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Thread: Powcon history

  1. #1
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    Powcon history

    I work in a shop and use a 400ss powcon and have done everything under the sun to talk the guy into selling it to me but he has none of it. I have heard over the years about miller bought out powcon because they wanted the technology, none of what I'm stating should be taken as fact. I was on cl the other day and seen a miller plasma cutter that was in every way identical to a powcon except it was blue. The guy wanted $100 for it because he said consumables were no longer available for the torch but it worked fine. It looks like to me that if a company bought out powcon they'd of done it for profit and keep on manufacturing these near indestructible machines, however, I can understand a big company buying powcon and locking up the technology so a welder won't last 40 years, but it's a shame that they aren't still in business today. Can you imagine what a 2015 powcon multiprocessing multi voltage welder would look like? I bet this powcon forum would be as big if not bigger than any of the other ones.

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    Re: Powcon history

    From what my LWS salesman and the Powcon rep related to mee-self: By mid '90's, both Red and Blue had failed in their efforts to produce a reliable inverter circuitry. Red had made and sold their own design DC mig inverters for less than a year and withdrew those machines, seeing a raft of field failures and complaints...'Beta Testing'.....in the field!
    Powcon had such, the tech. was licensed from Kemppi. Powcon stated that every nuke sub had two P-C's on board for repair work, due to size, etc.
    Miller bought Powcon for the Kemppi license and tech, then promptly killed Powcon. (That's a classic Bill Gates practice.)
    Blackbird

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    Re: Powcon history

    It's really a shame, since buying my new me 1986 300SM I have logged dozens of hours on it. Never once has if failed to produce high quality looking mig welds, and trust me when I got this thing it looked like it should have been thrown in the trash, I am glad I put the time and money in it to make it right again. I don't think any other welder I own could stand up to the years of abuse I am sure this thing was put through before I ended up with it.
    Now it seems all I own are ESAB products, a lonely Hypertherm 85 and couple of Miller XMT's.

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    Re: Powcon history

    Powcons have their share of electronic failures, as well. BTW.
    Long term factory service techs elaborate on that.
    Considering that there appears to be a good number still living
    some 18 years after factory close, may indicate that they have a better service life than red or blue.
    The 300 SMT with wire feeder, I bought new in '90 is still ticking and it's been run hard on occasion.

    Ex-PowCon folks have started another company on the east coast, manufacturing very similar machines, supposedly
    very durable. There's some threads about this.
    Blackbird

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    Re: Powcon history

    www.arconweld.com

    Arcon's Workhorse line of machines are very similar to PowCon in that they are an SCR fired inverter as opposed to the more popular IGBT control circuitry in most inverters on the market today. They make a very nice machine, right here in the USA is Salisbury MD. Even the torridial transformers and many components are hand built there too. Goran Hedburg is co owner of Arcon along with Gunnar Ennerfeldt (who owns The company that manufactures the transformers and developed a great deal of the torridial transformer technology used in these machines) Goran was the coinventor of the PowCon technology which was pioneered in the 1970s. I got to meet Gunnar at Fabtech in 2013. They're very nice ppl and make a fine product.

    They also support PowCon machines to a pretty fair degree, and even sell some parts for them. SCR technology is very reliable, hence the reason so many PowCon machines are still running today, thirty plus years old.

    As far as reps saying Miller didn't have any viable inverter technology on the market in the early, mid 1990s, I would have to disagree with that notion. By the mid 90s Miller had already been producing inverter machines for going on about a decade. The Arc Pak 350 was one of the very first, introduced in the late 80s with hand built transistor arrays, and even some parts used in earlier machines Miller was still making at the time. I have one in my shop and welded with it not even a half hour ago. Even tho this machine did have some issues, the later offerings of Miller's inverter lineup consisted of the venerable XMT 300 and the Maxtron 450, which was a mainstay of the robotic and automated MIG welding industry of the 1990s. Both of these designs are resonant tank circuit, IGBT fired inverters and were workhorses in their own rite for their time.

    The Maxtron 450 is still one of the only 1/3 phase inverters on the market that offers over 500 amps of output (using three phase input power) ever manufactured, has an excellent overall record of longevity in punishing, extremely demanding industrial environments and many are still in service today, over twenty years old, running on all their original parts. I have been buying, repairing and selling them for about the last ten years. I have built them from plies of parts and have fixed machines even certified service techs said were unrepairable.

