If it ain't broke, why fix it? For a lot of welders it's normal to not see spatter and other things through their auto-darkening lens. You've got a good helmet - top brand, expensive - it's one of the best. But did you know some of the top rated helmets are actually not as good as they could be when it comes to visibility?
A lot of helmets say they've got a 1/1/1/2 or 1/1/1/- lens so let's see what that actually means, and just how much of a difference 1 number can make to your welding helmet visibility.
While each brand of helmet will have different technologies, the ratings still represent the same thing. Have a look at the image comparison below of the TECMEN 1/1/1/1 lens rating compared to other brands - quite a difference right?
Anyone who's had an auto-darkening helmet lens that's 1/1/1/2 or less will immediately notice the difference in clarity when they try on a helmet with a 1/1/1/1 lens with true colour. But how much difference can 1 number make? Well the truth is, it would be very difficult for us to show you in an image - it's one of those things you need to try on to see. Click here to test drive a TECMEN welding helmet with 1/1/1/1 True Colour lens technology in your workshop
What is true colour?
True colour lens technology gives you realistic colour while welding. No more green environments with weak colour contrasts.
What do the numbers mean?
The European Standards Commission developed the EN379 rating for auto-darkening welding cartridges as a way of measuring the quality of optical clarity in auto-darkening helmet lens. To qualify for a EN379 rating, the auto-darkening lens get tested and rated in 4 categories: Optical class, Diffusion of light class, Variations in luminous transmittance class, and Angle dependence on luminous transmittance class. Each category is rated on a scale of 1 to 3, with 1 being the best (perfect) and 3 the worst.
|Optical class (accuracy of vision)
|Diffusion of light class
You know how distorted something can look through water? That's what this class is all about. It rates the level of distortion when looking through the welding helmet lens, with 3 being like looking through rippled water, and 1 being next to zero distortion - practically perfect.
When you're looking through a lens for hours at a time, the tiniest scratch or chip can have a big impact. This class rates the lens for any manufacturing imperfections. Any top rated helmet can be expected to have a rating of 1, meaning it is free of impurities and exceptionally clear.
|Variations in luminous transmittance class (light or dark areas within the lens)
|Angle dependence on luminous transmittance class
Auto-darkening helmets typically offer shade adjustments between #4 - #13, with #9 being the minimum for welding. This class rates the consistency of shade across different points of the lens. Basically you want the shade to have a consistent level from top to bottom, left to right. A level 1 will deliver an even shade throughout the entire lens, where a 2 or 3 will have variations at different points on the lens, potentially leaving some areas too bright or too dark.
This class rates the lens for it's ability to provide a consistent level of shade when viewed at an angle (because we don't just weld stuff that's directly in front of us). So this rating is particularly important for anyone welding those hard to reach areas. It tests for a clear view without stretching, dark areas, blurriness, or issues with viewing objects at an angle. A 1 rating means the shade stays consistent no matter the viewing angle.
EN379 Ratings of Popular Helmets
Not all auto-darkening helmet brands have been able to produce 1/1/1/1 rated lens yet. Below is a list of some of the most popular, top-rated welding helmets:
|Welding Helmet||Optical Rating|
|TECMEN TM820 and TM1000||1/1/1/1 True Colour|
|Lincoln Viking 1840, 2450 and 3350||1/1/1/1|
|3M Speedglas 9100XX, 9100X, 9100V and SL||1/1/1/2|
|Miller Digital Elite||1/1/1/2|
|Miller Classic Series||1/1/1/3|
Why Is Optical Clarity Important While Welding?
While we can tell and show you the difference between a 'perfect' and imperfect auto-darkening lens until the cows come home, what does it really matter?
Well apart from the 'nice to have' factor, differences in the lens ratings can have an effect on productivity. If you're looking through a less than perfect lens for hours at a time, trying to see past impurities, distortion or inconsistent shade can cause eye strain, making it more difficult to achieve a nice weld.
Here's a few more reasons you need lens with 1/1/1/1 true colour:
- You know you're getting the best! A rating of 1/1/1/1 means the lens has a perfect view, free of defects and distortion.
- Improved welding results:
- You'll be able to see subtle variations in the ever-changing arc and weld puddle. The clearer the view, the better!
- The ability to clearly see what's going on in the weld puddle when you're adjusting your angle and speed, provides more accurate end results give you a higher-quality weld!
- You'll notice an immediate difference. Experienced welders who try on a 1/1/1/1 after using anything less report an immediate difference, saying they're able to see better, the workpiece is clearer, and they're more comfortable.