A demonstration of some of the latest products from Case IH at its St Valentin European headquarters
A demonstration of some of the latest products from Case IH at its St Valentin, Austria European headquarters included new model tractors and enhanced features for its precision farming systems. David Williams attended the event.
The Case IH headquarters for Europe, Middle East and Africa is at St Valentin, Austria. In the background is the new visitor centre.
Agricultural machinery has been manufactured at the St Valentin plant since 1945, and it has been producing Steyr tractors since the 1960s. In 1996 the Steyr and Case IH brands merged and now, as well as Steyr, Case IH tractors are produced at the plant, models including Farmall U-Pro, Maxxum and Puma, the factory having a capacity of up to 53 machines per day.
Considerable investment has been made at the plant and recently a purpose-built visitors’ centre, a test track and demonstration area were added and the factory itself is being updated with better facilities for visitors to tour the plant, including overhead walkways which allows guests to watch tractors being built from above.
Case IH is part of CNH Industrial which is the fourth largest industrial group world-wide with 12 brands and more than 71,000 employees. During 2013 just over 900 million euros was invested by the company in product development and 6,300 people now work in research and development, spend having increased by four per cent during the past 12 months.
Case IH and Steyr tractors manufactured at the plant awaiting dispatch.
One significant area of investment in recent years has been the development of larger and improved headers for the Axial Flow harvesters, and the new widest 12.5m Vari-Cut version is due to be displayed at the Cereals event in June.
The 12.5m cutting width is significant as it is compatible with many tramline configurations, allowing the combine wheels to run at 12m spacings within a controlled-traffic farming system. The company is also developing its own draper header in response to demand from users keen to obtain increased performance in a diverse range of crops.
Engine development The award-winning FPT Cursor 16 engine is said to offer exceptional performance while meeting the latest emissions regulations and is used in new models of the Axial-Flow combine harvesters.
Versatile transmissions Another area in which R&D has been concentrated is CVT transmissions. Allowing greater flexibility than standard mechanical or power shift transmissions CVT provides infinitely variable speed control, and the latest versions are extremely efficient.
Previously available only on a limited number of high-specification mid-horsepower tractors, Case IH now offers them on tractors from just 110hp up to its most powerful conventional model; the Magnum 370 CVX with up to 419 maximum horsepower available. New CVT transmissions are being developed for both higher and lower horsepower models in the Case IH range.
Power to the groundTracks are another feature for which demand is increasing and, having enjoyed considerable success with its Quadtrac high horsepower articulated rubber-tracked tractors, Case IH has recently extended their availability to include combine harvesters.
The company is developing tracked versions of some of its conventional tractors including the high horsepower Magnums, although these are said to be several years from entering production. Unlike the Quadtrac, conventional tractors are more likely to use two tracks at the rear, says the company, with conventional steering wheels at the front.
“For headland turns and on the road, wheels in front are an advantage on a conventional tractor,” explained CNH Industrial managing director at St Valentin Christian Huber (left), who is head of product development for tractors up to 215hp.
“In row crop work a 1.5m long track on the front axle will cause soil and crop damage as the angle changes during the turn, which could be an issue. We have considered an articulated design such as that used on the International 2+2 ‘Snoopy’ tractors in the 1980s but, while there are benefits, these are generally outweighed by the extra costs.”
“Customer surveys have shown two main areas of priority,” said Case IH vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Matthew Foster, “They want efficient reliable machines, and parts and service back-up available from a local dealer quickly if the machine does break down, and we are investing heavily to provide these. We currently have 1,462 dealers in 32 countries and, since 2007 have appointed 140 new dealers of which half have come from selling competitor brands.
We are working with our dealers to optimise quality of service through our Red Excellence programme and have 70 per cent of our European dealers at the Certified level and above. By the end of 2015 our target is for 45 per cent of dealers to be Certified, 50 per cent at the higher Professional level and 5 per cent at the top Master standard,” he added.
The product area which has seen most growth in recent years is precision farming equipment offering farmers accurate guidance and machine control systems as well as automatic steering. Sold under the Case IH AFS (Advanced Farming Systems) brand, sales of the products increased by 61 per cent in 2013 compared with 2012. “We now have 50 people dedicated to selling, servicing and supporting AFS,” said Matthew, “and expect sales to continue to grow, systems offering benefits typically of a 6-8 per cent reduction in crop production costs through use of the technology.”
Power and fuelThe Case IH Quadtrac 620 is currently the world’s most powerful series production tractor, but Christian Huber explained that the challenge is now to gain increased productivity without the constant demand for extra power.
He said emissions control requirements, which have had a major impact on tractor development, have been around for approximately 15 years and, while the company is ready to meet Tier 4 final standards, as required in 2015, there is already consideration being made for meeting Tier 5 in the future.
However, while machines sold in Europe and America are required to meet the standards, he said, it is difficult to justify the large expenditure when machines sold in countries such as India and China still don’t have to comply.
Farmlift telescopic handlers were launched in the UK earlier this year, and will be available through selected dealers in the UK from the second half of 2014. Five models provide reach from 6-9m and a choice of specification including 120 or 143hp engines. All use SCR (Adblue) to meet emission regulations.
Meeting Tier 5 standards means carbon emissions have to be reduced and Christian explained that by 2020 a diesel particulate filter would almost certainly be needed on all tractors. “It will be a problem, especially on smaller tractors as there is little space under the bonnet for after-treatment systems.
We try to avoid using exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) on our tractors but the low exhaust temperatures of smaller machines used for tasks such as yard work mean the efficiency of after-treatments such as Adblue would be affected so we might need it,” he said.
Alternative sources of power explored by CNH include methane and biogas and the use of electric drives. “We are looking at implement drives as well as power transmission to the wheels,” said Christian, “and as there are opportunities for the fuels to be produced on the farm, that is a practical proposition.
