Thanks to major technological advances in the field of welding, which includes changes, updates and improvements in welder attire, specifically welding helmets, the occupation has become much more productive, efficient and incredibly safer.
Welders now have a wealth of great options when it comes to selecting the type of helmet they choose to wear. These options or choices can represent personal preferences as well as specific welding applications and environment types (indoors, outdoors, etc.).
Some of these helmet types represent the above-mentioned technological advances that have played such a major role in safety and productivity. These helmet choices help welders choose the appropriate level of protection for the type of welding to be done, as well as the amount of welding needed.
Today welding helmets are available in two main categories: passive helmets and automatic helmets?also known as auto-darkening helmets.
Passive helmets have been around for decades, although many different improvements have been made to these static helmet types over the years. These categories of helmets have a dark lens that does not change or adjust.
Typically, welders that use passive helmets will nod the face piece down as they begin welding and the arc is created.
Auto-darkening helmets offer a lot of safety and convenience and are a bit easier to use. This is especially true for welders/operators who are forced to raise and lower their welding mask on a frequent basis.
Automatic helmets are equipped with intelligent and intuitive sensors that will automatically darken the lens of the helmet once an arc is detected – either through the light of the arc or the magnetic frequency it emits.
In the following article, we will describe the many benefits associated with auto-darkening welding helmets. Before we get into that subject, however, we will briefly define the different types of automatic (auto darkening) helmets currently available for purchase.
Types of Auto-Darkening Welding Helmets
In the category of auto-darkening helmets, there are essentially two main types: welding helmets that offer a fixed shade when they darken; and helmets that are equipped with variable shade options.
There are also different operational modes depending on the type of helmet you purchase.
Fixed Shade Automatic Helmets
Auto-darkening helmets with a fixed shade are programmed to darken to one pre-set shade (thus the name fixed-shade), regardless of the job or environment.
Fixed shade automatic helmets tend to be an excellent choice for welders who are performing operations in which he or she is consistently repeating the same type of weld – in the same type of environment.
Variable Shade Automatic Helmets
Variable shade auto-darkening welding helmets are equipped with a lens that can turn different shades – shades the welder/operator can select from.
These lens darkening options/adjustments are typically selected via a digital keyboard on the helmet and are based on the brightness of the arc. This category of helmets is beneficial when the welding applications, processes and environments vary.
Operational Modes on Auto-Darkening Helmets
Some auto-darkening helmets are additionally equipped with a variety of operational modes. These modes allow the operator to alter the tint for different types of jobs, such as plasma cutting, grinding, etc. These operational options make the helmets very flexible and versatile, allowing a single helmet to be used for a wide range of welding applications and jobs.
The Benefits of Automatic Welding Helmets
There are many benefits associated with auto-darkening welding helmets, ranging from the convenience and flexibility they offer to the various options they are equipped with that are absent from the older style, passive helmets. Below we have highlighted some of these benefits.
Automatic Helmets Are Convenient and Safe
In most kind of welding jobs, welders using a passive helmet must constantly nod the helmet down before they start the welding arc, and pull the face piece up when the arc has stopped to check their work. And given that some welding jobs can be very extensive in nature, this can quickly get tiring.With auto-darkening helmets, the helmet automatically darkens when the arc is created, protecting the eyes from the potentially blinding light. This is not only convenient for welders, but much safer.
It eliminates the chance that a welder in a passive helmet may accidentally forget to nod the helmet down and thus put their eyes at risk.To make auto-darkening helmets even more convenient to use, some manufacturers have begun adding technology that includes a digital clock display.
This feature allows the operator an opportunity to set an alarm to keep track of his or her daily activities, or to receive alerts about meetings, break times, and the end of shift.
Automatic Helmets Increase Productivity and Efficiency
For welders who must constantly pull their helmet up to inspect their weld, and nod it back down when the arc is recreated, there is more than just inconvenience as stake.
These movements take time – time that over a week, month or even a year can quickly add up. The time spent in performing these repetitive movements is time that could have been spent welding.
Therefore, passive helmets tend to decrease productivity by their very nature, while auto-darkening helmets have a tendency to increase productivity among workers.In some of the newer style auto-darkening helmets, there is now a feature that enables the lens of the helmet to track the ?arc-on? time – a feature called arc tracking that allows welders and their bosses to keep track of the actual time that is spent welding during a day, week, etc.
Naturally, this type of information can be used to calculate both efficiency and productivity. It can also help illuminate any deficiencies in a given welder and identify potential training needs and opportunities if necessary.
Some Automatic Helmets are Equipped with Electromagnetic Arc Sensing
Also not found in a passive helmet is the new technology known as electromagnetic arc sensing – another feature that helps to improve both safety and productivity. This option was mostly created for environmental situations – when the operator is welding outdoors – and for cases in which the operator has an obstructed view.Although some auto-darkening helmets are not equipped with Electromagnetic Arc Sensing, those that are never have to worry about obstructions (such as the operator?s head) that could potentially block the lens sensors, creating a situation where the lens fails to darken.
Bright sunlight on some outdated automatic helmets can also cause the lens to darken prematurely – an eventuality that is prevented with electromagnetic arc sensing.With this type of helmet technology, the sensors are programmed to pick up the magnetic frequency of the welding arc to rid any issues of interference. In other words, the lens is not merely activated from the brightness of the arc, but from the frequency it emits.
Like the arc tracking, this convenient option can drastically reduce a welder?s downtime – time that he or she would otherwise need to adjust or reposition the helmet or the work-piece.
Grinding Options Are Available with Automatic Helmets
Although most welders would tell you that they DO NOT like the grinding that often goes hand in hand with welding, almost all would admit that grinding is an essential function that must be done.
Fortunately, with the newer auto-darkening helmets, this job is now a bit easier to handle.Some of today?s automatic helmets offer a separate grind mode for post-weld cleanup jobs. Equipped with an external control, the lens of the helmet can automatically adjust for grinding jobs with just a push of a button or flip of a switch (depending on the model).
Like some of the other tracking and operational modes the best welding helmets are equipped with, the grinding mode helps improve productivity and safety since there is no need for the operator to remove the helmet to make adjustments.
Automatic Helmets Are Comfortable
With advances in productivity, efficiency and safety, automatic helmets offer operators a slew of options that were never present on the passive-lens helmets of old.
These newer style helmets also offer increased comfort, without sacrificing the safety they are meant to provide.Many welders are forced to wear their welding helmet for up to 6-10 hours a day, and the sheer weight of the older helmets were extremely prohibitive.
Today?s helmets, despite the added options they include, are now made from much more lightweight materials that drastically improve comfort.Additionally, many of today?s helmets are designed to automatically pivot, and include dual top straps to help spread the weight across the operator?s head.
They also include cushioned headband pads, which are both comfortable and help to reduce the amount of sweat that may run into a welder?s eyes.
The chief objective of many of these new comfort options is to reduce the weight of the helmet and distribute it more evenly across the head. This in turn can help to alleviate strain and discomfort for the weld operator.
Unfortunately, the one thing that cannot be changed is the weight of the glass on the mask – and the majority of the weight in an automatic helmet comes from the glass in the auto-darkening lens.
This is why all of the other advancements to reduce and spread the weight more evenly, thus improving helmet comfort, are so crucial – and so appreciated by operators.