Review By Bill Esposito  Triton Website - http://www.triton.net.au



Triton Powered Respirator
REVIEW

by Bill Esposito


 

The more I get into woodworking the more safety conscience I become. While surfing the woodworking message boards it's hard to miss the constant chatter about safety devices. As a novice woodturner who's first hour on a lathe was interrupted by a flying spindle between the eyes (I was wearing a face shield), I was very interested to see how Triton Woodworking Systems has addressed a number of our safety concerns, dust, eye, ear and head protection, with their new powered respirator. Thanks to Triton Woodworking Systems for providing the respirator for review.

As with all my reviews main intent is to try to provide the reader with all the information they need to make an informed purchase. There will be plenty of photo's, some very close up, which I hope will give you a feel for the tool and which should preclude you from being surprised when you open the box.

What's in the box?

As you can see the Triton Powered Respirator comes in the familiar Triton orange just as the rest of their products. The head piece includes an AS/NZS 1801 approved hard hat with integrated AS/NZS 1270 approved ear protectors and an AS/NZS 1337 approved face shield. The head piece also includes an integrated shroud to keep the dust out and the ducting for the filtered air. The waist belt mounted filter unit contains two AS/NZS 1716 approved dust filters and NiCad batteries. The other accessories are the instruction manual, air hose, air flow meter, and DC power transformer used for charging the batteries. All of this comes securely packaged in a foot and a half square box.
 

 

A look into the filter

The filter unit actually contains 3 filters. Two internal filters which are rated to the Australian standard as P2 (Equivalent to the American N95 class) particulate filters which allow 1% of the particles below 1 micron to pass and will remove 95% particulates down to 0.3 micron. Triton also sells an additional filter called CIGWELD. This filter is used during welding operations. There is also a pre filter (photo at right) which snaps onto the bottom of the assembly and should catch all the big stuff and keep it out of the motor assembly.  In that same photo also notice the dust booted power switch and the LED indicating that the unit is being charged.


In the three pictures above you can see the assembly with all the filters removed. The photo at left is looking straight down into the assembly. The two yellow things are D sized NiCad batteries which are soldered in place. The middle picture is with the pre-filter removed and looking at the bottom of the assembly. You can see the impeller just above the nameplate and the power switch on the left. The photo at right is again looking through the top but this time at an angle to expose the impeller motor. The air movement through a clean filter assembly is 120 liters/min.

The last thing I want to show you before we move on to the headgear is the flow meter. This is simply a clear plastic tube with a captive ball and a target (this brings back some memories of tuning the carburetors on my MG). The way it works is that you attach the meter to the output of the filter and if the ball is in the target circle then all is well. If it's below the target then either the batteries are in need of a charge or the filters need changing. We'll spend a little more time on this later in the review.

The Headgear

The entire headgear is very well put together and is of high quality with the same excellent fit and finish I've come to expect from Triton products. The facemask arrived, and still is scratch free and a replacement can be purchased for $20. The ear protectors are rated for 23dBA to the Australian standard. The ear protectors swing out of the way (as pictured) but are not recommended for removal because they will leave a hole in the shroud. They adjust up and down so that you can get a comfortable fit. I could not adjust them up enough so that they were not sitting on my ear lobes and I could not see a way to modify either the muffs or the headgear harness to allow for a comfortable fit.

The webbing in the hat was similar to every hard hat I've seen. There is a ratcheting adjustment in the rear which adjusts for head size. Depending on how big your head is, the knob can interfere with the air inlet on the back of the hat (photo right is after the adjustment below). Luckily there is an undocumented adjustment which can gain your some head room (pun intended)

Looking at the plastic headband I noticed an extra set of holes just behind the sweat band (photo left). This adjustment will move the part of the headband which goes behind your head, and houses the ratchet adjustment towards the front. So I popped out the band and moved it forward and indeed it did provide the clearance needed. The picture at right shows the new position of the band.

The face shield locks in three positions and during all of my testing I never experienced the shield not staying where I put it.  Below are the 3 different positions of the face shield.


How it works
The respirator operates by sucking air through the pre-filter at the bottom of the filter assembly and blowing that air at through the cartridge filters and up into the hard hat at 130 liters per minute. The air enters the back of the hat and is ducted over your head where it is exhausted just at the edge of the headband. The air is directed over the inside of the face shield.

Batteries: When you receive and unpack your respirator the first thing you need to do is to plug in your battery pack to charge it up.  One of the negatives about the Triton is that while the pack lasts up to 8 hours (in my three battery life tests it lasted between 7 and 8 hours) it takes at least over night to charge.  The first time you charge it they instruct you to let it charge for 15 hours. Another battery related issue is that you can't just buy another set of NiCad's for it, you must buy the battery pack for around $80 which includes not only the batteries but also the whole motor assembly.  A recommendation I will make to Triton is to have replaceable batteries so that we can purchase an extra "D" sized NiCad's and have them in an inexpensive charger, ready to go.  In the current configuration, another needed feature is a smarter charger.  The current charging system is simply a user timed event. Additionally if you leave the charger on longer than 72 hours you will damage the batteries.  What is needed is a smart charger which charges the batteries and then reverts to a trickle charge so that the pack can be plugged in and left alone where it will be ready to go whenever you need it.  With the long charging times and the instructions to not use the battery pack if the air flow has dropped, I found myself on at least two occasions needing the respirator, but unable to use it because it failed the flow test.  When that happened, a fully charged pack was at least 15 hours away.

