Selecting the right welding helmet plays an important role in a welder’s safety and comfort and can also help improve efficiency, productivity and weld quality. These are all factors that impact a welding operation’s bottom line.
An important consideration when selecting the right helmet for the application is the type and quality of lens used in the helmet.
At the most basic level, a welding helmet lens is certified to protect the welder from the ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) rays of the welding arc. In addition to providing protection from harmful rays, an auto-darkening lens uses optical (and sometimes electromagnetic) sensors to change from a “light” state to a “dark” state when an arc is struck. Recently, new technologies have led to improvements for auto-darkening welding lenses.
One of the latest advances for auto-darkening lens technology improves a welder’s visibility by allowing a greater range of colors to come through the lens. This gives the welder a clearer view of the weld pool and surrounding workpiece while welding.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 15,000 welding equipment-related eye injuries occur each year. Eye injuries account for roughly 25 percent of all injuries to welders, and studies suggest that up to 90 percent of occupational eye injuries are preventable.
Injuries to the eye in the manufacturing or industrial welding environment most commonly occur when the operator is not welding and has the helmet in the up position. When a lens reduces eye strain by providing greater clarity and a brighter light state, welders can leave their helmets down when performing non-welding tasks, like grinding or cleaning. In the past, it was necessary to raise the helmet up for a clear line of sight.
Seeing more colors
As welding helmets continue to evolve thanks to advanced technologies, one recent innovation – a wide-band filter – allows welders to see more wavelengths along the color spectrum. Where previous filter technology prevents some colors from passing through – which results in the welder seeing an artificial yellow, green, or blue tint – wide-band technology allows colors commonly emitted during welding to pass through the lens filter. This provides the welder with a more color-neutral lens.
To illustrate this improvement, Figure 1 shows transmittance percentage (Y axis) along the wavelength light scale (X axis). The green line shows the color band resulting from traditional lens technology while the blue line shows the wide-band filter of a newer advanced lens. The display is a good representation of the additional colors that a welder can see when welding with a new wide-band lens.
The improved, color-neutral lens provides greater contrast when welding, so the welder can more easily see the weld pool. This contributes to higher-quality completed welds and improved productivity.
Even when not welding, an operator benefits from a wide-band lens. The heightened contrast in colors makes it easier to see peripheral items in between welds – hopefully leading to increased “helmet down” time.
A brighter state
When choosing a helmet, many welders look for an auto-darkening lens that provides a brighter light state. Light state refers to the state of the lens when it’s not darkened for welding. Light state is measured on a numeric scale that represents how much light is being filtered out.
The scale typically runs from shade 3 to 13 for welding helmets – the higher the number, the more light is being filtered out and the darker the lens. A shade 13 would be a darkened lens for high-amperage welding, as an example.
The ability to achieve a brighter light state – such as a 3 on the scale – means the welder has a brighter view when the helmet is down and they’re not welding. As an example, a helmet with a light state shade of 3 offers a noticeably brighter light state than a helmet with shade 4.
A brighter light state offers numerous benefits. In addition to reducing the number of times a welder has to remove their helmet or raise it up, a brighter light state can reduce eye strain – an important comfort and safety factor, especially as the welding workforce ages.
In addition to considering new innovations in lens technology, there are other factors to look for in choosing the right welding helmet. Unsurprisingly, the comfort level the helmet provides is incredibly important.
A helmet that is properly balanced is just as critical as its weight because both reduced weight and improved balance reduce neck strain and improve welder comfort. It can also help increase productivity by allowing for more arc-on time.
Headgear technology that uses flexible materials to provide a more secure fit and conform to each welder’s unique head shape and size can also improve comfort and efficiency. This type of helmet technology minimizes the irritation of pressure points that could lead to headaches.
Beyond fit, advancements in lens filter technologies provide welders with a clearer view of their work – a key feature that helps prevent costly mistakes and rework by making it easier to see the weld pool. New lens filters can also reduce the potential for eye strain – making it more comfortable for the welders to keep their helmet down.
When choosing a welding helmet, consider the various options and available lens technologies. Investing in a welding helmet with filters that provide a brighter light state and a wider range of colors can help improve safety, compliance, productivity and operator comfort in the welding operation.