One of the promising trends in the development of grain harvesting techniques is the plant-stripping method. It consists in that only heads with grains are detached from plants and supplied into a thresher of a combine harvester, while stalks remain standing in the field.
To realize this method, a traditional header of a combine harvester is replaced with a stripper header. The stripper header tool is a rotatable rotor having teeth of a special shape (Fig. 1).
|Fig 1. New and traditional technology of grain harvesting|
During a translational motion of a combine harvester, the teeth of the rotatabe rotor comb plants bottom-up and detach heads from stalks. This saves up to 70% of power spent on straw deformation in the thresher of a combine harvester. The harvesting productivity increases 2 to 3-fold, fuel consumption reduces by 1.5 times.
Today, there are several manufacturers of stripper headers in the world. The Belarusian company NPO “Belselkhozmekhanizatsia” also conducted research into the plant-stripping technique of grain harvesting. The research resulted in the development of an original conveyor-type stripper-header (Fig. 2) [6, 7].
|Fig. 2. The stripper header for the combine CK-5 «Niva»|
Testing proved that unlike other types of headers, the stripper header had several essential advantages:
• it raised laid plants from the ground and fed them to the stripper header by means of a special device (feeder);
• it detached heads, pods or panicles from stalks within the height range of 0.2 to 1.8 m.
However, there were also significant disadvantages revealed in the stripper header. They had to be removed before launching the header production:
• a large weight: the header was heavy (2130 kg) and a combine harvester had a difficulty in lifting it; the load on the front axle of a combine exceeded the accepted norms;
• a large size: the header interfered with the driver’s view; the driver could not see at what level the feeder was set with respect to the plant heads. That resulted in grain losses;
• grain losses amounted to 4.5-9% and exceeded the allowed level.
Because the developers’ attempts to improve the header design by known design methods failed, they decided to perfect the header using the VEA+TRIZ method.
To conduct research using the VEA+TRIZ method, a temporary research team was created. It comprised design engineers, a process engineer, specialists in the stripper harvesting technology, a patent solicitor, and a VEA+TRIZ specialist. All of them were aware of the stripper header design features, but only two team members were familiar with VEA and TRIZ methods. There was no time to teach VEA and TRIZ foundations to the rest of the team members. A contradictory situation occurred – the work had to be done quickly and properly by people unacquainted with the methods of doing this work. A decision was taken to combine training with the header analysis process. At the beginning of each working meeting, some time was allotted for instruction related to the next step of analysis and then the team immediately applied the obtained knowledge toward the analysis of the header.
The positive effect was also that subsequently the same design engineers and process engineer developed the design documentation for the new header. They quickly embodied the ideas in drawings and proposals, because they themselves were the coauthors of those ideas.
The VEA+TRIZ method is one of the most effective ones used for technical system perfection. It is based on the combination of technical system analysis tools taken from the value-engineering analysis (VEA) and problem solving tools taken from the theory of inventive problem solving (TRIZ). The method allows conducting a systems analysis of an object, revealing and removing its disadvantages, finding reserves for improving its main properties, eliminating excessive costs, and forecasting its evolution [8, 9, 10].
Analyzing the header design
The conveyor-type stripper header is designed for detaching heads from plants and feeding them into the combine harvester thresher. It comprised the following principal units (components) (Fig. 4): a feeder, a conveyor-type stripping unit, a body, a hood, a beater, a collecting chamber, an auger, an inclined chamber, and a drive mechanism (the latter is not shown on the drawing).
The feeder is a rotatable metal pipe having movable elastic fingers for grasping and feeding plants to the stripping unit. It is due to the feeder that the header can raise and comb laid plants, thereby reducing yield loss. The feeder mounting height relative to the stripper and soil can vary and depends on the plant height.
The conveyor-type stripping unit is a wide rubber belt fit on two rotatable shafts and provided with projecting stripping teeth. During operation, the header belt moves at a high speed, the teeth detach heads from stalks and urge them into a collecting chamber. The teeth also thresh some grains from a head.
The stripper header body is a welded metal construction, the rear part of which forms a collection chamber for detached heads and threshed grains. The body is designed for housing and fixing all header units and stiffening the header. In addition, the sidewalls of the body hold detached heads and grains inside the header.
The hood serves to hold and direct detached heads and grains into a collection chamber, is rigidly fixed to the body and has a hatch for access to the header units. The front wall of the hood, as well as the feeder, header and body form a confined plant-stripping chamber.
The beater is a rotatable metal four-bladed shaft. Its function is releasing the engagement of the header teeth with heads and stalks and preventing heads and stalks from overhanging the collecting chamber front wall.
