Sonny Vu Talks 3D Printing, Electric Bikes, & More (Video)
Sonny Vu heads a company that makes carbon fiber composite parts at scale. The company is now 3D printing a line of fully customized electric bikes. Sonny is the most engaging person I have interviewed for CleanTechnica. He is kind, educated, and thoughtful — so much so that I immediately felt the bicycle company he leads, Superstrata, must be forthright and sustainably intentioned. It is also based on science and scientifically oriented.
Speaking with Sonny, I found more than I hoped for in terms of sustainable endeavors. Along with that, a new twist. I’ve been a bicyclist all my life, yet I found it a unique opportunity to bicycle with the Superstrata, a bicycle made to fit. It is appreciably similar to a tailored outfit designed singularly for you. Your height, weight, wingspan, and adaptability to the bicycle are literally printed to fit you, your size, and your style.
The Superstrata Bike is the world’s first custom unibody carbon fiber composite bike and electric bike made with 3D printing!
Our conversation flowed similar to this interview below with Sonny Vu at this year’s CES in Las Vegas. Sonny talked of the value of the material — originally used for aerospace, drones, etc. — and now more directed to e-bikes, e-mobility products, and EV parts. He explains: “Anything where you need very high strength-to-weight ratio – and you need it right away.”
The 3D printing process is comparatively fast — a day or so — compared to being much longer in other composite processes. “There’s no way you can set up a composite line and get a sample part in that day. It’s usually, well, a year. “
During our personal interview, I felt Sonny expressed what many of us feel about living in this bike vs. cars world. He and I spoke the same belief, and had similar knowledge. What will significantly help to overcome the obstacles our children and grandchildren face in this climate-changing world? Mobility without space-grabbing, isolating, large and bulky vehicles.
Back to this bike: Another thing I love is the utilitarian beauty and simplicity. To receive the e-bicycle in a box that the house kitty and I could easily unpack and assemble was a modern daydream. It’s still hard to believe it’s a 3D printed bicycle, and needed no trip to the bicycle store to be put together.
Mobility is key. Most people are aware that we need clean, fresh air — and that clean transportation benefits us all. And the ability to right-size our transportation needs with custom electric bikes — made possible by cheap 3D printing technology — is one of the best ways to get there.
In a landscape of change, it is better to have in place more bicycle access and protected bicycle paths — along with less affordable but also important electric cars, trucks, and SUVs. That larger type of mobility gets stuck in traffic rather than zipping into small spaces. And this one is fit for the rider. As Kyle suggests,
“Why buy a bike that’s just a hair too small and have to adjust the seat to get it to fit perfectly, when you can just print up the perfect bike from the get-go? That was basically the premise behind Superstrata, and if the nearly $4 million in preorders on Indiegogo are any indication, buyers of electric bikes are extremely interested in the proposition.
“3D printing the entire frame in one pass means no additional seams, bolts, adhesives, or joints exist in the frame. That saves weight and increases the strength right off the bat. The customization of the bike stretches beyond just the size of the frame, as Superstrata is even offering buyers the ability to customize the stiffness of the frame.”
Another thing I’d like to share is this notion of “Why an e-bike; why not a regular bicycle?” As a young teen, yes, I fiercely bicycled on a winding thin road for 5–20 miles in the hills and small mountains — never dreaming of a battery charge. At that time, no battery was needed. But in my mid-sixties, to get 20 to 3o miles across a vast, brutally hot Florida town — I might pass out if I didn’t have the battery to ease the ride home!
Here’s some older information about what Sonny and I discussed in terms of viable change for societal issues of mobility:
Superstrata has been covered on CleanTechnica before by Kyle Field. His comment back in August 2020: “Carbon fiber bikes are nothing new, but when the tech gets together with 3D printing, things get crazy. Crazy awesome, that is.”
It’s not just me and Sonny. There’s a whole lot of Paris feeling that vibe to and from work, the theater, dinner.
Whenever a city like Paris builds safe bicycle infrastructure that connects people to where they need to go, people will use it in droves. Car dependence was a choice, foisted on us by automotive and fossil fuel corporations.pic.twitter.com/tih7bDTjVI
— Peter Kalmus (@ClimateHuman) October 5, 2022
I will be back with a full review of the bicycle — after some rides on long bicycle trails — to fill you in on how the Superstrata and I travel together. Until then, here are a few more favorites:
+ Princesa María de Dinamarca 🇩🇰 #vikingbiking #Copenhagen
Mujeres Imparables en 🚴♀️@colvilleandersn h/t @arelibiciteka
— Dario Hidalgo🇨🇴 (@dhidalgo65) February 6, 2019
E-bike is how I primarily get around my city. When we talk about “electrifying the country” it needs to be for everyone: rural-suburban-urban, old, young, low income, disabled etc.
More people walking, biking, on transit in urban areas also=easier to drive for those that need to pic.twitter.com/GVUIaq0XvM
— Gabe Klein (@gabe_klein) September 22, 2022
If children walked to school in our bike lanes, would city leaders still consider paint a good enough barrier? pic.twitter.com/ICJXXa0sKx
— Tom Flood (@tomflood1) September 22, 2022
When you build cities for people, rather than cars, civic misdemeanors like “jaywalking” and “loitering” become civic virtues. pic.twitter.com/8YPNWi4JKm
— Taras Grescoe 🚇 (@grescoe) September 22, 2022
Advisory bike lane timeline cleanser. pic.twitter.com/QoWLJPqda5
— Lennart Nout (@lennartnout) September 22, 2022
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