The new combine

Introduction

The combine is probably one of the most important time-critical equipment that exists in the modern society. It is not only necessary to have high enough threshing capacity to harvest the grain in years with excellent weather. No, if we shall secure the world enough of the probably most important foodstuff today, food grain, then there must be adequate combine capacity to secure the harvesting in years with bad weather, when the clouds are hanging heavy over the fields and every fine day must be maximum utilized to minimize the weather damage and reduced crop. With the risk for changes in the global weather to appear, with less predictive harvesting conditions, I wish to contribute with everything I can to obtain better threshing solutions. Threshers that have less loss during difficult conditions and above all, contributes to much, much less expensive threshing capacity. That is the only thing that really counts, and if we shall achieve this the whole threshing concept must be renewed. What I want to contribute to is not only a change of generation of combines. The changes must be much larger than that, and therefore I choose to name the task: THE NEW THRESHER.

History

First some history to give understanding of why I mean that I have good knowledge of the topic. Through many years behind the steering wheel and handles on different combines from the time when I was young, I have studied every threshing function and evaluated if just that function can be done better and if the material stream of unthreshed grain, grain and straw can be done more efficient. Every single problem I have experienced has been evaluated and carefully thought through, to avoid the problem by doing the function in a different way. I am not foreign to any problems, cleaning or maintenance that can appear on a combine. I have driven and studied the combine and all its functions during all driving conditions, weed, fall-over, humid conditions with grain humidity up to 25 % water content. Everything you loose with fall-over and do not manage to collect and run over, to grain that goes over the sieves is lost earnings, because all the expenses will have to be paid first. I have threshed all sorts of normal Nordic types of grain like barley, wheat, oat, rye, grass seed and rape and faced the challenges with each of them. I have driven combines in so steep hills that the combines have been on the limit to start sliding, and where you have to choose driving direction with care to avoid that the combine tip over. I have run combines really many hours without a break into the late night to thresh as much as possible when long lasting bad weather is forecasted and it is important to save as much as possible to avoid losing the rest of the crop. This has made me very certain that the combine must be user friendly. I have driven combines that have been so old and worn out that a part of the job has been to repair and change worn out parts. The latter has of course been a very useful experience for me when I designed the new thresher because I, from my own experience, know how important it is that all parts are easy to change and repair. You get a special feeling for this when you by yourself, under time pressure, have changed everything from belts and grain elevator chains to cooling water pumps on a combine. You get quite another feeling for how the thresher should be shaped when you have removed straw between the cylinder and the concave when the cylinder has got stuck in straws that have to be removed and cut out with a knife, bit by bit, under time pressure. I got good understanding of what should have been different when I cleaned earth and weed from concaves by myself, and at the same time thought about how the thresher should have been shaped to make the thresher very easy to clean and maximum user friendly. I shall not dwell longer on this. Maybe I have persisted unnecessary about this here, but when I suggest so large changes it is important that you understand that this is not only loose thoughts and ideas. The reason is that I think that today’s combines are far from good. They are in my opinion, far too expensive in relation to the job they do and that I wish to do something about.

But before I finish the history I need to tell about my technical and engineering background because that is also important to explain why I have been able to calculate, design and construct a much better and above all a much cheaper thresher in proportion to the threshing capacity. I am educated Master of Science, Mechanical Engineer. I have worked with development and inventions in many years. In 7 years I worked with development of products were we calculated and made efficient equipment for separating particles. Even if we worked with other particles then, I always had it in my mind how such techniques could be used to separate grain from husks, straw etc. because even if the numbers are different, the theories, calculations and the forces are comparative. Therefore it is almost obvious that the grain pan with sieves and the rest of the system was one of the first that got lost. I have invented products that have competed out old products in conservative and demanding business as in the oil business, the construction business and shipping. I own and run a production company based on my own inventions. Therefore I know very well what can be demanded from products, production costs and prices.

What have we dome different on the new thresher?

After 70 years with the same concept I see that it really was time to look at the threshing with an absolute new focus. It is astonishing that the threshing concept has not been examined thoroughly due to all climate, resources and emission problems. I will tell about a few of all the changes we have done. Generally speaking, it is very little left of the old combine, but I am convinced that you will like what you will see. The new concept is at least liked by they who have seen it and got the solution explained.

The thresher solution is changed from where it comes in contact with the unthreshed grain to the grain is over on the next transport link; truck or tractor with trailer. To get large enough capacity, we have as comparison, used the present large combines with approximately weight 15,000 kg (33000 lbs) and a price level of $ 360,000. As a basis there is no reason to design a small thresher because it is large capacity in comparison to price that counts and many functions have a nearly equal price on large and small combines, such as driver’s cabin, steering, all modern controller functions and auxiliary functions. Besides, by having one large instead of two or three small thresher you save lots of man hours. In the future we will of course produce models both up and down in size.

a. Quite new design.

