Why does this inverter cost $3,300?

RCinFLA

Photon Sorcerer
Joined
Jun 21, 2020
Messages
1,779
I have never heard this before. Did they not sell the company to Xantrex and move on to create Outback and Magnum, and ultimately Midnite Solar?
Three guys from Heart inverter broke off to start Trace in the mid 80's.

Trace was bought out by Xantrex Canada in 1990, and then bought out by Schneider Electric in 2008 which is more like a holding company leaving what they purchase to run pretty much independently. Not sure about the when/what/why of the Conext association but likely a shotgun wedding arranged by Schneider Electric.

The original Trace patent 5373433 was filed in 1992. It is the three-transformer secondary side series connected output design relying on low leakage inductance power transformers.

Some of the original Trace guys broke off after the company sale to start Outback. They started with using the single low freq transformer leakage inductance as part of the PWM filter along with secondary winding side filter capacitor.
 

littleharbor2

Solar Addict
Joined
Sep 15, 2021
Messages
290
Here's a snippet of their timeline. I have added a link to the full story here. Hope it is allowed.

The main inverter sales in the early days of Trace went to the marijuana growers in Northern California. A young entrepreneur, David Katz was the owner of our main distributor, AEE Solar. They helped to keep the doors open. Forward to 1998: The main owners of Trace decided it was time to sell the company. It was worth a lot of money at that time and a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. I owned a small percentage of Trace so was able to put a sizeable amount of cash in the bank when the company sold. I also bought back into the new company based on promises of fame and fortune from the new owners. Engineers aren't known for making the best business decisions and this one turned out to be a real nightmare. Two years later the new owners of Trace merged with Xantrex in Canada. The management of the new merged company came from Xantrex. I was now part owner of Xantrex, one of the companies I had been trying to squash! Xantrex had done a fine job building small disposable high frequency inverters, but had virtually no presence in the off-grid market. Trace built their reputation on making reliable inverters that powered anything and everything the customer threw at it. Trace inverters had to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Xantrex inverter market was quite different and not nearly as demanding. The direction we were headed in Arlington changed with the new Xantrex management and I had numerous run-ins with them. In August of 2000 this all came to a head and "my position was eliminated". Great! They have a quarter million dollars of my retirement nest egg and I am out of a job.

 

Steve_S

Offgrid Cabineer, N.E. Ontario, Canada
Joined
Oct 29, 2019
Messages
6,058
Location
Rural NE Ontario Canada
Interesting responses and yet an OBVIOUS point not clarified.
High Frequency MOSFET driven AIO's, Inverters etc ALL Cost considerably less than Low Frequency System using Large Coils which also add considerably more weight. Tier-1 LF Inverters, Inverter/Chargers & AIO's also usually run between 95-97% Efficiency, WHILE Low Cost "Value Grade" products tend to be less efficient and sometimes considerably so.

A Majority of Staff, including the President of Midnite Solar came from Trace & Xantrex after the buyout.
 

Warpspeed

Solar Addict
Joined
Jun 11, 2021
Messages
329
Yes indeed, there are a lot of advantages to a hard switched low frequency square wave transformer inverter.

By adding additional square wave inverters (with the secondaries connected in series) its possible to generate a near perfect sinewave of low distortion, while still keeping all the advantages of square wave inverter operation.

These types of inverters have excellent surge capability, handle highly reactive loads with ease, and are completely bi-directional. They are much more expensive to build, and are not really comparable to the lower cost pulse width modulated transformer inverters.

They also scale up much more readily for higher power than the high frequency pwm inverters.
Definitely the best technical approach, but expensive to make.

I have been playing with these for over forty years, mine is not a copy of anything, its been developed entirely independently of Trace/Xantrex.

Mine uses four inverters for significantly lower distortion, and uses voltage and current feedforward instead of the more common voltage feedback.
Xantrex has 27 steps and probably about 2% to 3% harmonic distortion. My design has 81 steps and 0.8% measured harmonic distortion.
 

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curiouscarbon

Science Penguin
Joined
Jun 29, 2020
Messages
2,300
Yes indeed, there are a lot of advantages to a hard switched low frequency square wave transformer inverter.

By adding additional square wave inverters (with the secondaries connected in series) its possible to generate a near perfect sinewave of low distortion, while still keeping all the advantages of square wave inverter operation.

These types of inverters have excellent surge capability, handle highly reactive loads with ease, and are completely bi-directional. They are much more expensive to build, and are not really comparable to the lower cost pulse width modulated transformer inverters.

They also scale up much more readily for higher power than the high frequency pwm inverters.
Definitely the best technical approach, but expensive to make.

I have been playing with these for over forty years, mine is not a copy of anything, its been developed entirely independently of Trace/Xantrex.

Mine uses four inverters for significantly lower distortion, and uses voltage and current feedforward instead of the more common voltage feedback.
Xantrex has 27 steps and probably about 2% to 3% harmonic distortion. My design has 81 steps and 0.8% measured harmonic distortion.
warpverter!!

neat how paralleling 2-3 secondary and dozens of steps per secondary can achieve low percent total harmonic distortion..

some sort of cool science magic to transmitting the power via transformer, by magnetic means
 

Warpspeed

Solar Addict
Joined
Jun 11, 2021
Messages
329
Think of it as direct digital to analog conversion at the kilowatt level and at mains voltage.

This is how I built mine for very quick and easy access to all the working parts.
Any similarity to a repurposed two drawer filing cabinet is purely coincidental.

I have not weighed the whole thing, but as you can see in picture three, the four transformers sit on a piece of quarter inch steel plate, and its very heavy indeed.
 

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