Author Topic: Can the auto-darkening filter be replaced in a welding helmet?  (Read 589 times)

Offline dwc

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I'm completely new to welding so sorry if this is obvious to everyone else...

I've just tried my first bit of welding and the auto-darkening mask I have didn't appear to darken while I was welding. Well, it was sporadic at best. I was under the impression that the solar panel should be enough to power the darkening function but apparently the unit also has internal batteries. My guess is the batteries have gone flat as the mask is a few years old but they are non-replaceable (well, there's no battery cover. If it's junk I'll still be opening it up to find out how it works).

The mask has done no work and is in pristine condition so can I replace just the filter unit? If so can anyone recommend a reputable source, I'm a little hesitant to buy PPE from eBay. The filter is marked as Model YC-E(L) and is the 110x90mm which seems to be pretty standard.

Somewhat annoyingly, while I've been doing some research the filter unit has been sitting in the sun and it appears to be working somewhat more reliably now when tested against the sun outside. Is it junk or are the batteries rechargeable (I'd assumed they were non-rechargeable)?

Many thanks for any wisdom you can said my way!

Offline mattinker

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Re: Can the auto-darkening filter be replaced in a welding helmet?
« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2021, 09:02:37 AM »
Dwc,

The battery slots are pretty well hidden in some masks, even if the work with photo cells function, they still need the batteries to store the energy. Over the years I've had a few, used frequently they sometimes stay charged, others don't! It's not always the "good" ones that last, the one I've been using for a long time was in a bundle with a "Gys" welder!

I'd open it up, nothing to loose!

Offline dwc

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Re: Can the auto-darkening filter be replaced in a welding helmet?
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2021, 09:14:58 AM »
Thanks, I've just double checked, there's definitely no cover to replace the batteries. I've got the filter unit out of the mask so there's not many places it could be hiding. Now it's been sitting in the sun for a few hours I'm starting to think it might have come back to life.

If I'm not confident in it later it'll get the Dremel!

Offline awemawson

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Re: Can the auto-darkening filter be replaced in a welding helmet?
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2021, 10:35:19 AM »
On my old helmet they were soldered onto the pcb
Andrew Mawson
East Sussex

Offline dwc

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Re: Can the auto-darkening filter be replaced in a welding helmet?
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2021, 11:07:45 AM »
The batteries are soldered to the PCB on mine as well. They won't be for much longer though...

The left battery measures 1.1V and the right is measuring -0.5 (both in circuit) so I'm guessing they are dead as door nails. I assume they are CR2032, the first part of the designation is covered by the welded on tab - I can't imagine they are LIR2032 though which is the only rechargeable version with an R in it's code.

Offline dwc

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So it turns out it's actually quite easy to bodge in a new battery pack.

It took me a while to figure out how the batteries were wired up as I wasn't going to risk prying the circuit board out and the power traces are on the back I think (it's all hot glued in). Eventually I figured out the batteries are in series and the top two connections provide power - my knowledge of electronics is only marginally greater than my knowledge of welding.

A little hole in the case, some bodge wires, a battery carrier and connector later and we have the frankenshade. It works better than new.

After some experimentation I've noticed that when powered by batteries the shade comes in much much faster. I was testing it against an old halogen lamp and under battery power there's no perceptible flash when the light switches on. Under solar power you get a blinding flash and then the shade cuts in, presumably this is the circuits powering up / booting as there's a surprising number of chips on this thing.

I don't know for sure but I strongly suspect the shade wasn't coming in with the old batteries present because they were forming a circuit which causes the solar panel to be disabled. I noticed when I had it hooked up to my bench power supply that the shade wouldn't come in on solar even if the power supply was off - today I also learnt that there's a path through the bench power supply, presumably through the transformer.

Anyway, thanks for your help.

Offline Muzzerboy

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Re: Can the auto-darkening filter be replaced in a welding helmet?
« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2021, 08:24:08 AM »
This has been an interesting thread. I didn't realise they used little rechargeable cells internally like that. I guess it helps to hang the masks in daylight rather than store them in a cupboard for instance.

I have several of these auto darkening things now. My first was one of the generic Chinesium ones that cost peanuts. I couldn't adjust it to do anything helpful, as the darkening simply seemed to shift around the window. When I got a Miller branded one at work, I realised how a proper one should behave. I then bought myself a Miller one and soon after a Lincoln one which both work as they should. I seem to have picked up another Chinesium one along the way - not sure where it came from but it works reasonably well although it doesn't seem to have the same adjustment range.

The best enhancement I made to the helmets was the purchase of the magnifying lenses. These are optional extras which fit on the inside of the window and work rather like reading glasses or those magnifying headsets. It's not so transformative for MIG work but for TIG you need a clear, closeup view of the weld zone and they made all the difference.

