When shopping for welding helmets, you’ll find that you have a choice when it comes to the lens, or, in other words, the screen that allows the wearer to see clearly, even when the mask is pulled down to cover the face. Passive lenses and auto-darkening lenses are the two main options available to potential buyers.
Passive and auto-darkening refers to the different types of protection that are offered against ultraviolet and infrared light. If the lenses fall within ANSI specifications, they will provide you with 100 percent protection. Therefore, the choice of helmet is based on other factors. Depending on the application and the user, one type might be preferable over the other.
Generally speaking, passive lenses offer a very basic design. They are available with different shades that offer different levels of protection; most passive lenses have a #10 shade, which is quite average. They are typically slightly less expensive than auto-darkening models, meaning that they are a good entry-level option.
However, welding helmets with passive lenses have their downside. The biggest disadvantage is that the MIG gun (or equipment of choice) needs to be held in position while the helmet is still in the upward position. When the wearer is ready, the helmet gets flipped down, but in doing so, the MIG gun is likely to move out of place. This could end up damaging or even ruining the weld altogether.
Furthermore, the sharp movements the welder has to make with his neck to flick the helmet into position over the face can cause injuries such as repetitive strain injury and fatigue. This is particularly pertinent for smaller, shorter jobs, such as tack welding where there is a lot of stopping and starting.
A welding helmet with an auto-darkening lens can solve most of the problems that welders face when using a helmet with a passive lens. Auto-darkening lenses are fairly self-explanatory. As the surroundings become lighter, the lens automatically becomes darker, which protects the eyes.
In normal lighting, an auto-darkening lens sits with a shade around the #3 mark. However, as soon as the wearer starts welding and bright sparks and flashes of light appear, the lens automatically transitions to as dark as #13 in a few thousandths of a second. This allows the wearer to continue welding safely and effectively with virtually no problems when it comes to light adjustments.
Because the lens darkens automatically, there isn’t the need to flip the helmet up and down. This helmet can stay down and in place over the wearer’s face the whole time, regardless of whether he is welding or not; the auto-darkening lens will always make it possible to see. In turn, this means that there is less of a likelihood of causing neck damage from constant nodding and flicking of the head. Not only will this help the welder’s head and neck, but it will also end up saving time, as well.
Obviously, auto-darkening lenses have many advantages, but the main disadvantage is the price. Understandably, auto-darkening lenses are more expensive than their passive counterparts, which means this style might not be appropriate for all budgets.
All things considered, the decision of whether to go for a welding helmet with a passive lens or an auto-darkening lens is up to you. There’s no doubt that auto-darkening lenses have many benefits that passive lenses simply don’t, but they come at a cost. If you can’t afford these luxuries or don’t feel it’s worth paying for at the moment, then passive lenses will be more than satisfactory.