All that being said, with a fully charged pack I could get the stated life out of the filter and it worked well.  Also, if one was using the pack every day charging would be less of an issue because you could simply plug it in when you were done for the day and it would be ready for you in the morning.

The photo at left shows the filter pack being flow tested. Since NiCads put out a constant voltage right up until they are just about discharged, the flow will stay within the target throughout the charge until all of a sudden when it dramatically reduces. You will feel this change in the mask. At that point it's time to plug in the filter pack..

 

Filters:  I purposely did not spend any time testing the filters. First I'm not equipped for such testing and secondly they are certified. During my evaluation I probably wore the respirator for a total of about 8 hours in my dusty workshop.  Most of my time with the respirator was spent turning and sanding my turnings.  I also cut up some sheet goods. At the end of it all there was only a little dust on the pre-filter and absolutely no visible dust on the mask side of the filter cartridges.  One thing to know about the filters is that they are installed upside down. This is mentioned in the instruction manual and I believe it's done to to provide a better seal on the cartridges.
 

The respirator is strictly for dust protection. Here's a quote right off the Triton web page: " Please Note:  The Triton Powered Respirator is not suitable for use against gases, vapours, chemical fumes or in explosive atmospheres, for example spray painting."

I have a project coming up this summer where I have to tear down some horsehair plaster walls and ceilings and the respirator (and hard hat) will be perfect for that job.

Ergonomics:  For me there were some issues with the respirator's fit and weight.  As I mentioned earlier the ear protectors would not adjust for a comfortable fit.  I either need lower ears or an adjustment in the hat to raise it up a smidge.  The weight of the respirator, which is 36.5 oz according to my local post office, is not an issue at first and even after long periods of time wearing it the weight was not a factor as long as I was moving.  Operations like using the table saw were fine but long periods of concentration and little movement, like while I was turning spindles for hours on end, caused my neck to get tired.

The most annoying thing about wearing the respirator was the hose which connects the filter pack to the hat. It just was too stiff. Because of its stiffness, the headgear was always either being pushed down over my eyes or tilted back on my head. In my judgment the only type of hose which would be suitable for this job would be one designed like one of those plastic dryer hoses. A wire coil with a very pliable material forming the hose. Send me an email if you know where to find a 1.5" version of it. Additionally the hose connected via a tight fit and a clamp to both head gear and the filter assembly. Because it could not be connected/disconnected easily this made it cumbersome to handle when donning it or taking it off.

Use:  While turning a piece with both eye and head protection I must admit I felt very secure wearing the respirator.  Breathing the fresh air was an added bonus. There was a little distortion of my peripheral vision caused by the bubble face shield but looking straight on was fine. I had just begun turning some spindles for a cradle and things were progressing well.  I had 35 of these to turn. About an hour and a half into the session my neck was getting stiff...the weight of the respirator the culprit. Standing relatively still with my head in about the same position spindle after spindle was taking it's toll. I removed the respirator and replaced it with my face shield and I immediately felt better.

Working around the rest of the shop was much better. I was able to perform all sorts of other tasks without a problem.  Again the annoying thing was the hose pushing the hat down on my face. I did find that it could get warm under the shroud if I was exerting myself. The air blowing in front of my face stayed cool but I would start to perspire around my neck and shoulders under the shroud. Over the course of the next few turning sessions I again tried to to wear the respirator and each time after a couple of hours I had to take it off. Maybe it's just these old bones. I also ran into a low battery situation when I left it for a week after using it for about 4 hours. Upon testing the airflow prior to using the respirator, the sitting around had caused the battery to  drain and the flow was under the required lever. I had to forego using the respirator until the next day. 

Accessories: Right after I completed this review I found a company, Airware America, that sells replacement parts for the Triton. In addition to the replacements they offer stick on overlays which can be used with the Triton as well as other facemasks. Since they are not made specifically for the Triton they don't fit perfectly, but they do fit well enough for use and should greatly extend the usable life of the faceshield.  

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Conclusion:

Safety isn't free and the Triton Powered Respirator like most safety devices causes the user some inconveniences. Compared to a face shield it costs more, weighs more, is hotter to wear, and causes more fatigue. What you get in return is clean lungs, your sight, your hearing, and few less bumps on the noggin. That's a fair trade if you ask me.

I've been in contact with Triton USA and they assure me that a new more flexible hose with quick connect fittings is on the way. The current hose is the biggest problem with the respirator. If they can solve that issue and come up with a quicker/smarter way to charge the batteries or even package the batteries without the motor to reduce cost, then they will have a real winner here.



26 March 2004
Copyright 2004 , Bill Esposito
All Rights Reserved.
 

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