    My point being, I am intimately familiar with them and know there is still a very strong market for them today in several sections of industry. They are a proven and very reliable machine. Their downfall was that they were complicated to operate by inexperienced workers and expensive to repair from a purely retail standpoint. The Invision 456P (which replaced the Maxtron 450) was greatly simplified and was only CV output for wire welding, which is what the majority of Maxtron users were doing anyways.

    Both the Maxtron 450 and XMT 300 shared many of the same operating characteristics, and from that technology came the XMT 304 and Invision 456P. Both machines share very similar technology in their operational systems. The XMT 304 is also resonant tank IGBT fired, and arguably one of the most reliable, and time proven inverters ever manufactured in the history of the machine. The Invision 456, which replaced the Maxtron 450 became the standard in the automated MIG welding industry by which many other were judged.

    I'm not saying Lincoln hasn't produced some fine machines of their own, nor do I have a great deal of knowledge surrounding ITWs acquisition of PowCon in the 90s, but for someone to say Miller's inverter technology was irrelevant in the 1990s clearly had no idea what they were talking about. Of course, reps are gonna plug their machines and PowCon will always be the Godfather of all modern inverter technology. Dave, you are correct about them being used on Naval subs. I'm hoping to get an Arcon Workhorse demo machine at some point. Even their reconditioned models are not cheap by any means, but you do indeed get what you pay for with one of them, as I've spoken to many ppl familiar with them in different types of industry, and guys like me doing stuff small time who are very happy with them.

    IMHO of course
    Last edited by 7A749; 11-27-2015 at 11:44 PM.

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    Re: Powcon history

    The PowCons were developed at Thermal Dynamics Corp in West Lebanon, NH in the late 70's using new technology invented by a Swedish engineer. The early ones were not that reliable, and in fact when they were used for plasma cutting (higher output voltage than most welding processes) they were even more unreliable. The design improved over time for welding use.....where SCR switching technology (Silicon Controlled Rectifier, reliant on the input line frequency of 60 Hz.) was adequate and reliable. Plasma cutters with their higher voltage and the need to control current more rapidly were better suited with newer FET (field effect transistors) and as the technology developed further with IGBT's (insulated gate bipolar transistors). Ultimately Millers parent company bought the PowCon technology and after some lawsuit action between ITW and Lincoln it slowly ran itself into the ground with inadequate investment in the latest inverter technology.

    Inverter technology today essentially can make output power adjustments at up to 20kHZ (20,000 times per second) while SCR technology did this at 60 times per second....higher internal frequencies allow for smaller components such as transformers and inductors.....which make power supplies more portable and lightweight. By today's size/weight and power standards the Powcons were large and heavy. I will say that they were an idea that was definitely ahead of its time!

    Jim Colt
    Last edited by jimcolt; 11-28-2015 at 09:05 AM.

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    Re: Powcon history

    I have read some stuff on the PowCon plasma machines, I believe Star Cut was one of the models offered. I don't know much as far the plasma end of things goes, but everything I have read regarding them basically said that the machines were plagued with problems and largely unreliable. I've heard tons of stories about ITW buying the technology to further their own efforts, but the inverter designs they had been producing when PowCon was acquired (in 1996 according to my research) were already successful and tens of thousands of them had been sold. Miller didn't develop an SCR fired inverter after that, unless it was to slap their name on PowCon stuff like they did with a couple of their plasma machines (of which I've seen only one or two).

    The new Arcon machines are also SCR fired, as were their PowCon cousins. I personally think they make a fantastic machine, but the drawbacks are higher cost, and limited exposure to the mainstream industrial market. So, if you buy one at retail cost, the only way you will see a solid ROI would be to keep it until Armageddon because if you wanna unload it to go a different direction down the road, it'll be an extremely hard sell. For large industrial users this isn't really an issue, but for just about anyone else, you're going to have a tough time getting anything close to what you paid retail for it.

    I am hoping to put enough together to buy a demo machine from them. I know someone on this board who got a loaner from them and has had it a couple years, but I don't think they're doing that anymore according to the guy I talked to when I went to Fabtech a few weeks ago.

    Interesting thread for sure.

