In light of the recent strides made in welding helmet technology (most notably via the new Speedglas G5-01 Heavy-Duty Helmet), here’s a look at how welders’ PPE has evolved over the years:
The first version of the welding helmet as we know it today emerged in 1937, produced by Willson Products. Said to have “exceptional ruggedness to withstand hard shop use”, the helmet had a smooth, rounded design with protection extending beyond the ears (see below).
While this predates so many of the key functions of modern helmets, it did set the precedent for ‘one-piece’ all round head coverage.
Almost four decades ago, the first auto-darkening welding helmet was released by Speedglas. Auto-darkening technology meant the lens would automatically darken as soon as an arc was struck, enabling welders to begin welding with their helmet in the safe, down position rather than having to nod the shield down. This was a revolutionary step forward, saving welders time and reducing their exposure to the harmful ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) light created by the welding process.
The mid 90’s saw the launch of the original Speedglas 9000 series. This award-winning model changed the game in helmet design, introducing the perfect combination of shape, size and weight to effectively serve as a natural extension of the welder.
Recently the 9000 series design was brought back into the fold in the form of the Speedglas 9002NC welding helmet. This return came by way of popular demand, with many welders stating they preferred the thinner aesthetic and improved mobility afforded by the 9000 series. What’s more, the 9002NC is an old dog with new tricks: namely state of the art True-View optics for a more naturalistic, detailed lens view.
Building off the success of the 9000 series, the Speedglas 9100 welding helmet was officially unveiled in 2008. This came with a new aesthetic to accommodate a much larger viewing area, and the helmet has since become a familiar staple of the Speedglas range. The current version of the 9100 helmet (the Speedglas 9100XXi) has a host of elite features, including True-View, Auto On, External Grind mode and Set-And-Forget (which allows the welder to pre-set their favourite settings).
Speedglas’ 9100 series then continued to expand and evolve with the arrival of the Speedglas 9100 FX! This pioneered the flip-up configuration that has changed the game for welders who grind frequently, allowing them to simply lift the welding lens to reveal an expansive high-impact grinding visor. The smoothly integrated design and unique ergonomics of the 9100 FX put the helmet in a class of its own: the Speedglas 9100XXi FX Air with Adflo PAPR remains one of the most popular models on the market.
In 2019, after 40 years and 5 generations of Speedglas welding helmets, we welcomed in the dawn of a new era with the Speedglas G5-01 Flip-Up Welding Helmet with Heavy-Duty Adflo PAPR!
A slimmer helmet than the 9100 FX, the G5-01 includes larger welding and grinding lenses and a swag of fully customisable new features. You can change colour tones in the dark state, adjust the airflow AND manage your lens settings from your smart phone. There's also the option of adding a task light that's powered by your Adflo system, along with many other optional extras!
BONUS – The Adflo Powered Air Purifying Respirator
Launched in 2000, the Adflo PAPR unit exponentially improved the level of respiratory protection available to welders. The Adflo system finally gave welders a portable, belt-mounted respirator that filters out welding fume and particulates. With a Required Minimum Protection Factor (RMPF) of 50, the Adflo powered air respirator offers up to 5 times more protection than a properly-fitted, half-face disposable or reusable respirator. As such, it has become an indispensable asset for welders, especially now welding fume is officially classified as ‘carcinogenic’. In recent years the Adflo system has been revamped to be 15% lighter and more comfortable than ever!
 Popular Mechanics, August 1937 (page 217)