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Kubotek Launches New Version of KeyCreator

Picture of large Kubotek speakers
Man-Size speakers made using Kubotek's manufacturing technology

2004-11-30 - Marlborough, MA, USA: The enormous speakers in the photo above are the work of Dr. Kubo, the founder and CEO of Kubotek Corporation. The speakers illustrate the design capabilities of what Kubotek calls 'creation engineering' - the development of technologies for modeling, measuring and machining in industrial businesses large and small. Kubotek Corporation was founded in 1985 in Osaka, Japan, and has been publicly traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange since 2001.

Kubotek USA has recently unveiled the newest version of its KeyCreator software, which reflects the company's 'vision for the future of manufacturing'. Kubotek says that this comprehensive strategy for small-to-medium sized companies "recognizes the limits of today's commonly used CAD/CAM tools and takes into account how design and manufacturing engineers really think, design and manufacture". Kubotek USA develops and manufactures KeyCreator software (formerly CADKEY) and is responsible for sales, marketing, distribution and support for the Americas, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Image of Kubotek KeyCreator screen shot
An image of the Kubotek KeyCreator application

The software such as KeyCreator is designed to fit within a wider concept or philosophy, known as 'M3'. The Kubotek M3(SM) vision (Measure, Model and Machine) is an innovative strategy that will enable smaller design shops and manufacturers to compete more effectively in the global marketplace. The strategy is based on the real-world experiences of a select group of Japanese designers and manufacturers.

With today's mass production of goods increasingly shifting overseas, especially to low-cost factories in China, many small-to-medium sized manufacturing companies are looking for new business models to help them compete. They need to drive efficiency, increase creativity and reduce costs. According to Kubotek, the M3 system, supported by Kubotek's Creation Engineering product family, is designed to help these companies evolve into design and manufacturing businesses that are simultaneously integrated, more flexible and more competitive.

In an M3 manufacturing environment, designers can capture real-world data, often by scanning a physical item, then change the item (customise, iterate, warp or distort it) and quickly produce the item, either prototyping to determine manufacturability or to quickly produce a finished product. This equates to a much faster and higher quality cycle from conception to time-to-market. It breaks down the barriers between functions, enabling teams to reiterate and refine in hours instead of days or weeks.

The M3 vision was derived from Kubotek Corporation's own experience in designing high-end audio equipment, where real-time, real-world data is incorporated into an ever-changing "view" of a physical space (a room and its occupants) in order for the system to continuously adjust the output. Kubotek sees this overall approach to design and manufacturing as being highly optimized for the future of mass customised manufacturing.

"We saw in CADKEY(R) a unique opportunity to move design and manufacturing to the next level," said Dr. Kubo. "Conventional, parametric-based CAD is focused on repetitive design systems and mass production, and is too confining for today's manufacturing environments. Product designers want to be able to take an object and change it - perhaps to retrofit it, customize it or simply, improve it. To do this, they need to be able to mix real world data in with their designs. CADKEY, and its 'offspring', KeyCreator(TM), are the only products that can achieve this goal."

Dr. Kubo continued, "When a child moves from modeling clay to crayons, they become restricted in their creativity by the limitations of 2 dimensional tools. Similarly, most of today's CAD tools take designers further and further away from their base of creativity."

"We see the future of the industry as designers and engineers working with design solutions, freed by technology but not limited by it. Based on KeyCreator, new tools will allow designers to attack the problem from any angle, to input real-world data and mix it with their original designs, and modify the results quickly and easily. Eventually, we will be able to provide them with a wholly integrated design and manufacturing solution, with KeyCreator as the linchpin."

The M3 vision is based on these premises:

-- Computer-aided Design (CAD) is immature. (While there has been extensive discussion about "mature CAD" this refers to the maturing marketplace, not the software itself.) Despite more than 20 years of technological history, CAD solutions are, as a group, hard to use, based on proprietary architectures and poorly integrated with complementary solutions. Today's design and engineering tools impose limits on creativity and force designers to follow a rigidly defined process - one that is counterintuitive to the creative process.

-- While there is a growing demand for customised products and companies that are able to achieve customisation at the assembly stage (like Dell) there are few examples of companies doing this at the design and engineering phase.

"While the M3 vision may seem counterintuitive to the casual observer, it is based on the real world experiences of several of Kubotek Corporation's global customers," said Robert Bean, chief operating officer, Kubotek USA. "Overseas we're starting to see the birth of 'Super Shops' where they are able to quickly design and manufacture highly stylized, organically shaped products, which in some cases, are completely customised. Our customers have proven that it is possible to do this quickly and cost-effectively."

CAD Wire is a Kubotek Service Center and engineering consulting firm based in Markham, Ontario. Recently the company has seen a surge in customer requests for new products to be created, working not from a CAD file but from a physical object. "Kubotek's vision of an efficient and cost-effective design and manufacturing process will allow small-to-medium shops to better compete globally," said Wence Daks of CAD Wire. "Kubotek's M3 is a revolutionary concept yet at the same time it is perfectly aligned with today's marketplace realities."

"Recently we were asked to literally 'recreate the wheel'," continued Daks. "Kubotek enabled us to have the product digitised which allowed us to create a prototype in a fraction of the time it would have taken to redesign it. The result is that we are more efficient, and are capable of creating higher quality of work."

The upcoming release of KeyCreator 4.0, a new version of its widely used design and manufacturing software, continues the evolution of the popular CADKEY software. This is well known in industrial design settings where it provides unprecedented productivity in key product creation processes. The new version of the software is a step toward the delivery of the Kubotek M3 vision.

Kubotek KeyCreator builds on the heritage of CADKEY, the first true 3D MCAD software for the desktop. KeyCreator combines both the latest in geometry-based design and modeling technology, with a legacy of success in helping customers in the design of tooling, complex machinery, fixtures, molds, dies and a multitude of product development industries including automotive, aerospace, heavy equipment, sports equipment, medical device and many more. More than 20,000 global customers use Kubotek design and manufacturing software.

The KeyCreator Creation Engineering product line includes multidimensional design and drafting, NC programming and reverse engineering capabilities. The product line features the company's unique geometry-based foundation with localised feature editing and sophisticated deformation techniques designed to help users do their work faster. These capabilities are particularly useful for design teams working with advanced designs of solid models because KeyCreator blends surface, solids and wire frame modeling allowing easy modification and editing functionality.

Incidentally, for anyone interested in purchasing the giant speakers shown in the photograph, they will be available in Spring 2005. The price? Approximately US$66,000. However, the advantages of software such as KeyCreator means that more modest speakers could be custom made in future at much more accessible costs. After all, if you were to ask a mainsteam audio equipment provider to build a set of customised speakers, it is likely that the cost will have many zeros at the end. That is if the company actually entertains your request at all. If Kubotek's ideas and software take hold, it may yet become as accessible as buying a set of headphones is today.

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