The most effective and underrated teaching aid for “How To Weld 101” is the automatic darkening filtering (ADF) helmet. There was a day when students learnt to weld by peering through a small darkened lens inside a heavy awkward welding helmet. The clunky helmet as you can imagine creates substantial challenges for new students. A student now has to do two things at once: striking an arc and then flip the helmet down before he or she gets a flash burn. As the heavy helmet is coming down, the hand holding the electrode holder is also moving. Once down the eyes are trying desperately to adjust to the darkness as well as trying to find the small rectangular viewing window. Because their head is moving, they have no idea where they need to be looking. Anyways, it doesn’t matter; their electrode is stuck to the metal or they’re welding in the wrong spot. They are going to have to continue repeating the above process until they get it right. With ADF helmets, you’re skipping this whole level of frustration.
In the early days of ADF helmets, they were expensive and limited in their capabilities but still worth the price… if you could afford it that is. Presently there are a wide variety of ADF helmets available in many styles, colors, designs and prices. But it’s this huge selection and variety of ADF helmets that is causing Post-Buyer Remorse. This article we will explain where the regret is coming from and how to avoid it. I can guarantee you won’t find this on any sales brochure.
Some of the most trusted names in the welding industry are having their ADF helmets made in Asia. These are excellent ADF helmets, not lacking in quality or ability. The Off-Shore ADF helmet manufacturers are making helmets for more than one company. This makes sense. The welding industry isn’t a huge market to sell to. And to get prices down, you need volume. If you’re going to have Post Buyer Regret, it probably won’t be the manufacturer who is to blame. But rather the company who sold it to you and here’s why:
Your Number One Worry Should Be the Lenses
No not the ADF lens, but the inside and outside lenses that protect the ADF. Each manufacturer has its own proprietary ADF lens. Sometimes the same manufacturer will have several different sizes of ADF lens. They’ll also sell one style of helmet and then retire it (that means they don’t make it anymore). Here’s your challenge: can you go buy more lenses for your welding helmet? Or if your employer is good enough to purchase them for you, can he easily go out and purchase them? Before any helmet is purchased, answer the following questions:
– Will you be able to go back to the same place and find replacement lenses for your helmet? Don’t fall into the trap that you can get them anywhere, even if it has a famous logo on the helmet. It could be possible it’s not a popular helmet and no one wants to stock the lenses.
-As time goes on, will you be able to remember where you got the lenses? Will you remember who made the welding helmet? Some of the companies who sell ADF helmets have put a parts sticker on the inside of the helmet. It won’t guarantee you’ll find replacement lenses but it’s sure a big help.
The helmets we sell, here at Ron-Son’s Torch, come with ADF lens that have 3-year warranty. The manufacturer is very good at sending replacement ADF lens; they’ll send it and patiently wait for us to send back the defective lens. But here are the two questions they’ll ask us: One, is there any welding spatter on the lens? Two, is the lens cracked? If any one of those two things is visible then there’s no warranty. And no explanation will make them change their mind. (Remember this is experience talking).
All of the helmets we sell, a magnifying lens can be put in. Some helmets require a special magnifying lens from the manufacturer. Others you can use the same magnifying lenses that are available for a passive (i.e. not ADF) welding helmet. A manufacturer’s magnifying lens means there’s a possibility it’ll have to be ordered in. The other issue with magnifying lenses is in the installation; some are easy and others are very frustrating with a good chance of doing damage to the helmet.
Analog or Digital Helmets?
The analog uses a dial to alter the shade, time delay and sensitivity. Over time the numbers get blackened and you have to remember which way to turn the dial. Digital is pushing buttons on a digital read out. It takes the guesswork out of it. Analog helmets are the least expensive, although some manufacturers have quit making analog helmets.
This is where no name brands can be a big problem. Your headgear can fail for a number of reasons: mishandled, heavy usage, or just a serious lack of quality. (Most manufacturers have only a 30- day warranty on the headgear). Now you have to get a replacement headgear. Here are the questions you need to answer. Does your seller stock the headgear? If he doesn’t, can he order them in for you? If the answer is no, don’t fall into the trap that any headgear can be jimmied to work. You need the headgear to make a good attachment to the shell of the helmet. Every headgear attaches to a helmet in a unique way: the hole can be round or square or rectangular or big or small. Your willingness to suffer with a jimmied headgear doesn’t bridge the gap.
One nice thing we’ve seen is some manufacturers is that they have actually worked at improving their headgear. And here’s the best part: the newer more comfortable headgear can be used on some of their older helmets.
Helmet batteries are an issue because eventually the battery expires. Most ADF helmets have a solar power lens to give longer life to the battery. But when it does go, you’ll be looking for a replacement. It’s possible that your employer will pay for the new battery, but will he or she be spending a lot of time looking for the battery. Some helmets require AAA battery; this battery you can find at the grocery store (not many welding items can be found where you buy your milk). Others may require a proprietary battery. Just make sure your seller stocks the batteries.
The ADF helmet is a great tool in learning how to weld but it’s also been very helpful in keeping welders more productive. We’re seeing more features being added to the ADF to assist in productivity and making it part of a safe environment (some ADF’s have even air systems attached to the helmet).
You don’t have to memorize all the above details, just remember that the finding replacement lenses and headgear can be the most difficult. So check with your supplier to make sure that they can provide you with the replacements you need. If we can help you, please give us a call or email.