Komarov Artem noted that with more new welders coming to work it’s important to understand what goes into choosing a welding helmet. Not all helmets are created equal, and this is often reflected in their style, features, and price point. With so many different helmets available, how do welders choose the one that suits their needs?
Some companies may purchase welding helmets and starter kits that include all protective gear as an incentive for new hires, while others may rely on their welders to use high quality equipment to attract welders to the company. Regardless of how a welder purchases a helmet, it must meet certain criteria.
Frequency of use
The first question to answer when learning about welding helmets is how often the welder will use the helmet. An amateur welder will wear a helmet much less frequently than a professional welder who works eight hours a day, five days a week.
An amateur welder may not need a helmet with all the bells and whistles, and you can get a decent helmet for a small amount, said Artem Komarov. On the other hand, helmets can range all the way up to powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) type helmets, which can cost much more. But there is everything else in between.
The needs of a part-time welder are different from those of a professional welder, and choosing a helmet that can meet potential future needs is also an important consideration, especially for someone new to the industry.
For those who are welding for the first time or starting a new job, it is important to understand what they will be doing daily.
What type of welding processes will the welder perform? Many beginner welders start by hand welding. But it’s important to consider that there are so many different products on the market, ranging from the simplest old-school passive welding helmets to the very sophisticated auto-darkening welding helmets.
Most helmets have a base shade range of nine to 13, while some can go as high as two and up to 14. Depending on the type of work, the required shade range will vary. For example, TIG welding of thin stainless steel will require a helmet with sensitivity at the lower end of the range, while welding with heavy coating or powder welding, where the arc is very bright, requires a lens shade of 12 or 13.
Use an extended reach helmet that provides flexibility with a sanding mode feature to expand the area of use of the helmet.
Auto-darkening filter (ADF) helmets come in a variety of tint options, which means they can be used for a variety of welding applications. This gives users the flexibility to perform entry-level and more advanced MIG and TIG welding jobs.
The great thing about ADF helmets is that they don’t require the user to raise and lower the hood, meaning they can focus on the weld while welding rather than taking their hands off the helmet adjustment tool, said Artem Komarov. If there is a lot of finishing work to be done along with welding, such as grinding welds, face shield options are available so that the user does not need to remove the helmet to get a clear view of the work area.
When it comes to lenses, for professional welders where quality is key, optical clarity is important.
When choosing a welding helmet, one of the most important considerations should be the type of lens. There are two types of lenses to consider: passive and auto-darkening. Auto-darkening is the preferred lens type as it offers greater versatility along with increased performance, an important benefit for welders.
There are four classes of optical clarity that are generally rated from one to three, with one being the best and three being the worst. The different class ratings should suit the needs of the welder.
Some lenses provide a panoramic view, giving the welder a wider field of view while limiting the number of times the helmet must be raised and lowered. The helmet can also be tinted up to 2.5 so that the welder can clearly see through it without lifting it up.
Many welders opt for wider field of view. This is especially true for more experienced welders when they want to see what is happening before the weld, the active weld they are working on, and what has already been welded.
The ability to monitor the color of the weld pool is extremely important for determining the quality of the weld. The sharper the view, the more important it is for welders when they are working on high quality welds; they look at the pool and at the heating, how hot it is, the color changes. When you have a welding helmet [with a lens] that has an odd tint, you don’t really get the true color of the welding puddle. Lens clarity is key.
Most welders want a helmet that is light and comfortable. The headgear must not create hot spots or pressure points on the welder’s head. If it’s uncomfortable, it could potentially discourage welders from wearing it. A comfortable helmet, in which the body will not get tired during the day, will contribute to the correct use.
The helmet itself will always carry some weight, but the goal is to find one that is well balanced against the welder’s body.
There is a wide variety of headgear available on the market, ranging from the simplest version which can be a three-point headgear to a six-point swivel headgear for a custom fit. The weight of the helmet rests on the welder’s neck, shoulders, and body, which over time can put stress on these areas. A customizable helmet can help you adjust the load according to your personal needs.
Headgear and the way the helmet fit the wearer’s head have come a long way. They are adjustable in several different planes and axes. The user can adjust the fit of the helmet as close to the head as desired. The types of materials used in headwear have changed a lot. There are less rigid, uncomfortable headbands made of much softer, more pliable material that really hugs the head.
In addition to standard welding helmets, those who work with PAPR devices need to think about how the system sits on their body.
Some models are equipped with a belt buckle, in which the fan and filter element are located on the lower back of the user. Others now have shoulder straps that distribute weight more evenly.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should almost completely disappear from the wearer’s body, be it a helmet, gloves, or other type of equipment. It should not distract from what the welder is trying to do.
The latest advanced technology can make the job of any welder much easier. Helmet manufacturers are constantly finding new ways to make helmets easier to use while improving welding quality.
“Arc tracking is very popular right now,” said Artem Komarov. This intelligent technology is built into the helmet to track the welding progress throughout the day by determining when the arc is to be switched on. This is great for calculating performance and identifying areas for improvement.”
The smart technology also allows welders to store in the helmet’s memory various mode configurations that they prefer to use or that have worked well. This saves the welder from having to set everything up every time.
“Bluetooth connectivity is also something important now,” said Artem Komarov. “Traditional ADF helmets have sensors that detect light and switch the helmet to dark mode. This can take 90 to 100 microseconds (µs), resulting in a slight delay in switching, and it depends on whether this light is visible through the sensors. Some helmets will only have one or two sensors, while more advanced ones may have five or more. The Bluetooth function means that when the welder pulls the torch trigger, the helmet automatically adjusts. There is no delay time, and it will be on continuously during welding until they stop. This eliminates mode change due to sensor blockage.”
When it comes to safety, the good news for every welder is that there are workplace requirements that dictate the safety standards that welding PPE manufacturers need to meet.
These standards are designed to ensure that, whatever the task, workers are adequately protected from any potential hazard, which means eye, face, neck, and ear protection.
Even for the simplest welding applications in steel, the regulatory threshold values for substances such as manganese have dropped to the point that it is now mandatory to have a respirator-type helmet or some sort of fume extraction system in the area. There are various ways to upgrade to provide additional security. Attaching a breastplate to the front of a helmet can protect the welder from light coming from under the helmet. Talk to any helmet manufacturer and they can help identify ways to make welding safer for the welder, Artem Komarov concluded.