Screw Drive Tractor Is About To Conquer Canada

The incredible screw drive tractor is back. We’ve covered the previous test ride, which ended with a bearing pillow block ripping in half, but since then, again, a lot of repair work has been done. [REDNIC79] reinforced the load-bearing parts and put on a fresh pair of “tires”. The result is still as unbelievable as the previous versions, but it now propels itself forward at a blazing 3 mph (this time without tearing itself apart).

screw_drive_tractor_welding_screw_pods[REDNIC79] walks us through all the details of the improvements he made since the first version. After the last failure, he figured, that a larger screw pod diameter would give the vehicle a better floatation while smaller thread profile would prevent the screws from digging too deep into the ground, thus reducing the force required to move the vehicle forward.

[REDNIC79] found four identical 100 pounds, 16 inch diameter propane tanks to build the new pods from. The tanks were a bit too short for the tractor, so he cut open two of the tanks and used them to extend the other two before welding a double thread screw onto each. He also tapered the front ends of the tanks to make the ride even smoother. After mounting the new pods to the speedster, a pair of custom steel chain guards were added to prevent rocks from getting into the chain. And then, it was time for another test ride. Enjoy the video:

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Retrotechtacular: Rein-Operated Tractors

It’s not unusual for new technologies to preserve vestiges of those that preceded them. If an industry has an inertia of doing things in a particular way then it makes commercial sense for any upstarts to build upon those established practices rather than fail to be adopted. Thus for example some industrial PLCs with very modern internals can present interfaces that hark back to their relay-based ancestors, or deep within your mobile phone there may still be AT commands being issued that would be familiar from an early 1980s modem.

Just occasionally though an attempt to marry a new technology to an old one becomes an instant anachronism, something that probably made sense at the time but through the lens of history seems just a bit crazy. And so we come to the subject of this piece, the rein-operated agricultural tractor.

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Autonomous Tractor Brings In The Harvest

[Matt Reimer] is a farmer in Southwestern Manitoba, Canada. It’s grain country, and at harvest time he has a problem. An essential task when harvesting is that of the grain cart driver, piloting a tractor and grain trailer that has to constantly do the round between unloading the combine harvester and depositing the grain in a truck. It’s a thankless, unrelenting, and repetitive task, and [Matt]’s problem is that labour is difficult to find when every other farmer in the region is also hiring.

His solution was to replace the driver with a set of Arduinos and a Pixhawk autopilot controlling the tractor’s cab actuators, and running ArduPilot, DroneKit, and his own Autonomous Grain Cart software. Since a modern tractor is effectively a fly-by-wire device this is not as annoying a task as it would have been with a tractor from several decades ago, or with a car. The resulting autonomous tractor picks up the grain from his combine, but he reminds us that for now it still deposits the harvest in the truck under human control. It is still a work-in-progress with only one harvest behind it, so this project is definitely one to watch over the next few months.

Writing from the point of view of someone who grew up on a farm and has done her share of harvest-time tractor driving it’s possible to see both the strengths and weaknesses of an autonomous grain cart. His fields on the Canadian prairie are very large and flat, there is plenty of space and the grain makes its way from the field to the elevator in a truck. To perform the same task in the smaller and irregular fields of southern England for example with a mile round trip down country lanes to the grain store would be a much greater challenge. Aside from that it’s worth noting that his John Deere is a 220hp 4WD workhorse that is capable of going over almost any terrain on a farm with very few obstacles able to stop it. This thing can do serious damage to life and property simply by running it over or driving straight through it, so safety has a dimension with an autonomous tractor in a way that it never will with for example a vacuum cleaner or even a lawnmower.

Those observations aside, this kind of technology undeniably represents a step change in farming practice on a par with the move from horse power to tractors in the first half of the last century. However the technological barriers that remain end up being solved, it’s likely that you’ll see plenty more machines like this in the fields of the future.

The video below the break shows the autonomous grain cart in action. Plenty of big-sky tractoring action, and for those of you unfamiliar with farming it should provide some understanding of the task of getting grain from combine to store.

We’ve talked about robotic farming more than once here at Hackaday. The gantry-based Farmbot, the six-legged Prospero robot farmer, or another hexapod confusingly also called Farmbot, for example. But these have all been hacker’s solutions to the problem using the concepts with which they are familiar. What makes [Matt]’s project different is that it is a farmer’s solution to a real farming problem by automating the machinery he already uses to do the job. Farmers have been doing what we would now call hacking at the hardware of their craft since time immemorial, [Matt]’s work is just the latest manifestation of a rich heritage.

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Screw Drive Tractor Hasn’t Conquered Canada Yet

[REDNIC79] lives somewhere in Canada where key terrain features include mud and snow. Half pontoon boat, half auger, screw-propelled vehicles excel in this kind of terrain as long as you’re okay with going really slow.

