What are the benefits of using the best welding helmets?

Welding helmets have changed over the past 40 years from the older standard helmets that use a fixed lens as shown Figure 1. These helmets came with two window or lens sizes, the flip front helmet with a 50mm X 100mm view and the larger viewing helmet with a 100mm X 125mm viewing window.


Flip Front Helmet


 Wide View Fixed Helmet

Figure 1, Typical Standard Welding Helmets

When used in production the welder had to set up to start welding and then either flip the window down or flip the helmet down over the face to protect from the ultraviolet and infrared radiation (UV/IR) and guess where the arc would start when contacting the metal. To an inexperienced welder, this would generally cause arc starting problems and cause rework. Production would be reduced as the welder would always need to set up and flip the helmet down, which was a relatively slow way to start the arc and weld. To add to slower production, the filter lens was a fixed shade and had to be changed whenever using different levels of amperage with different welding processes and cutting systems. Again, this took some time. Another safety issue with the old-style helmets was they were made from thermoplastics and fibreglass materials that were heavy and sometimes caused neck fatigue.

In the 1980s auto-darkening helmets were introduced as shown in Figure 2.

These new helmets also had a fixed lens, but the significance is that they automatically darken to a preselected lens shade when the arc is started to protect the welder from the UV/IR radiation. The lens windows come in many different sizes from the typical 50mm X 100mm with some helmets offering up to 70mm X 105mm or larger. The benefit from the new technology was an increase in productivity, weld quality and safety. The newer auto-darkening helmets today are made from lighter materials such as Nylon, NORYL and AMODEL and are less likely to cause neck fatigue problems and there is no need to constantly move the helmets up or down using your neck muscles.

Figure 2, Typical Auto-Darkening Helmet

The new auto-darkening helmets allowed the welder to view and position where to start the arc with the helmet down covering the face. The filter lens, when not engaged, is set at shade # 3 which is like looking through sunglasses. It allowed the welder to see where to place the welding electrode and once the arc was started the auto-darkening lens would darken to a safe shade to protect the welder from UV/IR in approximately 0.07 milliseconds. These new helmets also allowed the welder to select a lens shade from 9 to 13 using a dial on the outside or inside the helmet, so there is no need to change filter lenses when increasing or decreasing amperages or changing welding processes. Using the auto-darkening helmets today allows inexperienced welders to improve their welding skills by making it easier to start the arc and to position the electrode properly in the joint. This is performed without having to move the helmet screen manually. The experienced welder becomes highly productive because now they have the ability to move to the many positions on a part to be welded without lifting and lowing the helmet each time, they are depositing welds. This results in reduced rework and increased safety with less chances of arc strikes than with the old helmet technology.




Bill Eccles, Vice President, PPC and Associates