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Several RC magazines around the world have asked us to write a monthly column. With the kind permission we will re-publish the column at our web site too so all of the XRAY fans can read the latest news and behind the scenes information. Enjoy.

Archive:
Column #1 - Behind the Scene Stories

Column #2 - Worlds Flashback

Column #3 - T2'007 Debut

Column #4 - Designing the T2'007

Column #5 - Worldcup Review and NT1 Testing

Column #6 - Developing and Designing the NT1

Column #7 - Developing and Designing the NT1 - Part 2

Column #8 - Back to the Races

Column #9 - XT8 Truggy Development

Column #10 - Touring Car Development

Column #11 - Bling-bling Mentality

Column #12 - Hot Summer Washout

Column #13 - New Electric Touring Car

Column #14 - Off-road Development

Column #15 - My micro love

Column #16 - Back in the Dirt

Column #17 - Worlds Preparations

Column #18 - 808 Tests & Stress

Column #19 - Excited for the Worlds?

Column #20 - Statistics, Expenses Sheets, Production Analysis, Calculations…

Column #21 + Column #22 - Euros + Euros + Worlds

Column #23 - The Busiest Season Ever

Column #24 - In Between the Worlds

Column #25 + Column #26 - Well Developed or Overdeveloped?

Column #27 - Back to The Future

Column #28 - 2009 Kick-off

Column #29 - Crazy what?

Column #30 - Last indoor race of the season

Column #31 - Getting into summer season

Column #32 - Heading for the Euros

Column #33 - Testing - Always last minute, always new ideas

Column #34 - European Champion - title celebration

Column #35 - Time to move on

Column #36 - National Heroes

Column #37 - 2010 ready

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The end of the year is usually filled with recapitulation and for myself this is very true. It is always important to analyze whether or not all of the goals, plans and strategies which were set have been fulfilled or not? What can be made better next year? What are those new goals and plans to set? What are the challenges that will be faced? The end of 2009 is not the end of just another typical year. It is the end of XRAY’s first decade of existence and for me this is an extraordinary milestone for which I have been extremely happy, satisfied, and very VERY proud. I know realize what other people mean when they say “how my time flies.”

Over the past decade we went through plenty of very happy moments, but we have also faced our share of troubles, tough times, difficult decisions, and challenging moments. To put all those memories down on paper would be enough to fill a novel the size of War and Peace. I realize that to summarize them in one column is impossible, so I will try to share the highlights of the different areas and how I have seen how they have changed over the years and what I think will be the future.

RC cars:
1999 – A decade ago there were only a few RC car categories. There were no micro cars, truggies, or drifters; 1/8 on road and off-road cars were the strongest nitro categories; 1/10 electric buggies was the strongest electric category while 1/10 and 1/12 electric on-road pancars were in their heyday. The 1/10 electric and nitro touring car markets were just in their infancy.

2009 – After a decade nothing much has changed, and the typical lifecycles apply to the RC world as well. The popularity of different categories has been changing all the time. Nowadays it is definitely the 1/8 off-road and electric touring cars which are the most popular categories thanks to the super-fast developments in technology in the last decade. Lots of competition has also made the cars stronger, faster, more reliable and more affordable. After a few years of decreasing popularity of electric powered cars, the brushless and LiPo revolution has turned this trend around and the popularity of electric powered cars is slowly getting back.

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2019 – Nobody knows what will be the future trend, but my expectation is that there will not be any major or radical changes. People will still want to have fun and experience the adrenaline that comes from racing. Nitro cars will be always run outdoors in the summer months while the electric powered cars will be run indoors during the winter months. The 1/8 on-road will survive and maybe come back into fashion, 1/8 off-road will remain super strong, and 1/10 electric touring cars will be the #1 choice for indoor racing. Maybe 1/8 electric powered buggies will take over the 1/10 buggies and who knows what will happen with other categories. They will likely still be there but will have smaller followings than the other more popular categories. Whichever way the fashion and trends will move, XRAY will be there to listen to the customers and bring the cars they want and look for.

RC car companies:
1999 – A decade ago the market was pretty much divided between several major and stable companies from Europe, USA, and Japan. When we first introduced the XRAY brand, everybody was asking, “Who is this crazy Hudy guy and where the heck is Slovakia?”

