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FAQ Auto-Darkening Filters

One of the most common eye injuries from UV/IR radiation are retinal burns and flash burns to the cornea. We understand that eye protection is a critical issue for all welders and here are our replies to a few of the most frequent questions we hear about our auto-darkening filters.

Welding 9100-QR_5_LR_cutQ1)  Are the 3M™ Speedglas™ Auto-Darkening Filters as safe as a passive filter?
Yes,  Speedglas auto-darkening welding filters provide constant protection (shade 13 equivalent) from ultraviolet and infrared (UV/IR) radiation regardless of whether the filter is in the light or dark state or whether the auto-darkening function is operational. They’re potentially safer than passive filters as you can keep the helmet in the down position during the whole welding process as the filter auto-switch from light to dark, and back again, to help increase productivity while you weld. Plus, your hands are not preoccupied with constant helmet adjustment.

Q2)  Are the 3M Speedglas Auto-Darkening Filters fragile?
No more than traditional filters. All Speedglas welding filters have inner and outer (replaceable) protection plates that are easy to replace anytime they becomes deeply pitted, scratched or too dirty to clean with a soft cloth. The welding filter is recessed into the helmet and therefor well protected. A Speedglas welding helmet is very much as robust as a passive welding helmet.

Q3)  What happens if the battery fails?
To repeat: with Speedglas auto-darkening filters you’re always protected from hazardous UV/IR radiation. Speedglas auto-darkening filters provide constant protection (shade 13 equivalent) from ultraviolet and infrared (UV/IR) radiation regardless of whether the filter is in the light or dark state or whether the auto-darkening function is operational.

Q4)  Do you see any of the arc flash?
No. The filter switches too quickly for the eye to see a flash (0.1 ms at room temperature). The transition from no arc to arc occurs without a perceptible flash.

Q5)  How can a 3M Speedglas Auto-Darkening Helmet help increase welders’ performance?
The Speedglas auto-darkening filters consistently auto-switch from light to dark, and back again. Both of your hands are free and the electrode can be precisely positioned, to help increase productivity while you weld. An auto-darkening welding helmet also help reduce neck-strain from “helmet nodding”, while greatly increasing the accuracy of electrode placement. This, in turn reduces the need for grinding and rework. The filters’ constant, clear views make even extremely akward welds a lot easier.

Q6) How fast does a 3M Speedglas Auto-Darkening Helmet pay for itself?
If profitability is defined in terms of protection, one day is enough. But while “protection” sometimes can be difficult to measure, efficiency and weld quality are much easier to gauge. Studies show that you can increase efficiency substantially when using Speedglas auto-darkening filters. Not only can you work faster when you can always see, but you move more efficiently, placing electrodes more precisely. Most “bad weld starts” can be eliminated. Fewer bad welds mean less grinding and higher overall quality off chart

For example:
Productivity gains are, of course, dependent on the application. If you do lots of tack welds, you will have much greater productivity gains than a welder doing long seam welds. With that said, this example uses a conservative 15% gain in productivity. If cost for salary is $20 per hour, the welding helmet will pay for itself in approximately two months. In one year, the productivity gain could be up to $6000 in savings (also known as new profits). Note: Dollar amounts are approximate and may vary).


Q7) How do I know what welding filter model is best for me?
When it comes to welding equipment and safety products, the cliché – “you get what you pay for” – has never rung more truly. Welding equipment and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should always be selected based on the individual’s circumstances, not the price. The optimal choice of welding filter depends, most of all, on type of welding process. But also on personal preferences that incorporate the complete welding helmet system, like size of viewing area, peripherial view, perceived weight and balance, need of additional protection etc.

Before you select a model, ask yourself:

  • How will I use my welding helmet ?
  • Do I occasionally change welding process?
  • Am I using very low (<20) or very high (>300) amperes?

This is a long-term investment: a variable welding filter offers more flexible features for new working conditions. Always contact your Safety Engineer, Safety Officer or other safety experts if there are any doubts regarding appropriate eye protection in your working situation.

Q8) If I select a Speedglas welding helmet with passive lens, can I upgrade my helmet with an auto-darkening filter later?
Yes, most Speedglas welding helmets have a passive welding filter option. If you later on would like to upgrade to an auto-darkening filter, it’s easy to just switch welding filter. You don’t have to buy a completely new helmet.
Any other question you like to ask regarding 3M™ Speedglas™ Auto-Darkening Filters ? Please add your comment below!

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More than 35 years ago, we went to the shipyards of Sweden to study welders working conditions. We found skilled craftsmen blindly striking arcs as they continually nodded their shields down.

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