The self-propelled combine design in use now has been almost unchanged in 70 years. It is therefore high time to see if the concept that then was taken into use still is optimal. It is not because a concept that only increase in size will become a dinosaur. Everything can not only increase in size all the time because then neither proportions nor solutions will match. Everything is changing, also the demands to efficiency according to weight and use of materials. This is quite different now than two generations ago.

What characterizes the new thresher is that when the old combine weight 15,000 kg the new weight 5,000 kg. One third of the old weight. Therefore also the price will be halved even if more advantages are added. One of the necessary improvements is that the grain tank has been doubled in size. Instead of 10500 liters it is increased to 21,000 liters volume. This means that a full thresher grain tank contain 11,000 -17,000 kg grain. That is enough to directly fill a large tractor trailer or a truck. This is important because then neither the driver of thresher or truck will be delayed by waiting on more tank fillings. At present, one must wait while the combine tank is filled two or several times to get full load. Much more efficient threshing and transport. Still, the new thresher will almost not weight more than the old combine when that is empty. This has been made possible by that the grain tank has been moved to where it belongs; down at the ground. Then we get a quite different weight of the frame. Money saved. In addition also the engine has been landed down at the ground. It is quite nonsense that these two heavy components, full grain tank and large diesel engine shall balance many meters up in the air. That gives only bad stability and lead to that you during many conditions have to drive carefully in order not to tip over at the same time as it demand a far too large and heavy design. Why should you need to maintain and probably repair a diesel engine at four meters height when the engine can be placed so that you can stand on the ground when you need to inspect it?

b. Four wheel drive and four equal sized wheels.

                                                                                                           

One of the maybe largest visible changes is that the new thresher is equipped with four equal sized wheels and four wheel drive. This happens because the weight is distributed in such a way that the weight on each wheel is much more equal than at present combines. These two facts make the thresher much better navigable, both when it is soaked and steep. When you today end up in a situation where the present combine runs into a soaked area and become standing fixed, and must have rescuing service, you will with the new thresher just back out of the hole and drive on at the side. If you drive in strong rise you might with the present combine come to a standstill because the driving wheel will start spinning. With the new thresher with four wheel drive on four equal sized wheels you will probably not even feel that you could have had this problem.

c. Changes in the sieves function.

The whole threshing part is changed. The sieves with fan and return system are replaced by a complete new separation system which is much more efficient and need much less space. It is much easier to adjust and above all, it will not be affected by inclining. As additional equipment the present combines can be delivered with expensive and complicated leveling systems, but they will anyway relatively quickly reach a limit that gives restrictions to the efficiency of the sieves and thereby grain loss. This will not happen with the new system because it is not based on the normal gravity force. Thus the thresher inclination and movements will be without importance for the efficiency. We have no sieves that can be tighten by weed or humid husks or stop functioning because of dewfall in the evening. Thereby the thresher gets much higher capacity. Picture 1 shows how wrong things can go when the sieves do not work correctly. Here the grains have flooded over the sieves, passed by the return system and ended on the ground and started to sprout. This gives a realistic impression of how much grain that really has been lost. Much lost grain and thereby reduced income, because the earnings first appear as known, when all the other expenses have been covered.

Picture 1. When the sieves do not work as they are supposed to do the loss will be heavy. That is especially easy to see when the lost grains start to sprout.

All part of our new system is a closed system without the enormous out blowing of dust that the present systems makes when it is dry weather as you can see on picture two that are taken of a normal combine. We have taken similar pictures of most of the makes and they show of course equal dust clouds because they are made in the same way. These dust particles are of course very dangerous for all that is in the neighborhoods and then especially for those who get much exposed to this dust. It is especially they who drive combines and those who collect grains. If you are much exposed to this it can give you dust lungs, a dangerous suffering that unfortunately far too many old farmers have got.

I want to get rid of this occupational disease and therefore I have developed this complete closed system.

The system is also much more energy economical and it do not suck cold humid air from the ground level, blow it into the sieves and humid the sieves in late evenings when it start to dewfall. Longer operation time before you have to stop is equivalent to larger threshing capacity. Because it no longer is any sieves that the grains can flow over, the return system become superfluous. Saved money and complexity.

Picture 2. Here you can see what you for sure already have observed. An enormous dust cloud with dangerous dust from the sieves that blows out into the entire area. If you are exposed to this it can give you dust lungs, a very dangerous illness that unfortunately many farmers have got to know in their body.

Our system also gets considerably less parts and will be easier to keep clean. A closer description of the system will be given when the new thresher is presented. But we have dimensioned the system so the threshing capacity can be doubled in comparison with the present combine systems because our goal is that the new combine gradually will get a capacity that is two times the present combines. Then the investment cost for the new thresher will be reduced to one fourth of the investment you have today with the present combines and that we feel is appropriate.

