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Buell Motorcycle Chairman Outlines Industrial Design Vision at think3

CINCINNATI, Sept. 8 -- Erik Buell, Chairman and Chief Technical Officer of Buell Motorcycle Company, described the unique challenges of designing motorcycles, and how he is implementing new design and technology applications during think3's annual Industrial Designers Society of America annual conference event in Washington, DC last week.

The challenge Buell presented to a standing-room only crowd of more than 200 IDSA participants is to build bikes derived from his heritage as a motorcycle racer that perform and are fun to ride. The best bike is the one developed for the person who's actually going to ride it, according to Buell, since most people don't ride on race tracks at 160 miles per hour. As a result, speed and specs are not the only criteria for judging a motorcycle. A premium must be placed on how the bike performs on the road.

"At Buell Motorcycles, we're dedicated to making the riding experience fun, and in unique ways, too," said Buell. "We have dedicated teams focused on every component of what we refer to as 'customer-driven design.' We get into the customer's head and focus on intangibles to ensure the customer/product identification early on in the design process."

Buell's design philosophy -- "simplicity through invention" -- is built on a design foundation he calls the "Trilogy of Tech." This involves incorporating three fundamentals of design into every Buell motorcycle. These principles, as described by Buell, are:

Mass Centralization: Keeping everything in the motorcycle centralized as much as possible to maximize the rider's control over the bike. "Taking the weight off the ends and making it compact right underneath you."

Frame Rigidity: Making the wheels stay in line with each other, "so when the rider is tossing the bike around, it doesn't flex. You want to flick the bike into the corners and have it stay exactly where you planted it."

Low Unsprung Weight: Keeping the weight not supported by springs as light as possible. The front wheels on the Ulysses(TM) XB12X, Buell's newest sportbike, are a perfect example. "With the inside-out rotor, they're incredibly light. The wheels follow the bumps in the road and won't come off when you're riding on the bumpy streets. It really clings to the road and acts predictably."

"And how does this unique design philosophy pay off?" asks Buell. "Well, BIKE magazine from England ran an article this month on the 50 best handling motorcycles of all time, and the Buell Firebolt was selected number one!"

Buell gave credit to his entire product development team for these results. Said Buell: "Remember, a beautiful, innovative product is only the sum of its parts. Every part that's going to be seen must be beautiful on its own. Everything has to be really right - optimized in styling and function."

think3's industrial design tools were used in the development of the Ulysses, which was unveiled in July. The Ulysses has been designed to perform on off- and on-road. To achieve this versatility, design requirements included long-travel suspension, specialized tires, an upright seating position and Triple Tail luggage and passenger accommodations. The bike weighs in at just 425 pounds, and the design centralizes mass and lowers the center of gravity to help the Ulysses be more responsive on paved/unpaved roads.

think3 facilitated the design process by enabling work to be done in a multi-CAD environment. Additionally, key parts of the Ulysses were designed and engineered from start to finish using think3 CAD capabilities, and every new component of the bike was solid-modeled using think3 technology. According to Buell, the key benefits of using think3 technology included:

  -- Ability to read any legacy data
  -- Hybrid surface and solid modeling capabilities, and
  -- Improved design to manufacturability - having the flexibility of doing
     iterative designs without losing data, time or design intent through

"We're pleased that our partnership with Buell has paid off not only in enabling Erik and his company to improve the quality of their bike designs and bottom line but also in a fun and exciting riding experience for their customers," said Craig Lewis, Vice President of Worldwide Sales. "Buell has been using think3 technology since the late 1990s, and all the bikes designed and manufactured since that time have used think3 technology in some fashion to improve design and performance."

About Buell Motorcycles

Buell Motorcycle Company, a subsidiary of Harley-Davidson, Inc., produces sport motorcycles, motorcycle parts, accessories and apparel. To learn more about Buell motorcycles, visit a local Buell dealer today and visit Buell's Web site at

About think3 Inc.

think3 provides innovative, next generation industrial design solutions and is a leading supplier of product development solutions to mid-sized manufacturers worldwide. Customers include BMW, Audi, Maytag, Alessi and GE Medical Devices. Overall, the company enables more than 5,000 manufacturers to achieve dramatic gains in competitiveness and profitability by optimizing their product development process. think3's best-of-class products, services and unique business delivery model lower manufacturers' risks and remove barriers to successful implementation. With headquarters in Cincinnati and offices throughout Europe, Asia and North America, the privately held company has been leading innovation for more than 20 years. For more information, visit