the first 3D printed carbon fiber products to market and at scales previously unprecedented.
This is significant not only for carbon fiber 3D printing, which is just now beginning to emerge from infancy, but for 3D printing as a whole. As important as our readers already know AM to be, it still has not quite penetrated the world of end products. So far, hearing aids and invisible aligners remain the killer app for 3D printing.
If Superstrata’s bikes can offer a superior product than other, traditionally made bicycles at the same price point, then they may be able to demonstrate the value of 3D printing for bicycle production. For e-bicycles, they are definitely priced competitively, with Superstrata e-bikes tagged at $3,999. However, they offer a level of customization unavailable with other e-bikes on the market and a lighter weight frame that can counter the heavy battery associated with these vehicles. While the Superstrata e-bike weighs about 24.2 pounds, most e-bikes range from 38 to 70 pounds.
Unlike hearing aids, however, luxury bicycles do not fall into the essential medical device category, so it is difficult to imagine how they might reach the levels of success that those products have. Nevertheless, Arevo has chosen wisely for a demonstrator item to enter into the market.
So far, Superstrata claims that, in addition to consumers, it has launched special edition bikes with support from large brands. These editions include the iconic Japanese superhero Ultraman, Le Petit Prince, from the French story by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and Time Warp, one of the world’s largest electronic music festivals. Outside of these specific brands, Arevo itself has received support from its investors, which include GGV Capital, Defy Partners, Alabaster, Khosla Ventures and, certainly not least, In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA.
That means that, while they may be 3D printing bikes for consumers, the company may be up to other ventures behind the scenes. What those are we may never know.
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