Repairing A Non-Serviceable Welding Hood

LB5fUD1 - Imgur

[Unixgeek] owns an Optrel welding hood, which contains a lens that auto-adjusts for various welding tasks. It stopped working properly, and this hood is “Non-Serviceable”, so he had to either throw it away or hack it. The problem was that he knew it contained batteries, but they weren’t accessible. Using his milling machine, he was able to fix it himself. After removing the outer layer of plastic [Unixgeek] found that it was filled with foam. With continued milling he finally uncovered the batteries. They are standard CR2330 cells, so he could easily replace them, or set up a separate battery holder.

We like seeing this sort of hack, as simple as it is, because of how much we truly hate devices with planned obsolescence built in. This is a >$300 safety device that gets broken when some coin cells finally die. Any sort of hack to keep people from having to throw away their devices is a good thing.

Do you have a favorite planned obsolescence hack? Share it in the comments!

47 thoughts on “Repairing A Non-Serviceable Welding Hood

    1. I pretty much agree with this opinion. I don’t believe a manufacturer of this sort of gear would choose to build it like this purely for planned obsolesence. There’s a good chance they balanced the life of the cells to the degradation of the response time of the darkening window for instance. I’ve had a close brush with “welders eyes” once, it’s not an experience I would recommend to anyone.

      1. My (uneducated) guess would be that the hood have a separate UV filter that is not related to the LCD. So if the LCD darkening (attenuation or speed of darkening) is degraded over time it won’t cause welders eyes, just some temporary spots due to the bright light. And the wearer would probably notice this over time and discontinue the usage of the hood when it gets too annoying.

        Welders eyes are not comfortable, I’ve experienced it myself with varying severeness – but in most cases it’s benign in the long term perspective.

        1. I’ve had welders eyes once many many years ago, never again
          as far as I remember it putting a bucket of sand in the eyes and trying to remove it with a cheese grater accuratly describes how it felt, so not comfortable is to put it mildly

      2. I would agree if there is real potential to loose eyes (or fingers, legs etc in other situations with other safety devices). But in this case the danger is not final and not fast. You would recognize when the protection fades and the experience will not be pleasant. But after a few days in worst case everything will be ok.
        I personally think the chance the manufacturer balanced something for a good reason is quite low and the chance they just take the extra money is very plausible. Occam’s razor is my friend, I would say (-:.

      3. I would doubt this.

        the “regular” UV glass doesn’t degrade, – and there is little reason this should either.

        the welding mask like this that I have is a solar powered one, hence there is no obsolescence, planned or unplanned and no instructions to replace the hood at any time due to breakdown etc.

        1. Actually, I’ve torn apart the “Solar Powered” active shade inserts. They still contain a battery and stop working when the battery dies. My best guess is that the solar cell works as the photo detector and uses a charge from the battery to turn the LCD on as soon as possible, then switches power over to the solar cell. The battery is only responsible for a small drain and lasts longer.

          1. The battery is charged by the solar power.

            I generally keep my hood in its box, it saves on it getting covered in sawdust, metal grindings and all the other “stuff” that contaminates the air of the garage.

            Therefore, when it comes out the box it is quite dead, and the screen very opaque.
            holding the mask up to the light for a short “charge” revitalises the screen making it transparent enough to see the piece before the arc is struck, (at which point it goes back to opaque), that battery keeps it’s power long enough to lighten the screen when I break the arc.

            If I only hold the mask up to the light to “charge” the little battery for a few seconds I can find that it may loose its charge, (and the screen goes dark) before the arc is struck.
            about ten seconds, of holding it up to the sun outside is enough to get it charged enough to actually do its job properly.)

            Basically, in the solar powered ones, yes there is a battery, – a rechargeable one that allows the mask to hold the screen “see through” whilst you’re preparing work. if the battery goes flat then the mask fails to dark. – leaving it like the old fashioned visor that I have also that’s just got the black glass in it.

          2. I’ve opened one of those cheapos as I tought it was broken. I tried using one for some time (coming from almost ten year old speedglas 9000xf) and they were horrible, slow and hard to see.
            Bought 9100xx which has no solar cell (big screen so no room for one, two easy to replace batteries) and noticed the smaller screens had solar cells, but their runtimes were only quoted 500-800 hours more than the one without solar cell at 2000 hours.

            I’m from Europe so there is no Miller or other big american names here, so I cannot say anything about them.