The safety aspect of high voltage drives is an issue though, but it offers significant benefits such as step-less speed control, similar to CVT, and up to 98 per cent efficiency.”
Robotic tractors are being developed and tested by the company. “We are working on robotics and believe there is a future for it,” Christian explained. “Time and costs, and the shortage of good labour are an issue and these days we want machinery working whenever conditions are right, whether that is on a Bank Holiday or through the night. Autonomous tractors offer extra benefits in difficult or dangerous working situations; for example in vineyards for spray work where there is reduced operator exposure to chemicals.
“Automised machines are likely to come first though,” suggested Christian, “with vehicle-to-vehicle systems allowing one driver to operate two machines, possibly available within two years.”
Gaining maximum efficiency and productivity needs consideration of many other factors besides the tractor, he commented. “We need to look at the implements, and even the seed. If we can make implements easier to pull then we can reduce the weight of the tractor and the power needed, and by developing seeds with characteristics which mean less intense cultivation is needed, this will all help.”A versatile tractor with multiple mounting positions for PTO-driven implements and high horsepower is also something being worked on by the company, mainly for the European market.
“We are producing extremely efficient and economical tractors and in repeatable fuel consumption tests we offer the most fuel efficient tractors. However, no one tractor can be best in every application so there will always be a situation where we are not. We want to be the best choice for users over all applications,” he said.A demonstration of the latest products included the Maxxum CVX, with its CVT transmission. The range includes three models from 110-131hp.
Features to reduce ownership and running costs include a 600hr oil change interval and idle management, which automatically reduces idle speed from 850 to 650rpm when the operator leaves the cab and there is no load on the hydraulics or PTO, to save fuel.
The CVT transmission allows 50-100 per cent of the drive to be transmitted mechanically and Case IH APM (Automatic Productivity Management), which controls the relationship between engine speed and travel speed, maintains the most efficient ratio for the situation. For transport work 40kph is achieved at just 1,600rpm, and 50kph at 1,750rpm. Other features of the transmission include active hold control which holds the tractor and any load stationary on slopes without the use of the brakes or clutch, and an integrated creeper gear provides speeds down to 20m/hr.
Farmall C UpgradeAlso present at the event was a pre-production example from the new Farmall C range, due to replace current models late in 2014.
The new Farmall 75C was shown for the first time. With a new engine offering increased torque and greater flexibility the updated model, due later this year, will appeal to smaller mixed and livestock farms.
The three new models; 55C, 65C and 75C all have 4-cylinder, 3.4-litre engines producing 58, 64 and 74hp (rated) respectively. Transmission options include 12×12 and 20×20, incorporating eight creep speeds and a forward/reverse mechanical or power shuttle is fitted. Options for the UK will include mechanical or electronic hydraulic control.
The new tractor meets Tier 4 interim emissions standards using EGR with a diesel particulate filter providing partial filtration. Fuel economy is said to be improved by approximately five per cent over current models.
The new Farmall engine uses EGR and a diesel particulate filter to meet the latest emissions regulations.
Although it was the first time the new tractor had been shown, there was the opportunity for a brief test-drive at the factory. The main difference between the new tractors and those they replace is the engine which, on the 75C model test-driven proved smooth and reasonably quiet even at the maximum 2,500rpm.
Pulling away at low engine speeds showed the increased torque available, as did shuttling between forward and reverse repeatedly on the hard surface. The improved performance will certainly be seen as attractive to smaller mixed and livestock farms. Three additional models will join the range later this year using the same engine and providing 86, 99 and 107hp with EGR and full diesel particulate filtration.
RTK features testedAt a press event late in 2013 Case IH explained new features available for its AFS precision farming systems, including xFill, which has the ability to maintain accuracy even if a signal is temporarily lost.
At the demonstration event a Puma tractor fitted with the system was available to test. A mobile RTK transmitter was positioned beside the test area and A-B lines were established, and a 6m working width entered.
xFill allows accuracy of Case IH guidance systems to be maintained for a period, even after the signal is lost. The AFS 700 screen is pictured in use, and at the bottom of the display the right hand box shows an active RTK signal, while on the left the xFill feature is ready to take over if necessary.
The cab display showed the RTK signal being received as usual but when the transmitter was switched off, the display maintained its full guidance mode, but started counting down the time remaining before accuracy was lost.
On losing the RTK signal the tractor system automatically switches to a satellite signal, and combines this with previous stored data so the operation can continue. Using its in-built correction information, accuracy of 1-5cm is maintained for the first 5 minutes, 5-9cm for up to 10 minutes and 10-15cm after 10 minutes.
During the test, as the countdown on the screen displayed the elapsed time without an RTK signal, the tractor continued to operate accurately and, apart from the warning on the display, there was nothing to suggest to the driver that anything was amiss.
As soon as the transmitter was turned back on the screen showed the system being active and the counter reset, displaying the constant updating of the position instead. Typical signal drop-outs are less than two minutes and most often caused by shadowing when working under trees on headlands, pointed out the company, and the demonstration clearly showed the benefit of xFill for those working in areas where a signal can be temporarily lost.
Case IH explained that a recent German DLG comparison test of eight different systems showed its Accuguide to be the most accurate of the eight tested, with an overall average accuracy of 4.2cm compared to an average of 6.2cm between all the systems tested in the different situations.
“We have seen considerable growth in demand for our AFS products in recent years,” explained Case IH product manager for AFS and Quadtrac, Uli Sommer.
“Back-up for users is an essential part of providing this equipment, and we have included required standards for customer support within the Red Excellence dealer improvement programme.
We provide on-line access for information as well as dedicated specialists on-hand 24 hours per day, and are also installing our own RTK stations, usually in conjunction with dealers.”