Traditional welding helmets use a piece of tinted glass to protect the operator's eyesight while the welder is working. Welding helmets with auto-darkening lenses replace this tinted glass with a special auto-darkening filter lens. Light sensors on the helmet detect bright light, like that caused by an operating welder, and automatically darken the lens. Welding helmets equipped with an auto-darkening lens offer numerous advantages, but are more expensive than traditional welding helmets.
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Welders must lift the faceplate of a regular welding helmet to see when the welder is not in operation. The operator first positions the welding rig in the appropriate place, and then flips down the faceplate. This can cause the welding right to shift position slightly. The operator may not be able to see this slight shift because the lens in a traditional welding helmet is extremely dark. Precision placement of a welding seam is often needed, and even slight variations can sometimes ruin a project. Lenses that darken automatically eliminate the necessity or moving the faceplate, thereby eliminating this problem.
Traditional welding helmets can lead to potentially career- and even life-threatening injuries. An operator using a traditional welding helmet must often flip the faceplate up and down repeatedly throughout the course of the average workday. This is typically accomplished by a rapid flicking of the neck. This sort of repetitive motion can potentially lead to injury, even without the added weight of the welding helmet. Auto-darkening lenses eliminate the need for repeated neck strain.
Welders using auto-darkening lenses can sometimes realise increased efficiency. According to Tom Sommers, product development manager for Miller Electric, it is not uncommon for a welder using an auto-darkening helmet to increase efficiency by up to 30 per cent. Increased efficiency through the use of auto-darkening helmets is most obvious when the welder is moving quickly from one weld to the next.
Auto-darkening-equipped welding helmets are considerably more expensive than their traditional counterparts. Prices are often at least five times higher for a helmet with auto-darkening lenses. Another disadvantage applies only to certain models of auto-darkening helmets designed with a non-replaceable battery charged through a solar assist panel. Once the battery gives out, the auto-darkening lens will cease functioning.
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