White Planters Revises Row Unit for Precision

09:50AM Apr 12, 2013
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A cast-design row unit announced this week will become standard on all White Planters models, AGCO has announced. Composed of three components—70% fewer parts than in past iterations—the unit includes the new 9000 Series seed meter for improved air-flow distribution and seeding accuracy.

"We’ve got a lot of new features that we’re proud to talk about, from the top down," says Tom Draper, product marketing manager, AGCO.

Grease zerks have been removed from the row unit, reducing the need for maintenance. Other features include:

  • Machined assembly points for precise alignment of components.
  • 16" double-disc seed trench openers, enabling planting depth to be increased to 4". Applications include planting cotton in sandy soils and planting crops in places such as Africa. Depth adjustment up to the ¼" level is made possible with a manually adjusted handle.
  • Improved closing wheel down-pressure adjustment using a 1 1/8" wrench on the adjustment handle for greater leverage.
  • Latch system permits easy removal of the seed hopper.

A positive-air metering system delivers seed, and the updated design improves uniform air pressure than previous versions, ensuring seed is held inside cells before being released into the seed tube. A longer and tapered cutoff brush ensures seed singulation of even light seeds, such as sunflower. Seed is released near the six o’clock position of the disc rotation, causing it to drop with less tube contact and better in-row seed spacing.

The new 9000 Series planters are the first AGCO machines engineered with assistance from 3-D printers, says Rye DeGarmo, engineering manager for seeding and tillage. For three months, engineers at AGCO’s Hesston, Kan., factory operated the printers around the clock to build and test designs for the seed meter.

"We’ve got a foot in the door and realized the value," DeGarmo says. The company has owned the printer for two years, using them in earnest for planter research and design roughly 18 months ago and again for testing about six months ago.

AGCO owns another printer that operates at its Jackson, Minn., location, DeGarmo says. It takes a day for the printers to create a plastic part at a cost of $1,000 to $2,000 each for the required materials. That represents a significant savings, considering tooling meter prototypes out of aluminum would cost between $5,000 and $7,000 per meter.

The 3-D printers also save time, DeGarmo says. Traditional tooling would require lead time of two to four weeks for a third party to design the component, followed by two weeks of research by the manufacturer. With 3-D printing, engineers might create and test up to five iterations of the component in a five-week period. That means the printers pay for themselves in just a few months.

To create a plastic component, engineers feed a 3-D model into a computer that tells the printer to begin operating. The printer is the size of a large copier, DeGarmo says. It can make a component up to roughly 10"x12"x10" large. Larger components can be created by printing several smaller pieces and gluing them together.

While the printed planter parts were used for research rather than integration in the final product, DeGarmo says, engineers printed a casing and fan as a test. Operating at half-speed, the plastic fan spun like a real fan. At full speed, the fan didn’t function properly.