Offline awemawson

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Re: Can the auto-darkening filter be replaced in a welding helmet?
« Reply #7 on: May 23, 2021, 08:43:32 AM »
Plus one for the 'helper' magnifying lenses - a great aid!
Andrew Mawson
East Sussex

Offline mattinker

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Re: Can the auto-darkening filter be replaced in a welding helmet?
« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2021, 09:35:38 AM »
This has been an interesting thread. I didn't realise they used little rechargeable cells internally like that. I guess it helps to hang the masks in daylight rather than store them in a cupboard for instance.

I think they charge when in use, I may be wrong but I have a feeling I read that somewhere.

Cheers, Matthew

Offline dwc

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Re: Can the auto-darkening filter be replaced in a welding helmet?
« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2021, 01:10:23 PM »
It's possible there are some models that recharge their battery when in use. I certainly read that while I was looking into what was wrong with mine but I also read that the batteries last about three years, there's an amazing amount of low quality information out there.

In mine the cells I pulled out where marked CR2032. As far as I can see no one makes a rechargeable cell with that marking. If they were rechargeable they would have a variety of other prefixes. Either way the cell that had gone reverse voltage was never coming back.

Offline Muzzerboy

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Re: Can the auto-darkening filter be replaced in a welding helmet?
« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2021, 03:59:13 PM »
No you wouldn't want to try recharging those CR button cells. Apparently they can make quite a bang.

Seems a bit sneaky fitting consumable batteries into these things. I suspect there may be several types and hopefully some of them are either fully self powered using the PV cell or have user changeable cell(s).

I must have a look at mine when I next have an idle moment.....

Offline awemawson

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Re: Can the auto-darkening filter be replaced in a welding helmet?
« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2021, 04:17:35 PM »
In many cases a fresh CR2032 will probably last the length of the design life, it will be extremely low consumption. Think car fob batteries - when did you last change yours? (Though I have a spare in the unused ash tray just in case!)

Andrew Mawson
East Sussex

Offline RussellT

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Re: Can the auto-darkening filter be replaced in a welding helmet?
« Reply #12 on: May 24, 2021, 05:10:43 AM »
Design life?  When I buy stuff I expect it to last for ever - and preferably longer than that.

Russell
Common sense is unfortunately not as common as its name suggests.

Offline awemawson

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Re: Can the auto-darkening filter be replaced in a welding helmet?
« Reply #13 on: May 24, 2021, 05:16:51 AM »
But nowadays the makers DON'T or they won't get more sales!

Quite a cultural shift since the 60's and 70's. I have electronics from the era where the electrolytic capacitors are as good as new - no bulging, no popped corks, no dribbles on the PCB. Whereas contrasting with much more modern electronics duff electrolytics are all over the place.

(I accept that paper capacitors from the 50's are going leaky now and I cite my thread on the Racal RA17 as an example but that is after 62 years!)

https://www.madmodder.net/index.php/topic,12831.0.html

Andrew Mawson
East Sussex

Offline AdeV

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Re: Can the auto-darkening filter be replaced in a welding helmet?
« Reply #14 on: May 24, 2021, 02:01:26 PM »
 :scratch:
No you wouldn't want to try recharging those CR button cells. Apparently they can make quite a bang.

Can confirm  :zap: :lol:

A long time ago, I tried to charge a CRsomething (not sure of the size) with a train set controller. I can't remember the max output voltage (16v, I think, but that sounds a little high). The battery survived this abuse for a good hour, before explosively decompressing.... fortunately, I wasn't very near to it at a time, so it didn't deter me from similarly stupid experiments as I got older  :)
Cheers!
Ade.
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Offline russ57

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Re: Can the auto-darkening filter be replaced in a welding helmet?
« Reply #15 on: May 27, 2021, 08:43:19 AM »
Brings back memories of me as a young engineer.
Diagnosing why some emergency pagers were exhibiting poor performance. Turned out to be increase in noise on the 27mhz ism band they used.  Anyway as part of the investigation i learnt the battery life was also degrading. They were button nicad cells, probably more like a 2065 than 2032 i think, but it was 40 years ago. I decided to see if a few good charge cycles would reverse the memory effect. I was summoned to the workshop about 30 minutes after I left them on a bench power supply, to see first hand the results of reverse charging. Not to mention cleaning up the effects of reverse charging...

-russ


Offline awemawson

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Re: Can the auto-darkening filter be replaced in a welding helmet?
« Reply #16 on: May 27, 2021, 10:26:59 AM »
Often 'memory effect' is strands of nickel growing across the two poles shorting things out. A good heavy pulse of a few amp but short duration usually burns them off.

The original batteries for my Paslode nail gun develop this syndrome if left for a month or two and the official charger refuses to play with them. They are 6 volt stacks of cells, (ie 5 x 1.2 volts) and if 'flashed' very briefly across a 12 volt car battery - literally just flicking a wire across the terminals - they tend to see sense and start charging. Before the flash the low voltage of a shorted cell prevents the 'intelligent' charger charging.

I'm not advocating this for all, just saying what I do and what works as a temporary solution (as the nickle whiskers will grow back)

Andrew Mawson
East Sussex