Ease of Operation to be Focus at Agritechnica

The Systems & Components special feature returns at Agritechnica 2019 with innovations this year to include solutions to reduce the workload of off-highway machinery operators.

DLG (German Agricultural Society)
Operator Cab
S. Jensen

Regardless of whether they are built for agriculture, forestry or even road construction, the use of machines in the off-highway sector necessitates technologies that function optimally under extreme conditions. From November 10-16, 2019, exhibitors at Systems & Components will be showing solutions that not only enable additional flexibility in the design of vehicle systems, but will also help to reduce operators’ work-related stress. The B2B platform, which is taking place alongside Agritechnica 2019 in Hanover, Germany, will focus on assistance systems and holistic human-machine interface (HMI) concepts that ensure increased ergonomics and comfort in the cab, and will confirm the shift towards a single-terminal strategy for operating complex tractor-trailer combinations. 

Modern commercial vehicles and working machines in the off-highway sector are revealing an increasing number of functions that inform and support the operator. The desire for maximum possible mobility is leading to equally high demand for assistance and comfort functions. The steering system plays a particularly important role in this, and Systems & Components exhibitors are responding with solutions that are optimally designed for the respective tasks of agricultural and construction machines.

Dynamic precision steering adjustment

Electro-hydraulic four-wheel-drive systems that enable the driver to manually adapt the steering mode can be useful in certain circumstances. The electro-hydraulic steering components are connected to the control screen in the cab via a CANBUS, and this allows, for example, the operators of sugar beet harvesters, and self-propelled manure and slurry spreaders, to adjust their steering geometry so that each wheel runs in a separate track, minimizing their impact on the soil.

Even more functionality is offered by digital actuators and sensors that enable dynamic adaptation of the number of steering wheel revolutions from lock-to-lock: for safety when driving at high speed or for maneuvering precision at low speed. While the actuator contains software tailored to the requirements, the sensor serves to determine the absolute position and the speed of the steering wheel. Automatic adaptation of the steering ratio depending on the vehicle's speed is also possible. The most recent innovations in the off-highway sector include failsafe steer-by-wire technologies. They enable the classic steering column to be replaced by smaller, more precise steering mechanisms. Thanks to these, operators of vehicles from small wheeled loaders up to and including heavy-duty excavators can steer their machines entirely using joysticks or mini steering wheels, with the driver benefitting from a larger field of vision and better ergonomics.

Ergonomic and controlled vehicle operation

The increasing number of ever more complex devices and functions related to off-road vehicles necessitates new operating concepts that support the driver without distracting or overtaxing him. Design engineers are developing bespoke HMI solutions for the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and retrofit markets that look at the driver's cab as a whole and are focused on ergonomic requirements. The result is innovative electronic and mechatronic input solutions. All features of the climate-controlled cabs are adjustable and can be controlled using multi-touch displays that remain legible even in bright sunlight. Driving comfort is optimized by the combination of front-axle suspension, pneumatic cab suspension and an operator’s seat with active suspension.

Multifunctional armrests now bring together all key functions. Besides functions for the seat itself, vehicle functions are also adjusted here. For additional operator comfort, these terminals can be combined with an AUX joystick that can carry out up to 24 control commands. Help systems enable the driver to obtain information about the application that is open on their control screen, as well as its functions and settings, at any time. Depending on equipment, GPS-aided steering systems and specialized sensors can also be integrated. Additional devices for displaying camera images are also available, ensuring safe navigation in any work situation.

The terminal as a universal control center

The terminal in the cab is the central interface between man and the machine. Thanks to ISOBUS, farmers can operate several attachments using a standardized nine-pin connector and a common terminal. Based on the ISO 11783 standard, this technology guarantees cross-manufacturer data transfer and ensures that the driver always has the full range of functions in his sights. Tractors are therefore being factory-fitted with ISOBUS-capable terminals and sockets.

The advantages are readily apparent; as soon as an attachment is connected, the operator can call up its application-specific user interface on the central terminal in the cab. Additional diagnostic functions enable the machine's sensors and actuators to be tested. This ensures that all systems can be confirmed as running correctly without the driver having to leave his seat. By means of a split-screen function, the simultaneous display of data from two machines and a camera image, all necessary information, can be shown on one terminal. One example of this would be maize sowing, with a front-mounted tank for fertilizer dosing and an individual seed sowing machine at the rear. A Wi-Fi adapter connected to the ISOBUS socket can also allow communication between the implements and a tablet computer.

Sensors for improved safety

Systems that provide the operator with a 360-degree view of the vehicle's surroundings are indispensable in the cab. This technology reduces blind spots, allowing pedestrians and objects to be reliably detected. The latest generation of sensors can recognize problems with tire pressures equally as quickly as someone entering the danger zone of the machines, and can also warn of collisions in good time by means of acoustic signals and messages on the display. Further cameras at the rear of the machine can reduce the risk of an accident in cramped yards and can be used in automatic hitching processes.

Market-ready solution for the future

The trend towards electrification and automation in mobile working machines will be readily apparent at Systems & Components. OEMs, suppliers and users of off-road machines will be meeting up to discuss cutting-edge technology and forward-looking trends. A top-class technical program with a variety of international events, as well as specials and conferences concerning current issues, will round off the technology presented by the exhibitors. Focus will be placed not only on dynamic assistance systems that ensure increased safety and comfort, but also on entirely new automation concepts for all off-highway markets. The clear objective of industry leaders is to increase the level of autonomy.

Systems & Components is a special feature at Agritechnica 2019, which takes place at Hanover’s Exhibition Grounds.