2009 – Globalization has hit the RC model market as any other industry and outsourcing and OEM production plants in Asia have changed the market completely. Most of the companies could not survive the super-fast changing environment and most of the European and USA companies had to retire or sell their venues. In the last years we could see very fast growth of Asian (especially Chinese) companies taking over the model hobby market.

2019 – The RC market will get large but still it will be limited and I believe there a shakedown is coming (which is already going on) and many of the weaker companies will not survive. The strong companies – unless they make fatal mistakes – will remain or at least their brands will be in the hands of new investors (likely from Asia). I hope and expect that XRAY still remains a European company and will still be a key player.

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XRAY cars:
1999 – The first official XRAY car – the T1 – came out of production and hit the market. After a long period during which I designed and hand-made just a few cars per year, it was the first mass-production car and my dream was fulfilled.

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2009 – During the last 10 years everybody has worked very hard to bring XRAY to where it is now. Compared with the one car released in 1999, the current 2009 portfolio offers 18 different cars… a car for almost every category. Within such a relatively short period of time we have built XRAY into one of the most well-respected and well-known RC model car brands.

2019 – In 2019 XRAY will have a car for every popular category and hopefully XRAY cars will remain synonymous with high performance, premium service, and unbeatable quality.

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Factory:
1999 – A decade ago the whole factory was the size of today’s warehouse. Everything was crowded, boxes and parcels pilled everywhere up to the ceiling but still we were somehow being fully motivated to manage everything to mass produce the cars. Timing was everything. The materials had to arrive just in time to minimize the raw material floor space; packing and logistics had to time everything precisely to export the products to minimize the warehouse floor space; we were still learning how many and which spare parts to produce and stock; and we were figuring out what size production batches to run to optimize expenses and maximize efficiency. Everything was new to us and we learned from one day to the next – 16 hour workdays, 7 days a week were normal hours and this super fast tempo has kept up for the many years to follow.

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2009 – A few years ago our move into the new facility was a huge change. The XRAY Millennium factory is nowadays one of the world’s largest RC car model factories. It is the size of a soccer stadium and the current facility has sufficient space for all the production technologies, packing and assembly lines, and huge warehouse and logistics center. Whereas the old factory would take over a week to prepare a shipment, now thanks to sufficient stock levels and professional logistic arrangements this has improved significantly. Today the orders from distributors which do not require custom clearance – for example, a shipment within Europe – are usually exported the next day.

2019 – Despite my expectations and our plans for XRAY to grow, the current facility was been designed and sized to comfortably allow several decades worth of growth. Despite many factories moving to China or other low cost countries, the XRAY factory will remain where it is in Slovakia, Europe.

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R&D:
1999 – A decade ago the first products were designed in CAD/CAM 3D software, yet despite this I remember that the very first design of the rally car which was supposed to be the first XRAY car (which ultimately was never realized) was hand-drawn in the middle of 1990’s. Then we decided to buy the first workstation with 3D software which was at that time extremely expensive and I had to take out a loan to be able to buy it. Then I learned with my son Mario how to draw and work with the software and draw the first products in 3D myself. After that I never had enough time to do this and hired engineers who specialized in this area. When we wanted to test some new prototypes we either had to use the very old local outdoor track or travel huge distances either to Austria or Czech Republic. Needless to say, development was very time consuming but still surprisingly we were able to push development further and further.

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2009 – The R&D possibilities are at a completely different level today. Everything is designed using computers, all the production programs for CNC machines are created in computers and uploaded to the machines via network, prototypes are first printed using new special sand printers which create a real product prototype you can see and touch and everything is so incredibly FAST. Things which took us a week to make are now made within only a few hours. But still even in the modern times of computers, I manually sketch the first designs for new products on paper and printed drawings and then I spend evenings scribbling into drafts while watching TV. The flexibility in testing new prototypes has also moved to a completely different level. What we design today, we produce overnight and test at our factory outdoor or indoor track tomorrow.

There is no other RC car company in the world which is so fast and flexible, and this is also the reason why we have made such huge progress within the last few years. What takes others a year to make, we can do in a few months. Today, the biggest change for me is our R&D team. The team drivers provide valuable feedback from all around the world about current products or new prototypes, but the biggest improvement for XRAY is that new projects are designed and managed by my son Martin. What I used to manage and handle a few years ago myself has now been (very successfully) taken over by Martin. One of his most recent successes is the new T3 project.