    2. I have successfully performed this hack, found the battery location with a magnet and proceeded to extract. Installed a battery holder from a junked motherboard and now have good helmet and money in pocket. There is no mystical secret locked inside to be afraid of..

  1. Very Poor repair, he should have bought proper tabbed batteries or another 6V lithium that was tabbed. his battery pack design has a huge risk of not working when needed as it’s just a pressure fit on coiled wire. When repairing a safety device you need to make sure it stays safe. Why not just replace the tabbed batteries in the cavity and close it back up? sheet plastic is cheap and easy to come by.

      1. but Cheap can mean safe. This is the same as fixing the car’s break lines with heat shrink and bailing wire. yes it will work for a short time, but it only takes one failure to cause a major problem.

    1. I completely agree with fartface on this one.
      Use a tabbed cell and solder it.
      I’ve also had good luck with conductive epoxy on some of the test equipment I work with, but it’s a little pricey.

      And really, get a welding mask with a replaceable battery, like Uri suggests.
      It’s your *eyes* you’re protecting.

      1. It doesn’t matter. Normally this type of lcd goes black when it looses power. The worst that will happen is that it will not become transparent when you are done welding so you have to remove it manually to be able to see.

  2. Out of curiosity – are these sort of welding shades “fail-safe”. I.e. when the batteries go flat, does the screen go dark? Is the LCD a “normally-dark” device which requires power to make it go clear? (In contrast to a typical LCD display)

    1. That would mean constant power consumption except when welding which would drain the battery (slowly). Fail-safe operation is not really neccesary; failure does not kill you and is noticed immediately. It’s also easy to check if the mask is still ok by pointing it at a bright lightsource like the sun.

      1. It actually depends on the orientation of the permanent polarization layers with respect to the resting polarization of the LCD. They can be manufactured either way. If the layers are oriented 90 degrees to the resting state of the LCD then you will get a fails-dark screen.

  3. They really need to design a welding hood that uses hi-res cameras and works like a VR helmet. That way zero UV to the eyes and a better view of what you are working on.

    Richard Feynman said he was the only one to watch the first nuclear detonation without
    safety goggles on. He said he watched through the windshield of a truck… thinking that only the UV would be able to harm his eyes and that the glass would stop the UV. I’m not certain he was correct about that… I wouldn’t have risked it.

    1. There’s a reason cameras aren’t used for welding. Your eyes need to be able to focus on what you’re working on. That would be horribly disorienting, and would cause eye fatigue much more quickly than welding normally does.

        1. This sounds like a great idea from someone that isn’t a welder lol. Welding is hard enough on your eyes as it is. Disregarding the IR and UV dangers any professional welder spends a great deal of time focused on a single point close to their face, this alone will cause eye fatigue like you wouldn’t believe. So now you want to remove the option for me to change my focal point with a fixed screen? You also want to increase the weight on my neck with more useless junk in my helmet? Not to mention you have also removed my ability to coordinate my hands and my workpiece with my eyes and removed my ability to look ahead on my work piece.

          All in all, this is a horrible idea and if you don’t believe me go spend a couple months under a welding hood (I’ve got 16 years under one and hold multiple tickets and certifications) then come back and tell me what a great idea this is. Oh and don’t get a comfy shop job, go work in the field, maybe under a pile cap in 6 inches of water balanaced on a mud board upside down. Or jammed into a 10 foot ditch dug into muskeg doing tie in on a pipe that you can’t see the bottom of because the water is rising to fast.

    2. Exactly this thing has been done, but I’m damned if I can remember where I saw it. It used a couple of helmet-mounted cameras – one recorded a normal-intensity scene, with the welding area masked out, and the other recorded a dimmed version of the welding area. After some trickery, the two were combined and then displayed inside the helment, so you “saw” the weld along with everything else appearing as normal. They then superimposed useful information like welding voltage/current, duration, temperature etc.

      It wasn’t a finished product – I think it was some university research. Wish I could find it again!

    3. “I’m not certain he was correct about that… I wouldn’t have risked it.”

      You do realize that back in those days, the vast majority of people had a very poor understanding of the dangers involved. You wouldn’t have risked it *now* because you understand and realize the dangers involved that were learned from all the mistakes from back *then*.

