The history of the welding helmet is an interesting one. In the 1930s, WWII combat helmets were used to protect against molten metal splatter from welding torches. Later, during the war and in the 1960s, these helmets were modified for GTAW, short for gaseous tungsten arc welding. These helmets render protection for both eyes and face from the intense light produced by the process. 

Welding In Ancient Times 

Ancient civilizations in Asia and Northern Africa used fires to form tools, weapons, and structures. Ancient metalsmiths discovered the phenomena of melting metals and forming them into different shapes and sizes. They learned how to hold the metal in a fire until it melted, then shape it using hand welding tools. 

Another potential problem was the brittleness that the metal structure achieved after cooling. These craftsmen also provided solutions to this mechanism by hammering the metal or blowing air onto it to cool it off. 

Modern welding equipment was invented in the 17th century but the ancient art of using a flame for metalworking still carries on today. Welding consumables are a relatively modern concept. 

The Rise Of Industrial Welding In The 19th Century 

By the end of the 19th century, industrialization had taken hold in much of Europe, North America, and Japan. This ushered new uses for welding technology. For example, in 1879, two American inventors named Frank W. Stulen and James H. Lucas developed the first-ever electric arc welder to melt and join metals. By the 1920s, alternating current electric arc welders were used for shipbuilding and heavy construction projects like tunnels. Since then, welding has been an integral part of industrialization and technological development. 

The First Welding Helmet

The first modern welding helmet was patented in 1956 by Russell E. Colwell Jr. Colwell, a WWII veteran who had suffered from severe flash burn injuries to his eyes from welding during the war. He set out to design a solution and ultimately developed a  helmet made of fiberglass. This helmet provided ventilation and face protection for the wearer from weld spatter. In time, Colwell’s helmet was modified by other inventors and became part of Miller Electric Mfg Co.’s This company still makes a wide variety of welding helmets today.

Auto-Darkening Filters

During the 1990s, auto-darkening filters were used in welding helmets. These filters automatically changed their tonal quality from light to dark when a bright light was detected.  Without this adjustment, the lenses of welding helmets would be blacked out by the brightness of the arc welders’ light. In turn, the wearer would not have enough visibility to see properly. When auto-darkening filters were introduced in modern welding helmets, it reduced eye injuries common among welders. Autosun was the first company to make auto-darkening filters for welding helmets. The first auto-darkening filter was based on a 9-degree protector. However, recent discoveries have brought in advanced lenses for welding helmets that are more clear and safe. Before an auto-darkening welding helmet was ever worn, welders used safety glasses. Nowadays, a solar-powered auto-darkening helmet is more common.

The Invention of Led Lighting Systems

In recent years, LED lights have become common for arc welding. These lighting systems can be controlled through various digital devices to emit the exact amount of light required. This would help in performing welding tasks accurately. LEDs also provide high-quality illumination over large areas without producing heat efficiently, as arc welders do. Along with it, these accessories drastically reduced welding costs by replacing arc welding systems. These systems used expensive halogen lighting for small areas. 

Fiber Optics for Lighting

In recent years, fiber optics have become an increasingly important part of welding helmets. Fiber optics use transmitted light through glass or plastic that is used as a conduit. The transmission quality depends on the number of fibers and their thickness (fiber optic thickness). The fibers come in bundles and are designed to bend at certain angles. The light exits the fiber via a lens, which focuses it on an optical diffuser. This diffuser distributes the light across the helmet. 

History of Modern Welding Helmets

Many of the modern advances in welding helmets are due to the United States Air Force. In 1968, the US Air Force spent about $10 million per year on arc-flash injuries and fatalities among its welders. Aided by NASA, they were able to reduce fatalities to below one per year.

With the advancement of technology, it has become increasingly difficult for manufacturers to keep up with the changes. One of the factors is the difference in the requirement criteria for different countries. Each country has set its own specific standards for developing welding helmets. This, in turn, produces complications for companies in terms of production. The variety in the material and type of safety is another factor that hampers the construction of a helmet.  

The latest welding helmets are typically made up of various materials, including plastic, metal and Kevlar. This makes them more robust and likely to protect against welding injuries. They are also environmental-friendly and cost-effective. The most basic welding helmets can be made from plastic that is cheaper than metal in terms of cost, yet it is still strong enough to protect the wearer. 

These helmets are used for metal and plastic welding processes. However, reactive plastics like polycarbonates used in protective eyewear can start a fire when they melt. This propelled companies to voice out precautionary measures and safety parameters for protective gear to be used with the helmet. Such caution was not practiced or taken into consideration in the late 80s and 90s. It was due to the development in modern safety apparel and helmets that more advanced welding projects become simpler to adopt.
Tig welding, Mig welding, plasma cutting, gas welding and automatic welding were only possible due to better helmets and gears. 

The advanced models of hoods and safety gears have various features that improve the overall ease of use and compatibility. There’s an addition of magnification to the visor. There’s also a lens cover which reacts differently in sunlight compared to spark flashes. 

How to Choose a Welding Helmet

The basic features of a welding helmet include the material. It is made out of sturdy and tough materials. A good welding helmet will have a strong build, reliable construction, and a safety rating from UL. The UL scale for welding helmets is from 5 to 10 and is based on its protection capabilities against arc flash injuries. A rating of 5 depicts protection against all arc flashes but not for flying glass or metal fibres. A rating of 10 means that the helmet protects against all arc flashes and flying debris caused by the grinding wheel. 

Another thing to consider when choosing a welding helmet is whether it comes with an auto-darkening filter. The filter’s main function is to keep a clear and visible view of the welding process and change the tonal shade when necessary. A good welding helmet will have an auto-darkening filter that gets thinner and more translucent as the light gets brighter.

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A quality welding helmet will offer high-level shielding from abrasive projectiles produced from grinders, welding and gas cutting processes. It also provides the required safety and comfort, together with being lightweight and durable. The helmet is structured from high-quality materials and meets government requirements for welding safety

These features allow a safe welding procedure and ensure no harm to the user’s facial parts along with hands and arms. The main purpose of safety equipment for welding is to protect the wearer against workplace injuries caused by flash burn or arc flash accidents to ensure safe working conditions. A face shield like a welding mask would also help the cause but would be ineffective for long working hours. 

The welding safety equipment is an important part of using the welding helmet. It includes welding gloves, welding goggles and others.

After years of development, today’s welding brands have risen in versatility and are great at providing the helmets we require.