2019 – I am not sure if there is still some room for such huge changes and improvements like those we went through in the last decade, but certainly the R&D possibilities will continue to improve. Software will continue to become more sophisticated and better, and we’ll continue to recognize the great importance of not underestimating real track testing. As such, “old school” testing on tracks under different racing conditions will always be required and the team will have to travel and keep testing. In the future, the fashions will likely change much faster, product lifecycles will get shorter and the R&D team will have to adapt to these new challenges and continue to improve their efficiency as well. How? This is already the challenge that we all will face, especially Martin.

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Technologies:
1999 – Most of the machines in our previous facility were manually operated. Some of our very first CNC machines were already programmed by computers but still were fairly simple machines. During the 1990’s, I made my best decision. I decided to take out large bank loans and invest into the first CNC machines when those appeared in the industry. At the same time I invested in new technologies such as moulding machines, injection machines, etc. which allowed us to produce all the parts in-house. This allowed us to be totally independent from suppliers and as such to keep total control over flexibility and quality. Only by having our own production lines could we make XRAY products the way they are known for.

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2009 – Over the decade, all of our machines were completely changed out and today, the majority of the machines are state-of-the-art, fully-automatic CNC machines. The milling machines can mill in all axes so the product exits the machine completely finished. The cutting machines are cutting in 11 axes so all those products exit that machine perfectly finished, too. Everything is programmed by computers. The XRAY production plant is equipped with the finest German, Swiss and Italian machines. New technologies were added such as an automated machine for carbon fiber milling, a fully robotic hardcoating and color-coating line, laser engraving machines, die casting machines, fully-automatic grinding machines, automatic cleaning machines, and many many more.

Only thanks to these new high-tech machines have we been able to reduce production costs and keep up with increasing labor, material, and resource costs. But still the value-added, hand-done work is present especially when it comes to the finest parts which require hand grinding and hand finishing and products that are manually inspected and controlled. So even in the times of fully-automatic machines, the coveted skills of the craftsman/artisans are still required. I am very happy that the majority of the workers who started with me twenty years ago are still in the factory… and they have improved their skills and transferred that craftsmanship into our products.

2019 – The evolution in technology will continue and we will see more and more sophisticated, more automated yet more complex and capable machines. Production times will continue to decrease but for sure not in the same fashion as the past decade; the laws of physics must still be obeyed and materials also certain limits that we must stay within. But we will certainly experience improvements in tools and materials used for production which will allow for faster yet more precise production. We will see more sophisticated robots that will inspect products and their quality. But still the workers will be the people and they will be the main source of success in any production. As such we will continue to invest in new technologies to be able to compete with lower-cost products and continue to improve the skills of the workers who add value to our products.

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Team:
1999 – At the very beginning I had a dream about a small, rather local team of a few drivers. At the first European championship I attended, I noticed the talent and skills of a very young boy by the name of Jilles Groskamp. He was the first one who joined the team and started the Dawn of XRAY. From that point forward the team has gotten larger and much more professional and more globalized. Distributors started to form their own regional and national teams and XRAY started to attract more and more international drivers. Drivers come and go like everything in life and over the decade plenty of drivers were part of Team XRAY. Every one of them pushed XRAY, the team, and the products many steps further. Many of those drivers were very well known drivers, but many of them were also rather young drivers in whom I detected great talent. Over the years, Team XRAY has seen such famous names as: Jilles Groskamp, Andy Moore, Viktor Wilck, Andy Griffith, Yannick Aigoin, Martin Bayer, Markus Feldmann, Brian Kinwald, Barry Baker, Josh Cyrul, Mike Truhe, and many many others.

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2009 – Team XRAY is nowadays very well profiled. Nowadays the factory team includes plenty of famous names including European, USA and World Champions such as Ralph Burch, Paul Lemieux, Teemu Leino, Alexander Hagberg, Elliott Harper, Surikarn Chaidajsuriya, Dirk Wischnewski, etc. The regional and national teams are arranged by the distributors around the world with some of the best results over the last years. The racing team is active in all the different categories; from micro cars, through the nitro and electric touring cars and pan cars, up to the off-road and truggies. All the teams are nowadays much more professional, perfectly organized, and on a completely different level than a decade ago. Today, there are many more sponsored drivers than a decade ago, especially thanks to there being so many different brands on the market. However, the current trend of pushing resources into the team will just not be possible to keep up unless, like a few companies, they use their team only as a marketing tool and sponsor it from a toy business.