      1. No, Yates wouldn’t have risked it the same way that *everyone else* observing that test didn’t risk it. Of those hundreds, only Feynman was that foolhardy. I admire him greatly, but he was being reckless. Taking chances “for the experience” usually is, and that’s very simply what Feynmen knew he was doing. He waned the experience. He didn’t expect his unprotected eyes to give him some vital insight that instruments and protected eyes couldn’t glean

  4. WELL done work on the core hackery! It’s one more testament to Hackerdom’s skills&mindset.

    That said- the business model of disposable sealed product is a crime against the planet. A company “should” be able to profit honorably on simple excellence of a serviceable product that lasts. In the Internet age, there’s not a hiding place for crap design if consumers get annoyed enough to share comments.

    GOOD design turns consumers from consumers into EVANGELISTS!

    Bad design makes us better Hackers…

    The least complex explanations often have qualifiers. There’s always a fact of litigation being frequently hostile to Design For Serviceability. The reverse is true and valid cases of blatant bad design get handwaved away by dubious assertions of poor servicing. Were all parties involved to unfailingly be honorable and competent? The trial lawyers might starve.

    1. “A company “should” be able to profit honorably on simple excellence of a serviceable product that lasts. In the Internet age, there’s not a hiding place for crap design if consumers get annoyed enough to share comments.”

      One problem with that train of logic. The volume of moronic customers willing to buy utter crap at a lower price far outweighs the number of customers who share their comments in an effort to persuade others not to make the same mistake. Many people would rather pay $100 for a crap lawnmower they have to throw away at the new season than pay $500 for a lawnmower that can last for ten years. Wal*Mart, Harbor Freight and nearly every inkjet printer manufacturer are a testament to this way of thinking.

  5. This reminds me of my (least) favourite planned obsolescence trick which has to be hacked around – Capcom CPS1 and CPS2 arcade game boards. These also use tabbed CR2032 batteries, soldered to a daughterboard containing some volatile storage, preloaded with data at the factory. Every jump instruction in the game software is first XORed with the data in this storage…so when the battery goes flat the XOR table evaporates and the game stops working. Costs a cool $300 to have Capcom flash the data back in for you…or you can burn new ROMs with modified jump instructions, deliberately zero your XOR table by removing the battery and never pay them again! :-)

    Extracting the decryption tables required lots of effort – seem to recall it was done with custom trojans in a similar way to the guys doing MAME decryption.

    Much more information available at the Dead Battery Society:

  6. This is a relatively old helmet (10 years or so) and looking at the brochure this was the entry-level model.

    The filters block the harmful UV/IR even without the helmet darkening, they all work this way. The LCD is for comfort and convenience. So, maybe they figured if you were still welding after its two-year warranty and it failed then you’d get the next model up or so which had replaceable batteries.

  7. I did the same thing with my Optrel several years ago. Unfortunately my results were not as favorable, the hood still didn’t work right after new batteries. Oh well. Still have not bought another one, been using a manual hood with a #9 gold lens. I do miss the Optrel, best helmet out there. The new ones do have replaceable batteries now.

    The solar cell is used to supplement the batteries. One way to extend the life of a hood is to leave it out in the open exposed to ambient light, it will take some of the minimal drain off the batteries and make them last longer. Some hoods like the lincolns use a small rechargeable battery in them that the solar cell charges up, you really need to leave these out to keep them charged.

  8. Cheap harbor freight auto darkening helmet uses two AAA cells. Expensive Optrel version has batteries sealed inside. Something wrong with that, eh?

    Years ago, the US government passed a law requiring all devices with Nickel Cadmium or Lead Acid rechargeable batteries to have the batteries easily removable by the consumer. That needs to be updated to ALL rechargeable batteries, no matter what materials are used.

    Apple and other companies get away with gluing the batteries in and sealing things simply because that law doesn’t specifically say anything about Lithium Ion or Lithium Ion Polymer or other battery chemistry that wasn’t invented when the law was passed.

  9. I don’t see any issues with hacking into the unit and replacing the batteries no matter how old it is. I have the same helmet and i wouldnt have put 30 hrs on it and it began failing. This is hard to accept. The unit is good quality. Non replaceable battery is not. The instructions are lame. If there was any safety concens for my eyes, there would be a mention as to when i should stop using it and why. I put it in the sun – 1 hr 2 hrs 1 day 2 days – still it fails on me after a short time. When it fails – it flashes me. when i charge it and try again – it flashes me – nowhere does it say time to buy a new helmet – no red light saying its over – it just needs a friggen battery that charges or can be replaced!!
    shhhehh Good Hack – Well Done!! You have a milling machine – i have a dremmel – You rock!!

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