Within his first 30 minutes on the job at an aluminum factory in 1999, metalworker Michael Buckman inhaled so many noxious fumes he was sick with bronchitis for three days. As he recovered, Buckman wondered whether a commercial welding helmet could have filtered his breathing air. "I didn't see anything out there like what I was thinking about," he says. So he set out to build the WindMaker: a helmet that can prevent lung damage.
WindMaker draws fresh air from behind the helmet, pushes it through a HEPA-rated filter, and then blows it toward the front, cooling skin while preventing fog on the glass faceplate. A fan near the chin helps expel air, blowing away toxic smoke in the work zone. LED lights on each side of the faceplate illuminate the welding job, while a thick shroud deflects sparks.
Several companies have expressed interest in licensing the helmet. Before anyone can sell WindMaker, however, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health needs to extensively test its air-filtering abilities—a costly process that requires consumer-ready units. If the device lives up to its claims, the convenient combination of eye, heat, spark, and respiratory safeguards could motivate more welders to protect themselves, says Shawn Gibbs, an occupational health expert at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. "And that increased use is something welding needs," he says.
Buckman already has ideas for high-tech add-ons, including wireless communication devices, solar panels, video cameras, and heads-up displays. Whatever futuristic features make it into the final helmet, Buckman is confident it will deliver on safety. "I got hurt on the job," he says. "I had to go through that experience to design this."
COST TO DEVELOP
[Shameless plug] To find out more about the design and prototyping of the Windmaker helmet, go here:
Looking at it here, and having read the complete article in the magazine, this definitely has potential. Right off the bat, Mike; Start looking to sell them to boilermaker-welders and pipefitter-welders in oil refineries as soon as you clear cert. Of all the welders out there, they really need them bad in that area. I'm sure many more will want them too, but few welders have everyday urgent need like those in a refinery. Few have as many enclosed spaces that need welding, and fewer still have the noxious gases they deal with every day. I'd have bought one, even if using it meant packing airhose for it. Structural steel shops next. I might not have worn one all the time in that environment, but I would have definitely appreciated having one now and again. I'd recommend that you start looking into a solid filter that can be cleaned and reused though. You know what the guys are gonna start calling it if you keep them tied to a pad supplier, especially if they are working in some remote, non-industrialized nations' refineries. And you likely want to upgrade your own invention yourself anyway-not wait and have someone take your next logical steps and your future earnings.
this is how space helmet should look like! ^^ fishbowls are cool but a little bit retro now ^^
No facts, No response...
I weld. I weld a lot.
You throw a decent set of music headphones into that system and you will sell one to every welder on the planet. Headphones and a wire with a standard IPOD jack and id never come out of the shop.
id think simple is best for your first helmet keep it to just a filter, helmet and a cheap headphone with jack, then you can make better versions
ideas for improvements, shield that auto darkens when wielding the whole shield does not darken
same protection as a hard hat
allow it to tie into intercoms, smart phones
make sure its glasses friendly
perhaps even a little suck tube for drinks
There are already commercially available welding helmets that have integral air systems. To be truly effective these air systems need to supply air from a remote location. A system that pulls air from just behind the helmet and thru a small HEPA filter would not likely be effective at removing the vapors emitted from welding that are ladened with various metals. Commercial welding breather systems use a face mask and pressurized air delivery.