2019 – Team driver input for XRAY development and improvements have always been very important and the promotion and support at races is a “must have” for a racing brand such as XRAY. Therefore I do not expect any major changes for the future. The world of model racing cars will remain focused on just that – racing – and XRAY will continue to be one of the major racing teams in all different racing levels… local, regional, national, and international races in all categories. There will be names and drivers who are only today getting their first toy car, but for sure there will be an XRAY team heading out to battle against other top teams for the wins and trophies. Sometimes we’ll be more successful, sometimes less so, but we’ll always be there in the battle. I expect that several other teams will just give up… some because they will not be able to keep up with the ongoing development, and some because they will just not be able to afford sponsoring a team anymore.

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Racing:
1999 – Racing has always been about adrenaline, excitement, and thrill… but it has also been about fun and joy. Racing has really not changed much different in that respect. The level of professionalism now is much different than what it is used to be a decade ago. At large international races most of the drivers were private drivers with only a few being sponsored drivers. But racing was always about finding the correct set-up, taking advantage of the finest tweaks, but also about having the skills and talent. With fewer categories the races were more attractive for drivers and large races were always overcrowded.

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2009 – With many different classes, drivers have a much larger variety of choices for which classes to compete in. Some categories enjoy increasing popularity, while some face serious troubles with decreasing interest. Large international races have built up their reputation. Besides the World Championship, the National and European championships have become extremely important race events for every factory team to attend. Such races include but are not limited to the US Snowbirds Nationals, International Indoor Championship, DHI Cup, LRP Masters, Dirt, Silverstate championship, Neo race, Arena race, ETS, etc. etc. etc.

2019 – Racing is racing and it will always remain racing. Large international races will make their position even stronger, while the World Championship in every category will still remain the “dream trophy” or “brass ring” for every driver and every factory. As travelling continues to get more expensive and less affordable, regional and national racing will probably become much stronger and much more active.

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Achievements:
1999-2009-2019 – The very best achievement for myself was when the first T1 kit came down from production and the first kit was exported to customers. That was a huge achievement in my professional life and at that time I did not have a clue about everything that I would experience in the decade to follow. Over this past decade I have also faced disappointments, frustrations, and problems… but these are things that as humans we have to face head on and tackle. All the achievements, wins, trophies, awards and even the satisfaction of customers have greatly surpassed my wildest imagination and these overshadow all the negatives by an astronomical amount.

Over the past decade our cars has been awarded with 20 Car of the Year awards, Best Of awards and Readers’ Choice awards which is something that makes me extremely proud. The racing results are of course so terrific and unbelievable for me and I would never have dared to dream that in 10 years our team and cars would win 25x USA electric touring car champion titles, 2x USA Nitro touring car champion titles, more than 5x US micro champion titles, European off-road champion title, European nitro touring champion title, 5x European Junior title and hundreds of national titles all around the world in different categories. I just could not dream for more. There are still some tough, dreamed-about titles that are still yet to be achieved, but even if we do not achieve any of them I still consider the job of the team as well done. But 2019 is waiting; we will be ready for it and I will continue to dream.

Customers:
1999-2009-2019 – Customers did not change much over the decade. They always look to get the most for their money and they want to enjoy this hobby. Certainly the expectations of customers for the quality, service, support and performance of products have increased significantly. Part of this is XRAY’s doing, as we have continually pushed the limits to further improve our products. Customers will continue to seek the same in the future, and the cycle continues as the son or daughter or a current XRAY customer may be getting their first XRAY product in 2019.

The last decade was phenomenal, triumphant, thrilling, and certainly very joyful. All of the great achievements would simply not have been possible for me to achieve without the enormous help and support of my family, factory team, racing team, distributors, and last but not least our customers. If not for their support of our products and brand, I would not be writing these lines and would not recapitulate the last decade in the same manner. Therefore a very big “Thank YOU” goes out to all of you. You are our inspiration and we are dedicated to you. I simply cannot wait to enjoy the next decade.


See you around the tracks. Enjoy the ride and ‘til next time.

Dipl. Eng. Juraj Hudy
XRAY Chief Designer