Hobart XVS Hood Welding Helmet
Auto shade in 1/12,000th of a second!
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted – 9-9-2010
The day after I got my Lincoln Pro-Mig 180 I was looking for a welding helmet. The welder came with a hand-held shield equipped with a single state protective lens much like the ones that have been used since welding began. The problem with this single state lens is that you can’t see anything until the arc is struck. This can be a hassle for experienced welders but it is a much bigger problem for the novice – and I was a novice. The Hobart XVS Hood is equipped with a remarkable bit of technology that lets you see what you are doing before and after the arc is initiated.
Auto-Darkening Variable Shade
The really user-friendly technology is Auto-Darkening that changes the viewing lens from something approaching normal sunglasses to a safely darker shade when the brilliance of the arc begins. Even more remarkable is that this change happens in about 0.000083 or 1/12,000th of a second! I’m not going to make believe that I have the faintest understanding of the science behind this transformation and I don’t need to understand it. What is important is to know that it works and prevents spending a major portion of the remainder of my day with a large glowing blind spot in my vision from an unprotected accidental arc.
The Hobart XVS Hood actually has two sensors that watch for the arc to begin. When either sees the beginnings of an arc, the lens goes dark and stays dark until shortly after the arc stops. The Hobart XVS Hood includes an adjustment for just how long after the arc the lens waits before lightening up. Actually you have a choice between 0.1 and 0.5-seconds after the arc stops. That might not sound like a lot but apparently for the veteran welder it can be. I set my Hobart XVS Hood on the 0.5-second delay and left it there.
You can also adjust how dark the lens gets between ANSI (American National Standards Institute) #9 and #12. The light state (before darkening) is always #4. Hobart and other manufacturers offer helmets with wider and narrower ranges if you have that need. You can also adjust how sensitive the lens is to the surrounding light that day. I found that in bright sunlight my Hobart XVS Hood would occasionally go dark when my line of sight went from shade to bright sunlight. It goes back to the light state very quickly when I returned to shade.
The electronics that make this light speed trickery happen are protected in a housing that snaps into the helmet. Both the outer and inner sides of the Auto-Darkening lens are protected with clear, replaceable lenses that take the brunt of any welding spatter that may land on their surface. A bag of spare lenses comes with the Hobart XVS Hood and you can buy supplies of them separately later on.
The electronics in the Hobart XVS Hood are actually a bit “green” environmentally speaking. A band of solar cells across the front of the lens help with providing operating current. A pair of AAA batteries handles the rest. A warning light comes on next to the ON/OFF button like the day before the batteries actually run out of sufficient operating juice.
Oh, Yes, the Helmet
Supporting all this electronic hocus-pocus is a nicely shaped helmet that does a very good job of protecting the wearer from all but the most ambitious welding spatter. The lower edge flares outward to prevent it from contacting your chest when looking downward (as welders often do) while welding.
Inside the helmet is a well-made and fully adjustable suspension system that lets the welder dial in the fit that feels best. You can also adjust how much force it takes to drop the helmet with a nod if you want to do that. The Auto-Darkening system means that you don’t have to master that technique anymore but feel free if you just want to.
The Hobart XVS Hood is available in a few different color schemes but I chose the Bonehead graphics for what to many that know me would be obvious reasons. Besides, I recognize my lack of pure welding skills so was hoping that the wild graphics would instill a bit of fear in my detractors. And, no, it hasn’t frightened anyone so far.
If you take your Hobart XVS Hood to the job or just want to protect it when not in use, Hobart includes a fabric bag for it.
In the Shop
I thought that the Auto-Darkening idea would help my learning to weld endeavor but I really had no idea how much. Not having to try and hold the gun where I wanted to start the weld, use the other hand to hold the shield in front of my face and then hope I had not moved the gun was just not working out well. When I changed to the Hobart XVS Hood I could see what I was doing before, during and after the arc was struck. Plus, I had both hands to help steady the gun as I welded.
The protective shroud of the Hobart XVS Hood also dramatically reduced the ultra-hot “flyers” that occasionally found their way to my head/hair/neck. I also noticed that with less light coming in from the sides it was easier to focus on what I was doing with the arc.
The Hobart XVS Hood is a very nicely made, well-designed piece of equipment that has real benefits for the user. The safety of protecting your eyes is paramount naturally but being able to see what you are doing with the welding gun before and while the arc is engaged can easily make you a better welder as well. If you are learning I think a helmet like the Hobart XVS Hood should be mandatory.
With a street price of $159.99 (9-9-2010) the Hobart XVS Hood is not free but the benefits it brings far outweigh the expense. With a little common sense upkeep like new protective lenses and batteries occasionally there is no reason why the Hobart XVS Hood will not be providing you with these benefits for many years to come. That brings your cost-per-use down to pocket change or less. If you do not have an Auto-Darkening helmet, take a long hard look at the Hobart XVS Hood.
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