AGCO followed up its field trips with 4,000 surveys asking farmer managers for guidance on the dozens of details that would shape the IDEAL combine. One result led AGCO to set out to automate header management.
“This was an idea that just stuck to the wall,” O’Shea said. “(Farmers) didn’t tell us that’s what they wanted, but when you watched them doing the job you could see (how difficult that was.) In the Midwest Corn Belt, we could see that (farmers) were taking headers on and off quite a bit.”
There were engineering challenges in bringing AutoDock to market — two in particular.
The first was keeping connection ports free of the clouds of dust and debris kicked up by harvest. Doors were the answer. “There is a door on both sides, the male and female sides of the connection,” said O’Shea. “As the (halves of the system) separate, a mechanism closes those doors to keep the interfaces clean. That covers both the (electronics) and the hydraulics on the header side and on the combine side,” O’Shea explained.
During header connect, the process is the opposite. Doors open as the connection is about to happen.
A second challenge was confirming the lock between header and combine. The driver has to be confident the header is completely connected before heading out into the field.
AutoDock performs a self-check.
“When you (manually) go out there and you put on a PTO for example, you stick it on and give it a little pull to make sure it’s on. But all those little steps you would do (normally on the ground), you won’t be there to do it. We had to come up with a way that would double check that (AutoDock) was connected,” from the cab, O’Shea explained. “When AutoDock does connect, the header turns very slowly to confirm everything is connected, it self-checks the electronics and the logics.”
O’Shea said AutoDock technology has additional applications. “It is something you can use for hydraulic couplings on tractors, forage harvesters — where there are links, even PTO links,” he noted. A compact version could work with compact tractors. Homeowners in particular struggle with PTOs.
AutoDock may be ordered as an option on all Fendt IDEAL combines beginning with the 2021 model year. It is available for the DynaFlex 9300 Series draper head and 3300 Command Series corn heads equipped with AutoDock drivelines and adapters for the multi-coupler attachment.
Although the AutoDock system is currently available only for AGCO headers, AGCO intends to build kits for third-party headers.
AGCO Fendt offers an animation showing how AutoDock works. You can see it at:
More information on AutoDock go to: www.fendt.com/us/combines/ideal-highlights
Dan Miller can be reached at email@example.com
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