This fall the Kenai Peninsula College welding shop will be the first in Alaska to use new high-tech welding hoods for instruction. Called a Power Air Purifying System, it is a relatively new technology combining a standard welding hood with a fresh air supply.
"We've known we needed something like this for a long time but there hasn't been a good product combining both hood and respirator," said welding instructor Fritz Miller. Using a separate respirator causes glasses to fog up, especially at cold temperatures. The new hood not only filters out particulate matter and smoke generated by grinding and arc welding, it also increases productivity because one can see better while working.
"It will make it easier for students to learn welding and enable people who are sensitive to smoke and dust to do it," Miller said.
He has tested two different models of the hood over the past few months and is impressed with what a difference it makes.
"I feel like a heavy smoker who just realized what he's been breathing in for the last 20 years. It's a whole new world," he said.
The system has a filter, worn on a belt, which issues 25 times more air than a person normally breathes, blown in under the hood. The hood has a self-darkening lens and other optional features are available, including a grinding shield and a hard hat.
Miller plans to order 40 of the hoods, which are manufactured by 3M. They will be required equipment for his classes. Funds for purchasing them have been approved by the college, but the bidding process is still going on, so suppliers and total cost are not yet known. Spare parts will be available in the college bookstore.
"We're planning to have these in use for the fall semester, maybe sooner," Miller said. "This is one of the biggest advances in welding technology in years, and we're real excited about getting it in here."
Laura Faeo is a freelance writer living in Nikiski. This article was written as a class project in the Creative Writing: Non-fiction course at KPC and was published in the March 4 issue of KPC Connection.
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