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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

3M™ Speedglas™ Auto-darkening Welding Filters

Are Speedglas auto-darkening welding filters as safe as traditional shaded glass filters?

Yes. Speedglas filters always provide UV/IR protection for your eyes, whether they are turned on or off, dark or light. They're potentially safer than traditional filters and since the Speedglas helmet can always be in the down position, protecting your face and eyes. Plus, your hands are not preoccupied with visor adjustment.


What happens if the battery fails?

To repeat: you're always protected from damaging UV/IR radiation. And no matter what, your eyes are always shaded from flash. When you pick up an OFF Speedglas filter, it's intermediately-shaded. When you turn on the filter, it "lightens" and becomes transparent. When an arc is struck, the filter darkens. (The dark shade level depends upon which Speedglas helmet model is used.)


Do you see any of the arc flash?

No. The filter changes too quickly for the eye to see a flash. The transition from no arc to arc occurs without a perceptible flash.


Are the Speedglas welding filters fragile?

No more than traditional filters. All Speedglas filters have inner and outer replaceable protection plates. The filter is recessed back into the helmet for further protection. You can treat the heat- and chemical-resistant helmet very much like any other welding helmet.


Why do Speedglas filters and helmets cost more than traditional filters and helmets?

3M uses state-of-the-art electronics and super lightweight materials to provide the optimum productive, comfortable, and safe helmet/filter combination available. The filter itself is a seven-layer laminate, hand-assembled under clean room conditions, with numerous quality assurance checks. The result is a flawless filter that always lets you see your work.


Are the Speedglas welding filters compatible with non-Speedglas helmets?

No. The high performance and optical clarity of Speedglas filters requires a special design that is not compatible with non-Speedglas helmets. You should never attempt to mix any Speedglas products with non-Speedglas components; doing so may void your product warranty and could result in serious injury.


Welding Fumes

Which respirator do I need when welding stainless steel?

When welding stainless steel MIG or MMA, the welding fumes often contains particles of chromium and nickel, of which chromium is the more toxic. The 3M™ Adflo™ Respirator with particle filter offers you excellent protection in this application. TIG welding does not usually emit much welding fume but creates large quantities of ozone gas: read more under ‘When does ozone form?’ Plasma cutting and plasma welding give rise to high temperatures, which can emit damaging oxides of nitrogen: Read more under ‘What are nitrogen gases?’


Do I really need respiratory protection when welding ordinary steel?

Although welding fumes from normal steel is not one of the more hazardous types, it is far from good for your health. Among other things, it contains particles of iron oxide, which can cause siderosis (chronic inflammation of the lungs). When welding with MIG/MAG and MMA, there are heavy fume emissions, meaning that both a respirator and good ventilation in the workplace are necessary. When welding ordinary steel, a 3M™ Adflo™ Respirator with particle filter is recommended.


What sort of respirator is needed when welding surface-treated material?

When welding surface-treated material, a number of hazardous pollutants can be released. When welding galvanized steel, zinc oxide particles are released. These can cause zinc ague, also known as fume fever. If you weld painted material you should be especially careful, as many paints can give off very hazardous air pollutants. When welding galvanized steel or material painted with lead primer, it is recommended that you use a powered air respirator with particle filter. In combination with an odor filter it will also minimize unpleasant odors. If the material is painted with two component paint or insulated with polyurethane, you should always contact a Safety Engineer. There is a large risk that you will be exposed to isocyanates, which are very hazardous to inhale and difficult to detect. In these cases we recommend a compressed air device like a supplied air system from 3M.


Does shielding gases and alloyed electrodes affect my working environment?

When welding with MIG and TIG, the noble gases argon and helium are used as shielding gases. Neither argon nor helium is considered hazardous, but they can displace oxygen in unventilated areas making the atmosphere oxygen deficient. When welding with MAG, carbon dioxide or a mixture of carbon dioxide and a noble gas is used as a shielding gas. Since parts of the shielding gas can be converted into carbon monoxide when the gas reaches the air, large quantities of carbon monoxide can form around the welding arc. Carbon monoxide cannot be filtered away. If the ventilation is poor, the oxygen level must be checked. Alloyed electrodes are common when welding with MAG. The alloys often contain manganese or silicates. This means that manganese oxide and silicates are diffused into the surrounding air when you are welding. The 3M™ Adflo™ Respirator with particle filter usually offers sufficient protection against alloy particles.


When does ozone form?

When welding aluminum not only are particles of aluminum oxide produced but ozone gas is formed by the action of the UV radiation from the arc breaking down molecular oxygen. Ozone is also produced when welding stainless steel with TIG. Eventually ozone will be converted back to oxygen, a process that is sped up when the ozone comes into contact with solid surfaces that act as a catalyst. Ozone cannot be filtered from the atmosphere but relies on being converted back to oxygen. At low ozone concentrations the use of the 3M™ Adflo™ Respirator System with particulate filter reduces the amount of ozone reaching the welder. This is achieved by the fact that the particle filter (because of its large surface area) and the breathing tube to the welding helmet help to catalyze the conversion of ozone back to normal oxygen. At higher concentrations the inclusion of a gas filter in the Adflo respirator would add an additional large surface of carbon granules on which a further reduction of ozone takes place.


What are nitrogen gases?

Nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide are examples of nitrogen gases that are formed when you weld with high amperage and high temperatures. Nitrous gases are formed by a reaction in the air between nitrogen and oxygen and are very dangerous to inhale in high concentrations. Nitrogen gases should not be filtered, therefore a supplied air system from 3M is recommended.


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