Tribine can revolutionize the grain harvesting industry
By Bill Spiegel
Farmers can receive their first look at the first major change in combine platform technology in more than six decades at the Ag Connect Expo in Kansas City Jan. 29 to 31.
Ag Connect is the official coming-out party for the Tribine, an innovative harvester that combines the threshing capacity of a Class VII combine with the grain-holding capacity of a 1,000-bushel grain cart in a package that is smaller and lighter than other combines of similar capacity. The Tribine is the brainchild of Indiana farmer Ben Dillon, who has spent the past 15 years building, tweaking and perfecting combines to overcome what he believes are the maxed-out grain capacity of today's modern harvesters. It adds a third component to the traditional reap-and-thresh setup of a combine harvester: a 1,000-bushel grain handling module that allows farmers to make a mile-long run harvesting 250-bushel-per-acre corn, without needing to stop to unload.
"Conventional combine architecture is maxed out at 400 to 450 bushels," says Dillon, who farms near Deer Creek, Ind. "Handling 15 billion bushels of corn produced in the United States alone is a tremendous logistics problem."
While the Tribine took shape in the corn fields of Indiana, it has been refined in a rented farm shop in central Kansas, between Moundridge and Hesston. It's an ideal location, because Kansas firms AGCO and Crustbuster/Speed King have played major roles in the manufacture of the prototype machine.
The front half--or module--of the Tribine is essentially a Gleaner model S77 combine, with the grain tank removed and replaced with the combine's 370 horsepower engine. The only modification to the engine is the addition of three hydraulic pumps, used to power the machine's all-wheel-drive, four-wheel steering cylinders and massive unloading auger.
What makes the Tribine revolutionary is the rear module, designed by Dillon and built to his exacting specifications by Crustbuster/Speed King. The rear module features 1,000 bushels of grain storage capacity, with an unloading auger capable of filling a semi truck in two minutes. To accomplish that, "the rear module has some cool engineering," says Rhein Herrman, an engineer with Crustbuster/SpeedKing.
The 22-inch diameter unloading auger, located at the machine's rear, has 23-foot reach, allowing the Tribine to be equipped with a 12-row cornhead or 35-foot grain platform. The auger is designed in two pieces; the bottom auger is mounted at a less than 45-degree angle from horizontal, which improves grain flow speed. A sealed joint between the lower and upper augers prevents grain loss; meanwhile, the upper auger can pivot fore and aft, up and down to enable operators to fill an entire semi with a minimum of movements.
"We used a lot of engineering know-how on the auger system," Herrman says.
Clean grain is transferred from the threshing module to the rear module via 12-inch auger. Inside the tank, the drag auger stretches from one corner of the cart to the other, whereas most grain carts use an auger fixed to the center. This improves unloading speed and capacity.
Chaff comes out of the front module, and is distributed via two hydralic fans situated on the second module.
Similar to an articulated four-wheel-drive tractor, the Tribine is articulated and can turn 30 degrees either side of center. In addition, the rear axle can either turn conventionally, or crab steer, enabling operators to fine-tune the machine's movements. The rear module can get 3.5 feet closer to a truck or grain cart than the front module. The machine has an extremely sharp turning radius, and in the field, makes just two tracks, limiting compaction. Steering functions are controlled in the cab.
The machine's body is aluminum, with pieces riveted together similar to what one might find on an airplane. The aluminum skin attributes to the machine's relatively light weight; it also was cost-effective for this prototype machine.
"In the long run, plastic body panels make sense if you're building several machines. For our purpose of creating a working prototype, aluminum is well suited," Herrman says. The body pieces were fabricated, installed at the rented space in Kansas. Much of the machine was painted there, too, in "Tribine Orange," Dillon says - because orange is his favorite color.
The cab comes from the Gleaner S77, although Herrman says there is proprietary software that controls the machine's all-wheel-steer system and auto-steer capabilities. There also is a video monitor system through which the operator can monitor the rear wheels and auger.
The Tribine is hauled on a trailer custom-built by Landoll Corporation, based in Marysville. The trailer's top deck has innovative carriers for each of the machine's four tires and wheels; the steel frames can be moved via forklift and positioned right at the hub, so operators can easily bolt onto the hubs.
At just 35 feet long and less than 15-feet wide, the Tribine actually has smaller transport dimensions than many Class VII combines.
The machine's tires are key to the relatively light footprint; the special Goodyear radials are four-feet wide and six-feet tall. Ground compaction is, "less than a Class VIII combine, and far less than a 200 horsepower tractor pulling a 1,000 bushel grain cart," Dillon says.
At Ag Connect
The Internet has been abuzz with farmers interested in seeing the Tribine in person. It will be on display at Ag Connect in Kansas City, and Dillon hopes to gain input from grain farmers. He had the machine working on his farm in December, harvesting corn he had saved from fall harvest. It performed as expected, he says.
"We've generated a lot of interest on the Internet and have been able to reach people all over the globe instantly," Dillon says. "Conceptually, the Tribine is right on the money. We want to see the Tribine in the field with lots of farmers. And then, I need to find a production partner."