Tribine Prototype Harvests and Carries 1,000 Bushels

February 14, 2013 07:08 AM
Tribine Prototype Harvests and Carries 1,000 Bushels

A new prototype for farmers fuses a commercially available combine with a custom-made grain tank, creating an articulated harvester that can carry grain in bulk.

The mission and design of the prototype Tribine harvester is outlined at 2013 Ag Connect by Ben Dillon, the Indiana farmer who invented the machine.


"The Tribine addresses all of the major trends that we see in worldwide agriculture," inventor Ben Dillon says, "and that is higher yields, bigger fields, more understanding about compaction, machinery costs going up, labor costs going up, labor harder to find–qualified labor–and the move toward controlled traffic."


TRIBINE Unloading Corn

Dillon is a semi-retired Indiana farmer who grows corn and soybeans in North Central Indiana. He holds a degree in agricultural economics from Purdue University, spent years working in the field of business and returned to the farm full-time for 15 years before starting to cash-rent his land out. Dillon also holds 28 patents on harvester technology, which he has been developing since 1997.

(WATCH: Tribine Unveiled at 2013 Ag Connect in Kansas City [VIDEO])

The current Tribine represents the fourth generation of harvester prototypes he has built and will be displayed this year at Ag Connect.

(Register here to attend Ag Connect Expo & Summit from Jan. 29-31, 2013, in Kansas City.)

As farmers increasingly grow higher-yield corn on more acreage, they need to get across the field as quickly as possible with minimal compaction, Dillon says. The Tribine achieves this because it can harvest corn with a 12-row head for 1 mile without stopping. It is a Class 7 combine in terms of threshing and is powered by a 375- to 400-hp engine.

A grain tank built by Kansas-based manufacturer Crust Buster is connected to the front end of the machine and can hold 1,000 bushels. (A traditional combine with a 16-row head, by contrast, generally can’t travel even half a mile before it must be unloaded into a grain cart running in tandem through the field. Dillon says the Tribine cuts back on diesel fuel and labor costs because neither a tractor nor a cart is needed in the field while it works.)

(Watch video of the current Tribine harvesting corn in Indiana.)

The machine is equipped with a 22" unloading auger that can empty the custom-made cart at a rate of 500 bu./minute. At that rate, it takes two minutes to load a semi.


The Tribine weighs about the same as a conventional Class 8 combine but is shorter at 35’ compared to the 39’ length of some traditional machines. Its articulated design features a pivoting rear axle that allows for shorter turns and permits crab steering. That means the front module can continue moving in a straight path while the grain cart is shifted closer to the semi, extending the reach of the auger 23’ away from the cart body.

What’s more, the articulated design allows for the installation of bigger tires that create less compaction in the field. The Tribine’s symmetrical design means there are only two tracks left in the field.

Limited testing at Dillon’s farm in mid-December demonstrated the basic functionality of the machine. More testing is needed, he says, and input from grain farmers is crucial. Future changes are needed, such as improving the direction in which the chaff spreaders throw.

Dillon began his harvesting research years ago by attaching a grain cart to a standard combine, a model that proved ineffective. Working with two family members–a son who is an electronic engineer and a son-in-law who is a mechanical engineer–he then designed a grain cart that was both powered and steerable. The third generation was a large machine on tracks that carried 1,000 bushels of grain. Dillon operated it for harvesting on his farm for four years.

The Tribine was assembled at a shop he rents in Mound Ridge, Kan. Instead of cutting a traditional combine in half, Dillon simply removed the rear axle and made it articulated.

He has had discussions in an effort to identify a production partner with the facilities and resources to produce a machine like the Tribine. The prototype is not far along enough to say when the Tribine might be commercially available or how much it might cost, Dillon says.

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