In his 11-and-counting part video series, [REDNIC79] goes through the conversion of a lawn tractor into a slow, theoretically unstoppable, Canadian screw-propelled tractor. He welds a frame, plonks some beefy chains on it, and throws a few hefty looking bearing mounts on there to boot. Then he makes some screws out of gas tanks; which was an enormous amount of work.

It was time to fire up the tractor. On the first muddy incline encountered, the tractor ceased to move. The culprit? A cracked transmission housing. Ouch. The end of the shaft holding the chain for the right screw was unsupported. When the shaft turned, it imparted its rotational force, but there was also an unconsidered down force on the end of the shaft, which resulted in a moment the bell housing wasn’t designed for.

Undeterred, [REDNIC79] welded the housing back together and threw a bearing on the end of the offending shaft to balance the moments. He fired it up, engaged the transmission, and the right screw bearing pillow block completely shattered. Ouch again. We can safely begin to assume that screw-propelled vehicles see a lot of forces.

[REDNIC79] hasn’t shelved the project yet. His next plan is to beef up the supports and build a much larger set of screws with smaller blades out of some propane tanks. This should reduce the force the power house needs to put out. Video of the first fail after the break. Continue reading “Screw Drive Tractor Hasn’t Conquered Canada Yet”

Odd-Looking Mini EV Yard Tractor Is Made From Plywood And Bike Parts

Mini EV Tractor[Ian] likes to build small Electric Vehicles and his most unique project is certainly this yard tractor. During the design phase of the project [Ian] came up with a few requirements to ensure that this vehicle would be useful around the house. First, it had to be maneuverable in tight spaces. This was accomplished by the short wheel base and small diameter front-steering wheels. Next, it had to get great traction as leaving torn-up grass around the yard was not going to cut the mustard. Four mountain bike drive wheels used in the rear double the traction while at the same time distributing the friction over twice the surface area of the grass. To increase the traction even more, the rider’s seating position was intentionally put directly over the rear wheels.

The frame was kept simple by using plywood as structural members. Two 40Ah 12v batteries are set low between the front and rear axles and power the 4 DC drive motors. The motors are connected to the axle by means of sprockets and chains which results in a 36:1 reduction. That’s a large gear reduction and limits the tractor to a top speed of 12 km/h (7.5 mph). Bike tires front and rear were used because they are easily available and are super low-cost. And of course, a tractor wouldn’t be complete without a trailer hitch to tow around plants, rocks, wood or any other general yard debris.

[Ian] makes plans for his mini EV tractor available on his website. If your kid is envious of this electric tractor, maybe you can make him one of these

 

Restoring an Industrial Tractor

tractor

[Nickolas] dropped us a tip about a Youtube channel where [stevewatr] documents the restoration of an Oliver 770 tractor through no less than 133 videos. These videos span the last year, starting with finding the tractor in fairly dense undergrowth. He spends quite a bit of time troubleshooting the engine, explaining his thought process, and showing all of the steps he takes to get the tractor running reliably again. He also delves into fixes for the electrical and hydraulic systems.

In his tip, [Nickolas] said he just couldn’t stop watching, and we agree, this is really a fascinating series. One of the things we love about these videos is that [stevewatr] doesn’t filter out his mistakes. That means we get to see his failures and successes… Everything from how jump starting wasn’t possible with a small jumper wire, to getting the engine to start cold without a primer. That’s the beauty of our fail-of-the-week posts. Absorb it all, and you’ll be prepared when you run into related problems yourself.

[stevewatr’s] last video doesn’t show a completed tractor, so we look forward to seeing what happens as the project progresses. Even if you aren’t interested in having a tractor of your own, you can certainly use some of this information while building your own personal mech. Give it a try!

A chicken tractor to call home

[Dino] didn’t want to keep the baby chickens cooped up when he was at work, but he didn’t want them to escape, or become a juicy treat, either. His solution was to build this chicken tractor. It’s a complete chicken ecosystem with wheels, kind of like a double-wide trailer for our feathered friends. On one end is a small coop that contains food, water, and an incandescent light bulb for heat. The other end is a chicken-wire box that lets the young birds stretch their legs and get some fresh air.

It’s easy to see the wheels which flip down when [Dino] needs to move the contraption. Like we said, he puts it out when he goes to work, selecting different parts of the yard so that the grass gets evenly fertilized. It’s a nice solution if you don’t have enough area to dedicate to an automated chicken coop.

We’ve embedded [Dino’s] video after the break. He covers the beginning and end of the build, and fills the middle of the video with a time-lapse recording of the construction process.

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