Research with CLAAS participation
CLAAS POWER SYSTEMS is far more than a “fuel-saving initiative” for engines. CPS always considers the entire process of mechanisation across the agricultural sector. The following are three examples regarding the potential contribution of IT and “farming intelligence”.
iGreen research initiative.
How does IT increase the efficiency of agricultural machines? Through the iGreen project, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is promoting a location-specific services and knowledge network in the agricultural sector for the management of agricultural zones for efficient, resource- and environment-protecting agricultural practices. All leading manufacturers of agricultural machinery are involved, including CLAAS of course. As part of the research programme, we are currently looking at how CLAAS machines and their onboard computers can be optimally integrated into the iGreen network. At CLAAS, Dr. Hans-Peter Grothaus is responsible for coordinating the company’s contribution. For him, productivity in using IT is paramount: “It’s all about increasing productivity, not just by refining our agricultural machines’ designs, but also by integrating IT processes. Our comprehensive expertise in the field of onboard electronics and software development helps us to view processes in the agricultural sector as one integrated process, rather than as separate procedures. This also benefits our customers.”
Robot2Business research programme.
Robots, too, are now finding their way into the agricultural sector. The Robot2Business (R2B) project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) seeks to demonstrate the impact that these may have in the future. CLAAS considers this a forerunner project to iGreen. The agricultural machines of the future will be designed to ease the farmers' workload effectively. To do this, they will communicate with other machines automatically via an IT system, document the work performed, provide notification of necessary maintenance and servicing tasks, and warn the driver of obstacles. The automation of business processes simplifies the decision-making process in day-to-day operations and cuts down on the amount of time the machine is in use, and thus on fuel consumption as well. Additionally, it may be expected that the agricultural industry, too, will become more independent of unpredictable influences such as technical disruptions or weather impacts. CLAAS has assumed an important role in the R2B project to ensure the company is actively involved in the development of automated agriculture.
“Business processes in the agricultural, construction and services industries can be jeopardised by external, unpredictable influences, such as the weather. Being able to cope with such factors is the focus of our research”, says project leader Thilo Steckel from CLAAS. “Our aim is to create a networked, web-based communications platform to establish automatically running and dynamic processes in order to help mitigate financial risks associated with unforeseeable events.”
SimoBIT promotion initiative.
Initiatives such as the Robot2Business project are being carried out under the auspices of the German federal government's SimoBIT IT funding initiative. The overall objective of SimoBIT is to boost the productivity and competitiveness of agricultural companies, particularly through assistance from IT processes tailored to the needs of the agricultural industry. These processes are designed to relieve the burden on farmers in day-to-day operations, for example through the cooperation of machine chains in the field or the optimisation of route planning. CLAAS is dedicated to its industry partnership with the German federal government, in addition to companies such as Siemens IT Solutions.
Bioeconomics research strategy.
Hybrid solutions in practical use.
Hybrid solutions in locally deployed construction machines are becoming increasingly attractive. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has developed a drive system consisting of a high-performance lithium-ion battery, diesel engine, two induction engines and a converter. The company showcased a forklift truck at the Bauma 2010 in Munich, which with this newly developed technology is 39 percent more efficient than traditional combustion-engine-powered forklifts. Construction machine manufacturer BOMAG has developed a field test machine with hybrid drive system that features an electromotor generator, high-performance battery and associated performance electronics in addition to the conventional drive elements. In generator mode, the high-performance battery is energised when braking or tuning out vibrations, although primarily by the difference between the output generated by the diesel engine and the diminished output. This unused output is therefore "stored". To even out power peaks, if necessary, the electric engine takes power from the battery unit to support the main drive. This configuration has enabled the system designers to reduce the performance class of the main drive engine. Overall, fuel consumption is reduced as a result, with diesel savings of up to 30 percent reported by BOMAG in initial tests.
Diesel-electric drive systems for off-road machines.
Diesel-electric drive systems are another viable alternative. In this configuration, the vehicle effectively has its own power plant, which is a generator driven by a diesel engine. Scientists at the Technical University of Dresden are currently hoping to make agricultural machines quieter and more powerful through the use of electric drive systems. To this end, a diesel-electric drive system has been developed. In this system, a diesel engine powers an electric onboard network, from which, in turn, the tractor’s four wheels are driven. According to the researchers’ findings, this hybrid tractor achieves very high degrees of efficiency. And there are further benefits: “If all four wheels are driven individually, this means greater tolerance to different tyre radii in addition to reduced tyre wear. Through active traction control for each wheel, the ground is protected and the tractor’s pulling force is increased,” reports Agricultural Systems and Technology Professor Thomas Herlitzius. Construction machine manufacturers have been able to progress a little further, owing to the very local deployment of their machines, and have presented their initial results. Caterpillar, for instance, has launched the first diesel-electric tracked bulldozer with 175 kW output on the market, the D7E. The machine’s diesel engine runs independently of the vehicle speed and load at an optimised, constant rate of fuel consumption at 1,800 rpm with improved efficiency.
Alternatives to diesel?
There are a number of options available when it comes to alternative fuels: biogas is one solution that manufacturers in the agricultural technology industry are turning to. Only recently, one company unveiled a biogas-powered tractor. The vehicle’s drive system is simple: 70 to 80 percent of output is generated from biogas without modifications to the original diesel engine. The dual-fuel engine works like a diesel engine. The gas is injected with the air drawn in and combustion occurs when a small quantity of diesel is injected into the cylinder. If biogas is unavailable, the engine runs entirely on diesel. The biogas tank can hold 170 litres of gas. Under a pressure of 200 bar, this is equivalent to around 30 litres of diesel, sufficient for three to four hours of operation.