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    Re: Powcon history

    I bought two Powcons a couple of weeks ago for $500. 300SM & 300ST. They weld great. It just goes to prove older is better. I have an almost new Miller CST 280 and it does not even have the duty cycle that these Powcons do. Maybe a little different specs there. I have heard that Powcons are the first inverter welders ever. Powcon/Arcon does not use the technology of CV constant voltage or CC constant current, they just call it "constant power" according to the rep on the phone.

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    Re: Powcon history

    Yep...dat old dawg still hunts.
    Arcon Workhorse 300MS
    Powcon 400SMT
    Powcon SM400 x 2
    Powcon SM300
    1968 SA200 Redface
    1978 SA250 Diesel
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    Bryan

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    Re: Powcon history

    It would be great to see Arcon get more of the mainstream spotlight. They already have the respect of the heavy industrial community, but a lot of mid level users could benefit from what they have to offer.

    I was quoted in the ballpark of around $2500 for a reconditioned 300MS. I would really like to have one, but I just can't justify scraping that kind of dough together to buy an inverter MIG welder. My main concern lies with resale value. I don't believe service would be an issue, and I could probably troubleshoot and repair it myself if something were to fail on it. I just think it would be a hard sale unloading it if you decided you wanted your investment back out of it, unless you had a specific customer to sell it to. Around here, and in my 15 years experience buying and selling machinery, I know what sells and what does not. Even if a product is very well made and warrantied, that doesn't mean it will retain a high resale value, or be easy to move in the mainstream industrial equipment market.

    Try moving some used Esab equipment in the industrial sector if you don't believe me.

    Most of my new machine purchases have always been guided by what kind of resale value the product has. I've always stuck with brands and models that retain a great share of their value after the purchase, because you never know when you may have to, or want to change directions and do something different. I consider equipment a dynamic investment, that I should be able to easily and quickly liquidate at a fair depreciated value in the event I want to repurpose the asset cash value elsewhere. For a company that is going to make their ROI off the end product going out the door, this is much less a concern as a guy like me who does light fab and some welding. The bulk of my income is made repairing and selling machinery. This makes my circumstances different from those of a large shop with deep margins and solid, big money customers. Because of such circumstances, I want to put my money in the best product I can afford that retains the highest value over time.

    The Arcon machines are fine performers, but the fact that they're relatively unknown in the mainstream lighter end of the welding and fab market, if you paid full retail to the tune of $4K for one of their machines, I would imagine seeing even half of that back if you wanted to sell it within three years of initial purchase would be difficult. This alone is a big reason keeping me from making some serious moves to acquire one. I could buy a new XMT 350 for roughly the same money, and retain a very high resale value even several years down the road if I decided to liquidate it.

    The Arcon is a great machine tho and I wanna get my hands on one. If I could print my own money like the Fed does, it wouldn't be a problem

    IMHO of course
    Last edited by 7A749; 11-28-2015 at 02:18 PM.

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    Re: Powcon history

    Arcon is at the top of my list in the future if it welds just like the Powcon, well that's if my Powcon ever dies. Don't know if I would buy new but could probably swing $2500 for a reconditioned unit.
    Now it seems all I own are ESAB products, a lonely Hypertherm 85 and couple of Miller XMT's.

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    Re: Powcon history

    The older Thermal Arc (mass in Japan) machines weld very similar. I have an LM-300.
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    Re: Powcon history

    I welded with a Sanrex TIG at Fabtech

    Welded nice but the retail price was thru the roof. Comparable to a Dynasty machine of a similar output range.

    For that kind of dough, I'll buy the Miller and when or if I sell it, I'll get a very good resale value price out of it.

    Buy that Sanrex and I guarantee you you'll take a huge hit off MSRP and probably have one hell of a time finding a buyer without giving it away. Again, it's not necessarily that Blue machines are better than anyone else's. They just have a much higher resale value and are relatively easy to unload if you price them reasonable. Being I'm not heavy industrial user that is going to see ROI on a finished product, I would like to see something back on my investment if I decide to sell it. As I said above, I almost always purchase machinery with a view to resale value, in the event I want to liquidate the asset and recover my investment.