More really large tidbits of improvements you will see the first time you get the new thresher demonstrated. The same thing when it comes to the improvements of the cutting table. But this you can evaluate and make up your mind about when you see it in use for the first time. However, I want to mention one condition. Look at picture 3. Here you can see what the result is of lack in force feeding of the grain under the concave results in. When you drive down a hill all the grain that comes through the concave will collect under the cylinder. So, when you reach the bottom and start to drive up-gradient, the whole load of grain flows in on the sieves in a large heap at the same time. It overloads the sieves and large amounts end up on the ground as the picture with rows of grain that have gone over the sieves shows. Lost earnings. The picture is not arranged, but taken on an occasional field. The phenomena is hardly unfamiliar to you from earlier, but you see it so well when the grains have started to sprout. Forced feeding to get even load on the grain separating system should of course, long time ago, have been a matter of course and we have introduced it.

Picture 3. Overloaded sieves as a result of threshing downhill followed by direct up-gradient run. Lots of collected grain flows onto the sieves simultaneously, overloads the sieves, flows over the sieves and the return system, flows out on the ground and is lost.

Production

When you look at the present combines with a view to the design solutions, you will easily see that these constructions descend from an earlier time, before all these new production tools like laser cutting of plates and welding and mounting with robots appear. Of course they use these new tools, but if you really shall get economical benefits from these new technologies then the whole construction must be constructed from the ground. You must take these into consideration and the new lines in efficient constructions. I can see from the detail solutions that this has not been done when designing of the present combines. But it is neither the designers nor the management at these factories that shall pay the costs and then you can see on the products that they do not bother to change. When I look at these types of machines I can also see that it is obviously necessary that it now appears new generations of most machine elements like couplings between shaft and wheel, pipe connections, movable shaft couplings, etc. This is necessary to reduce the use of materials and the production costs, the assembling costs and not least the costs for inspection, service, maintenance and repair.

Reduced emission

If the combine manufacturers had done what here are mentioned they could easily have reduced the CO2-emissions and consumption with 50 – 80 %. The threshers can be produced with considerably less use of materials and resources that in its turn gives less emission. It takes less energy to drive around with a 5 metric tons thresher than to drag around with the present 15 metric tons combines. And in longer view our goal are that our 5 metric tons thresher gets a capacity equal two of the competitors 15 metric tons combines.

Reflections

Come along and relieve the speculators the lust to speculate in grain. I have lately been extremely irritated over several economical magazines and papers because they commit almost unhampered bulling of the market and almost jubilation of the speculation that now has started with food grain. You may have seen the scribbling you too: ”The raw material you should have invested in.”,”It is a positive trend in wheat and it is not unlikely that it will continue”. ”Become rich – for a handful with grain”. ”Even in the third world people must understand that the prices will increase.” ”So you can hook on the wheat bull market.” ”On the other hand it goes quite well to at your own buy wheat futures either on the exchange Chicago Board Trade (CBOT)or the European, Euronext.liffe in Paris.” (The quotations are collected from internet editions of different finance newspapers). I feel that this is indescribable naughty that someone obviously seems that it is quite O.K. to speculate in food grain that we now see as a tendency, because the result will be that the ones who will suffer from this is among others children in the poor part of the world that do not get enough food and that will starve. That they are responsible for that those children must go hungry to bed in the evening and maybe contract devastating hunger diseases, or die from hunger, do not obviously bother these speculators. We see from their actions that they are not influenced by other people’s sufferings. Empathy is quite clearly an absolute unknown feeling for these peoples.

Instead of only to clench the fists in the pockets and say that now it is bad, I hope that we can make grain speculation less interesting. I think that we in cooperation can manage that because all grain speculation is based on the “bigger fool” theory. Jeg mener at det kan vi i fellesskap få til fordi all kornspekulasjon baserer seg på ”bigger fool” teorien. All these that speculate in grain do it because they believe that it is a bigger fool that is willing to pay twice as much for the grain because he in his turn believes that he again can find an even greater fool that is willing to pay even much more etc. etc. If we therefore manage to increase the threshing capacity in the world so that the crop damage and the grain loss is reduced to such an extent that the crop value is increased with 10 to 20 %, it will be much more insecure for the speculators to find that even bigger fool that is willing to speculate with food grain. 10 to 20 % crop increase each year will fairly sure be enough to secure that this speculation will be unprofitable.

And if these speculators do not take this message, then we others have to see to that the speculators lose their money by providing that the threshing capacity is large enough in the world. Then they have to sell the grain they have speculated in to a lower price than they have paid for the grain. In this way they will lose their money and that maybe is just as good because the business world do not need that type of people in the future.

But to achieve this it is three things that matters: Much higher threshing capacity, much cheaper threshing capacity and much better threshers that gives less loss also under extremely difficult harvesting conditions.

Contact

If you are interested or have views, I hope you will contact us on email: flagro@fladby.com.

© Tron-Halvard Fladby/ 29.9.2007