Manufacturing News

The dark side of welding helmets

Reduce the risk of injury and provide maximum eye protection by choosing the correct auto-darkening welding helmet. Deborah Adamson reports.

SELECTING the right auto-darkening welding helmet has become rather confusing. With so many models available on the market to choose from, the range of price brackets and the different terminology used by various manufacturers, it is difficult to know which one to go with.

It basically comes down to the type of welding application — once you know what type of job you will be using the helmet for, it becomes clearer as to what features you need — plus you’ll know how many amps the auto-darkening helmet needs to be able to handle.

The best advice is to understand the benefits offered by the various features and not make a decision purely on price. A high quality auto-darkening welding helmet is vital to provide the maximum protection for your eyes.

Choosing a helmet

Most quality lenses will feature a switching speed around 1/15000th to 1/20000th of a second (0.07 to 0.05 milliseconds) — enabling the lens to switch to dark without any noticeable flash to the human eye.

When it comes to sensors, the rule of thumb is the more the better. Most auto-darkening helmets will feature at least two sensors.

Products fitted with three or four sensors are less likely to be troubled by any obstruction to the sensors, and therefore much less likely to change back to the light state in the middle of welding.

Ensure the helmet has built-in sensitivity functions. These allow for the sensors to be tuned in to ambient light conditions — allowing the operator to eliminate external light sources that may impact the ability of the sensors to detect a welding arc.

This means that the lens will darken when needed, and not before.

A delay control feature is essential. It allows the operator to control the switching time between light and dark. In some welding applications, there can be a significant afterglow resulting in eye discomfort. In these situations, the delay control allows the adequate time for the weld metal to cool, avoiding any eye discomfort.

Comfort can also be a major issue with auto-darkening welding helmets.

During selection, you should look for a lightweight polyamide nylon shell and a fully adjustable harness, along with plenty of cushioning for support.

Lastly, the helmet design should exhibit significant space between the external cover lens and the filter, plus offer flexibility in the harness.

This minimises the likelihood of any damage to the filter lens — which can account for as much as 90% of the total cost of the unit.

The bottom line is that you have to assess the helmet that is right for you by ensuring that the features mentioned above are present, determine the type of welding you’ll be using it for, and try the helmet to make sure it is a comfortable fit.

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