    The chicoms and China built machines sold by Lincoln, Tweco/Thermal Arc, Esab, etc own the low budget market segment. The big names stake their claim on the higher priced end of the scale. Brands such as Sanrex and Arcon have to have a niche market to compete with the big names, because their retail pricing is right about on point with Red and Blue, but distributors and service centers are few and far between. Plus, they are relatively unknown in the commercial mainstream market for welding machinery. Sure, they have a very loyal following, but beyond a niche market segment that has customers generally with very deep pockets, most ppl aren't going to pay the same price or even higher for it when a comparable Blue or Red machine is right on the floor of the showroom at your LWS and they can just drop off at the same place they bought it from if the have an issue with it. This sort of puts you at red headed stepchild orphan status.

    If you don't have a local service center willing to work on such machinery, sending the machine back to the manufacturer for repairs, etc will be the only option for service. Not to mention it will likely be on your dime. Couple that with an expensive retail priced investment, you're pretty well stuck with it unless you find another niche buyer looking for one, or you give it away. If I have to pay retail price for a machine that's not only extremely limited on service options, but is also going to take a huge drop in value as soon as I buy it, I'll just buy the big name machine for a comparable price and have the convienence of a nationwide network of service centers and a resale value I can almost count on being very favorable.

    That said, it would be cool to have one around for awhile, but there's no way in hell Im paying retail price for one.

    IMHO of course
    Last edited by 7A749; 11-29-2015 at 12:45 AM.

  14. #14
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    Re: Powcon history

    My Powcon makes a ticking sound and whistles Dixie when I weld.

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    Re: Powcon history

    Quote Originally Posted by 7A749 View Post
    The chicoms and China built machines sold by Lincoln, Tweco/Thermal Arc, Esab, etc own the low budget market segment.
    What? Esabs are not cheap machines, and at least prior to the acquisition with Victor Technology holdings were being made in Florence, SC, West Lebanon NH or Denton TX. A few years ago they were rebranding some European (IIRC Polish) tig machines to sell as their own but AFAIK they have never been rebadging Chinese made machines.

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    Re: Powcon history

    Quote Originally Posted by greenbuggy View Post
    What? Esabs are not cheap machines, and at least prior to the acquisition with Victor Technology holdings were being made in Florence, SC, West Lebanon NH or Denton TX. A few years ago they were rebranding some European (IIRC Polish) tig machines to sell as their own but AFAIK they have never been rebadging Chinese made machines.
    Correct on ESAB. But thermal arc machines are all made in China now. Now they are all one company it will get more confusing
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    Re: Powcon history

    Quote Originally Posted by greenbuggy View Post
    What? Esabs are not cheap machines, and at least prior to the acquisition with Victor Technology holdings were being made in Florence, SC, West Lebanon NH or Denton TX. A few years ago they were rebranding some European (IIRC Polish) tig machines to sell as their own but AFAIK they have never been rebadging Chinese made machines.
    Reread what I wrote. The point is in the context of the body of information. I should have added that the Esab machine I was referring to was the Rebel, due out in Janurary 2016.

    The CHINA MADE machines sold under the respective names, Lincoln, Thermal Arc (Tweco, etc) Esab Rebel, or their inexpensive little stick inverters, etc.

    The Rebel is being made in China. I'm not entirely sure on their cheaper stick inverters, but my guess is they're not made here. If they are, it's really irrelevant. This line of machines is being manufactured specifically for the hobby/light fab user on a budget.

    These companies have been either building their lower end offerings in China, or having a carefully selected contract company build them. That's why they can sell them as cheap as they can. The point of the statement is that these machines own the largest market share of "budget" minded customers. It is a HUGE market and very, very lucrative. Thermal Arc introduced the Fabricator line of machines at just the right time. Neither Miller, Lincoln or Esab had attempted to tap that market. The TA machines were/are well built, reliable and very inexpensive. Miller's only offering for that market is their grossly overpriced Mutimatic. They totally missed the boat on that opportunity. Lincoln finally got in the game with the 210MP and SW 200 inverter TIG., Esab is making moves too, with the Rebel.

    What I'm NOT saying is that they're cheap or junk. But in comparison to what their premium US assembled offerings cost, there's a huge difference. The context of my post was that there are basically a few market segments.

