When Innovation Gets you in Trouble….

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I was back in the shop last week looking around the storage area where I have archived some products that we have collected over the last 25 years. There’s some really interesting stuff back there, from the first TEC brand TIG torches to the first Weldcraft Micro-TIG torch, and the first Crafter Series prototypes and more.

I was looking for a specific Plasma gas distributor for a recent post, when I found something that brought back some great memories and made me laugh — the prototypes for the Weldcraft Plasma Cutting torch! Did you know Weldcraft had a Plasma cutting torch? Well they did and it was a real market innovation — (that’s my favorite word).
Weldcraft PC 30It was some 15 years ago… I was Director of Manufacturing at the time, and we decided it was time to leverage the outstanding worldwide brand name that we had built at Weldcraft. We had an excellent group of skilled guys and we identified the Plasma Arc Cutting market as an area that was greatly under served (as it is now).

So Randy Haberman our lead Mechanical Engineer took the concepts and created a blockbuster product line — a universal Plasma Arc Cutting torch that would fit all the popular Plasma Arc Cutting machines and used basically one set of parts! Think about it –one torch — one set of parts regardless of machine type. It was a real innovation.

Weldcraft’s PC-30 Plasma torch was the first to use a sculptured ergonomic handle with a built-in trigger switch located on the bottom of the body — and get this — it was completely rebuildable.

We created a dedicated facility across the street from Weldcraft with a dedicated engineering staff, machinery and sales force, we began to expand into all types of high quality aftermarket Plasma Arc Cutting parts and that’s when the trouble began.

What happened to the Weldcraft PC-30 product line? As the Product Manager I was told to relocate it to our sister company Bernard and rename it PlazCraft.

It seems companies like Hypertherm and Thermal Dynamics didn’t appreciate the competition, and because our division President was trying to buy one or both of those companies we were told to shut it down!

I said I had to laugh because now you see all the new Hypertherm torches with a similar comfortable handle style, and Thermal Dynamics is spending heavily to promote their “One Torch” one torch that fits a variety of Plasma Arc Cutting machines… Been there. Done that! Even Abicor Binzel is in the game with their Abicut Plasma Arc Cutting torch.

That’s been my experience in this industry a lot of copy cat’s — few innovators…


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