Farmers want more productive machines that won’t cost them an arm and a leg to operate. At the same time, vehicle manufacturers have to ensure their products meet stringent emissions regulations. In 2014, Tier 4 Final standards go into effect, calling for a 90% reduction in particulate matter and nitrogen oxides (NOx).
Combining power, efficiency and emissions compliance has been a challenge for many companies. However, manufacturers have found ways to bring these features into the machine to allow farmers to be more productive.
A common goal
Selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems, common in the off-road industry, enable vehicle manufacturers to meet emissions regulations while still getting the power they want.
According to Case IH, Racine, WI, because exhaust is treated post-combustion with SCR, the engine is able to run at peak performance. Treating the exhaust post-combustion also allows fuel to burn more completely and lowers the need for cooling during high-horsepower applications. Research has also shown that SCR systems can provide 3% to 5% fuel savings, further adding to its efficiency benefits.
Customers are, of course, the most important aspect to keep in mind when designing a piece of agricultural equipment. While the economic benefits of creating an efficiently running system are obvious, the ease with which operators can do their job is equally important. This is why just as much development has gone into tractor cabs as the rest of the vehicle. Many are becoming offices right there in the field.
Ergonomics have played an important role in cab design. Having the most frequently used controls at an operator’s fingertips makes work easier and more comfortable. There’s no longer a need to reach far across a console to find the right button to push, eliminating confusion and neck strain.
Case IH Steiger 600
In early 2011, Case IH introduced the Steiger 600 tractor, said to be the highest horsepower and most fuel-efficient tractor to date. This tractor is designed to offer users the power necessary to get their work done quickly and efficiently, while also meeting the most current emissions regulations.
Using an FPT Powertrain Technologies 12.9-liter diesel engine, the Steiger 600 has a power output of 600 hp and uses fuel more efficiently. SCR technology enables efficient operation as well as reduced emissions. Case chose to use SCR technology exclusively to meet 2014 Tier 4 Final emission regulations.
Operator efficiency was another goal for the Steiger 600 design. The large tractor cab features a wide viewing window for maximum visibility and four post cab suspension for stability in any working condition. To be more ergonomic, many of the tractor’s controls have been placed on the upper right-hand side of the cab. More frequently used controls are contained in a MultiControl armrest console on the tractor seat, allowing the vehicle operator to have everything within easy reach.
Oxbo 4334 self-propelled merger
Designed to increase operator productivity, Oxbo Intl. Corp., Lynden, WA, developed the Oxbo 4334 self-propelled merger. A Tier 3-compliant John Deere 250 hp engine allows the merger to move at a rate of 30 mph. For easier maneuverability when changing locations, the pickup heads fold to a 10-ft. width in under 20 seconds.
Front mounted heads on the merger enable the machine to move around easier, especially in small fields, around corners and at headlands. The heads are also designed so as not to run over crops, allowing farmers to get as much usable product out of their fields as possible.
Part of what enables the crop protection is the user’s ability to stop the conveyor while still running the pickup heads. Oxbo’s continuous pickup and crop flow technology also helps protect crops by enabling gentler handling of crops and allowing fewer rocks to get into the windrows.
Further enhancing productivity is the full view operators get out the window of the cab. Through the window, the entire 34-ft. continuous pickup can be seen so operators will have better control and be able to build better windrows. Oxbo updated the vehicle controls by placing fingertip controls on a joystick easily within reach. The controls allow users to raise, lower, fold and unfold heads quickly and easily.
Massey Ferguson 7600 Series tractors
The Massey Ferguson 7600 Series high-horsepower row crop tractors were also introduced in 2011 by AGCO Corp., Duluth, GA. Featuring four models available in a power range of 170 to 225 hp, AGCO developed the 7600 Series based on feedback from its customers. Barry O’Shea, Manager of Product Management, says that about five years ago the company began using voice-of-customer to design products that would best fit its customers’ needs. For the 7600 Series, AGCO compiled a list of customer suggestions, chose the ones it felt would make the biggest impact, and paired those changes with the necessary developments to meet Tier 4 regulations.
An AGCO POWER diesel engine equipped with an e3 SCR helps the tractor comply with Tier 4 interim emissions regulations. The SCR is paired with a diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC), enabling disposal of smaller particulates. This creates a better mix of urea in the exhaust gases, says O’Shea, which leads to using less SCR for better efficiency.
AGCO’s SCR design doesn’t require additional valves, turbochargers or cooling packages, which eliminates the need to redesign existing engines. It also allows for a smaller cooling package, which was important to the design of the tractor.
O’Shea says ensuring visibility in the front of the tractor was one of the key goals during development. Cooling packages used in Tier 4 systems tend to generate a lot of heat, he says, but the company didn’t want to make the front of the tractor bigger because that would impair visibility. “Visibility is so important,” says O’Shea. “And more people are using front mounted equipment on these tractors.” Through a special cooling package design and the use of a steel hood for a slimmer appearance, AGCO was able to decrease hood space.
The 7600 Series tractor offers buyers the option of a Dyna-6 (24-speed, partial-powershift) transmission or a Dyna-VT, which is a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Previously, customers had to choose between two different tractor models if they wanted one transmission versus the other. However, many of the company’s customers utilize vehicles with both types of transmissions in their businesses, and it was important that a driver be able to go from one machine to the next without having to learn a whole new system, says O’Shea. To address this, AGCO designed a common interface for the 7600 Series so its customers wouldn’t have to give up features they wanted just because of the transmission they needed to get their work done.
Better fuel efficiency is one of the benefits operators get with the Dyna-VT. Often times, if a tractor reaches a difficult spot in a field, such as a hill, the transmission will adjust the rpms from 1,800 to 1,700 in order to make it through the rougher terrain, then go back up to 1,800. However, this can have a negative effect on fuel efficiency. The CVT transmission allows you to set the tractor when it’s going down the field, says O’Shea. When it reaches a tough spot, the CVT goes from 5 mph to 4.9 mph, then down to 4.8 mph and 4.7 mph; once the tractor has made it through the rough spot, the transmission adjusts the speed back up to 5 mph. “The engine is sitting in a constant load position,” says O’Shea, “[and] the operator can set that where you have the most power and best fuel efficiency, and the transmission will do the shifting on its own.” Even if a driver is unfamiliar with an engine’s capabilities, O’Shea notes that the transmission has a mode which automatically sets the engine rpms to get optimal performance and efficiency.
Along with ensuring visibility and designing a common transmission interface, the company made the vehicle controls more ergonomic. Two levels of operating packs are available with the tractors; one has a simple interface while the other places all of the controls in one location, a Multipad controller. Built into the right-hand armrest of the cab’s seat, the Multipad controller holds all of the vehicle controls, such as forward, reverse and hitch movements. “You can rev the engine up and down; you can start and stop the PTO,” says O’Shea. “You can do all this without removing your hand from the lever.”
Next to the Multipad controller is a joystick for the tractor’s loader control, which was made larger based on customer suggestions. “When you have big gloves on, especially in colder climates, it is hard to use a joystick,” says O’Shea. Buttons were also added to the joystick so vehicle operators would be able to better control the tractor’s loader.
Power and efficiency, both for the vehicle and the operator, can be achieved in a number of ways. While there’s no one, concrete solution for combining power and efficiency, improvements on various tractors that work in unison can bring about the desired end result. “There’s not just one goal I can tell you that gives us more efficiency,” says O’Shea. “It’s several things in the vehicle that add up to give us more efficiency.”