    1.) Lower, "budget" priced, entry level machines, and in that group other foreign made equipment that is priced at far less what the US equivalent would be

    2.) "High end" or premium level machines generally assembled in the USA, etc with the most features (such as Miller's Dynasty series) and a much, much higher price to go along with it.

    3). Everything that doesn't fit into those two general categories. This is where companies like Sanrex and Arcon, who are selling their machinery at retail prices that are close to, or exceed their mainstream premium level counterparts. That's why they have to have a niche customer, because their product is expensive, they do not have a large service network, and are relatively unknown to mainstream users.



    Hopefully that clarifies things.
    Last edited by 7A749; 11-30-2015 at 12:45 AM.

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    Re: Powcon history

    Quote Originally Posted by soutthpaw View Post
    Correct on ESAB. But thermal arc machines are all made in China now. Now they are all one company it will get more confusing
    The Rebel is being manufactured in China, but by Esab. I'm quite confident it will be every bit as quality as anything else they build.

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    Re: Powcon history

    Quote Originally Posted by 7A749 View Post
    The Rebel is being manufactured in China, but by Esab. I'm quite confident it will be every bit as quality as anything else they build.
    Oh didn't know that. Wonder if it's in the same factory add the TA and Longevity machines. That sucks it's made there too now. The gap between the Chicoms and major brands is shrinking by the day.
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  20. #20
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    Re: Powcon history

    From what the ESAB guy posting here said, Esab is set up over there in there own factory making them.

    I should have clarified that being the machine is brand new and was just unveiled at SEMA and Fabtech. I figured everyone already knew about it. My point was just that these companies have identified that light fab/YouTube video watcher market and have made moves to manufacture lines of machinery to fit those specific user's needs.

    And, at an affordable price.

    When comparing such machines to what the closest thing say, Miller is offering, there's a tremendous price difference. A lot of guys just starting out, or who don't have a lot of dough to pursue welding as a hobby, aren't going to drop big money on a Dynasty or even the Multimatic at around $2300ish bux when they can buy a Tweco Fabricator, Lincoln SW 200 inverter or Esab rebel fully outfitted for much, much less.

    Not to leave out machines like the AHP TIG, and their new plasma you recently posted pix of. These machines allow hobby guys and ppl just getting started to get into a plug and play package without having to drop a ton of money on it. Sure, there are limitations with machinery like that, but all told, they're a pretty good value for the entry level crowd who wants to purchase new, or doesn't have the room or power to run an older industrial machine.

    It is very true that the chicoms have really come a long ways. Thing is, they have seized an opportunity to grab a share of the machinery market that has gone largely ignored by the "bigger" brands. Some of these offerings are very good quality machines. Where it's made is irrelevant anymore. If the quality and support is there, that's what is really important from an end user standpoint.

    IMHO of course

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    Re: Powcon history

    Let's not forget Mexico! My Cutmaster 52 plasma was made there.
    Now it seems all I own are ESAB products, a lonely Hypertherm 85 and couple of Miller XMT's.

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    Re: Powcon history

    The former Thermal Dynamics West Lebanon NH plant where all the plasma cutters were manufactured at one point is essentially closed (has been for around 4 years) except for a rather small engineering group. The production workers were either moved (some to TX) or laid off, products are now built for them in China, In Mexico and some in Texas. Hypertherm hired many of those that were laid off.....same town, good experienced people!

    My wife has a business right next to the T-D plant, it now appears to be a moving company warehouse!

    Jim

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    Re: Powcon history

    Glad HT was able to give some of those ppl jobs.

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    Re: Powcon history

    Quote Originally Posted by soutthpaw View Post
    ...Wonder if it's in the same factory add the TA and Longevity machines. ...
    I recall seeing some pictures of a factory in China. I believe they were on Longevity's site and they said some of their machines were made there. One picture showed some Cutmaster plasma units being built. That was awhile back. I believe it was the Shanghai WTL factory, which apparently made some of the small Thermal Arc inverters. Some of the small ESAB inverter TIG/Stick units being sold in Europe look virtually identical (Buddy Arc, Buddy TIG). WTL is a respectable manufacturer.

    Wouldn't surprise me if the Cutmaster stuff was moved to Mexico since being included in the Victor umbrella, since they have a plant there.
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    Re: Powcon history

    The last I heard....the T-D plasma torches and most consumables are made in Mexico.

    Jim

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