Nine years ago, Miller Electric Mfg. Co. transformed the welding industry when its X-Mode welding shield feature debuted. Despite its popularity among welders, this extraordinary technology, which electromagnetically senses the weld to eliminate interference from light and continuously detects the arc even if sensors are blocked, has remained largely unknown in other industries. With Miller and MSA Safety —whose exposure stretches across industries from construction to mining—now joining forces to cobrand welding products, Miller’s X-Mode will reach the markets MSA touches, bringing unparalleled safety to anyone who uses welding helmets in any industry.
The Need for Auto-Darkening
Although anyone who welds for a living uses a helmet for protection and productivity, the options among welding helmets are almost as diverse as the scenarios in which they are used. Automatic darkening welding helmets have become popular among users who regularly lift and lower their helmets to see their work because they offered an ergonomic, safer, and more efficient solution through sensors that pick up the light from an arc and tell the lens to darken.
Auto-darkening allows welders to leave their shield down at all times, no matter how much stopping and starting they do and no matter what amount light they are working under. This better protects their face from debris, increases productivity by eliminating the need for adjusting the shield, and removes the need to engage in the repetitive motion of jerking their necks to open and close their shields.
Despite its many advantages, conventional auto-darkening technology is limited. Auto-darkening works by using optical or light sensors to detect light coming off an arc then triggering the lens to go dark to protect the operator. The rays are similar to that of the sun, so for workers welding outside, the sun can trigger the lens to go dark. The same goes for anyone working under bright lights. What’s more, traditionally auto-darkening sensors may be blocked or otherwise not work in tight spots due the sensors inability to pick up the welding arcs lights caused by obstructions.
How X-Mode Is Different
In 2008, Miller developed the Digital Elite™ Series welding helmet model with a new feature known as X-Mode to negate the effects of sunlight and welding out of position. Instead of relying on a light sensor, X-Mode uses antennae to pick up an arc’s electromagnetic field, or magnetic frequency, which means the lens will not darken unless X-Mode detects that electric field from the arc. X-Mode has eliminated the sensitivity to light seen in competitors’ products by engineering out interference from other light sources and susceptibility to darkness from strobe lights.
X-Mode is also a great fit for anyone welding out of position; obstructions do not block light from the sensors as they would in traditional auto-darkening. Pipe welding is a prime example, especially smaller-gauge piping. X-Mode also works especially well in mirror welding because reflections from the mirrors will not cause interference with its functioning.
X-Mode itself is not appropriate for all situations, which is why the helmets that feature it also offer other modes. For example, traditional mode is a better choice for a worker welding in close proximity to other welders. If X-Mode is used, it could pick up on nearby workers’ arcs or darken undesirably.
Thus, the Digital Elite helmets offer users several options to maximize flexibility and control. 3 Because of the digital control these helmets feature, welders using them can set their shade preferences for welding, cutting, grinding, and X-Mode shades, 3 with these preferences stored digitally through programmable memory. This eliminates the need to switch helmets for different functions. X-Mode in Welding and Beyond Although X-Mode is a favorite feature among its users in pipe welding and hard hat industries, it has not received a lot of exposure in some industries in which it could be a game changer. This is where Miller’s partnership with MSA is important.
With MSA’s strong presence in numerous industrial markets—especially the energy and construction industries—in which traditional auto-darkening has not performed well due to outdoor light interference, X-Mode offers an attractive solution by eliminating this substantial drawback of traditional auto-darkening.
X-Mode has become the standard in auto-darkening technology for welders who work under bright natural or artificial light and who weld out of position. Miller’s new partnership with a global industrial safety leader aims to improve welding safety in all industries through increased visibility—for X-Mode and its users.