The auger is located on the collecting chamber bottom. It urges detached heads and grains toward the stripper header center and supplies them into the inclined chamber of a combine harvester.
The inclined chamber urges a heap of heads, fragments of stalks, and grains into the combine harvester thresher.
The drive mechanism is mounted on the stripper header body and transmits torque from the combine harvester to the feeder, stripper, beater, and auger.
STRIPPER HEADER PRINCIPLE OF OPERATION
As a combine harvester equipped with a stripper header moves on a field, the rotatable feeder moves and compacts plant stalks, grasps them with flexible fingers and moves them to the stripping unit (Fig. 3).
The stripping unit teeth, moving at a high speed, comb plants bottom-up. The stalks collect at the tooth bases shaped as keyholes (Fig. 1) and the teeth, meeting the plant heads, detach them. When detaching, part of grains are beaten out of a head. The teeth carry these grains and the detached heads up and discharge them into the collecting chamber.
|Fig. 3. The structural drawing of the stripper header|
The rotatable beater releases the engagement of the header teeth with heads and stalk fragments and throws the heads and stalk fragments into the collecting chamber. The auger located on the collecting chamber bottom, urges the heap of the detached material toward the center of the collecting chamber. The inclined chamber conveyor carries it to the combine harvester thresher.
The structural analysis of the stripper header helped reveal and describe all essential links between the header units and the objects of its supersystem – soil, plants, heads and the combine harvester (Fig. 4).
|Fig. 4. The structural model of the stripper header|
Each link between two interacting units was described according to the following pattern:
heads – stripper.
The stripper teeth detach heads from stalks, move and discharge them into the collecting chamber.
Undesirable effect (UE):
Part of heads are stuck in the stripper teeth and carried away to the field by the stripper belt.
The task (or preliminary proposal) to be accomplished to remove UE:
It is necessary to prevent the teeth from carrying the heads back to the field preserving at the same time the useful function of the teeth – detachment of heads from stalks and moving them into the collecting chamber.
Analyzing the links made it possible to understand the header arrangement, interaction of its components and to reveal and systematize multiple undesirable effects. Here are the main ones only:
UE-1. The feeder adds to grain loss. It compacts standing plants, grasps and bends them and then draws them under itself to feed to the stripping unit. This results in excess pulling of plants and early falling of part of the most mature grains out of heads.
UE-2. For the feeder to rotate, a clearance is provided between the feeder surface and the hood wall, so grains beaten out of heads can spill from the stripping chamber onto the field.
UE-3. The complicated design and high weight of the feeder. The feeder is a metal pipe of a large diameter having inside a slightly axially displaced shaft with flexible fingers. When rotating, the feeder fingers project from the lower portion of the pipe, grasp plants, draw them to the stripping unit and then are again retracted into the pipe. This complicated construction had to prevent carrying away of heads and grains through the slots in the front wall of the hood.
UE-4. The large height of the stripping unit and, hence, of the entire stripper header makes it impossible for the driver to see the front edge of the stripper header from the cabin. In addition, the stripping unit has a large weight.
UE-5. Not all heads are discharged into the collecting chamber by the stripping unit; part of them are caught on the stripping unit teeth and carried away to the field.
UE-6. The beater poorly removes heads and stalks caught on the stripping unit teeth. The flat blades of the beater are located at some minimal distance from the stripping unit teeth and cannot grasp the heads and stalks stuck between the teeth.
Making the beater blades toothed and arranging them so that they pass between the stripping unit teeth will provide better removal of stuck heads. However, in this situation, it will be necessary to increase the gap between the beater blades and the collecting chamber walls, which, in its turn, may cause a still greater grain loss.
To avoid increasing the gap between the beater blades and the collecting chamber wall, the collecting chamber wall edge could be made toothed, but in that case, detached heads and stalks would be caught on this edge, accumulated and discharged onto the field by the beater teeth.
UE-7. It is because of the beater, that there is a large gap between the stripping unit and the front wall of the collecting chamber, which adds to grain and head losses.
UE-8. The metal hood that directs detached heads and grains toward the collecting chamber, is welded from metal sheets, has large size and weight and is not a braced structure.
UE-9. The heavy drive mechanism is located at one side of the stripper header, thereby skewing it to that side.
Each undesirable effect is a problem which, if solved, will improve the stripper header design.
The structural analysis of the stripper header not only identified numerous undesirable effects, but also allowed suggestions to be made on the improvement of the header design, for example, the preliminary suggestion on the elimination of UE-4. Analyzing the prehistory of creating a stripper header proved that the large height of the stripping unit was expedient in its previous designs, when the header had no feeder and the stripping unit had to detach heads from plants up to 1.8 in height. Introducing a feeder changed the interaction character between plants and the stripping unit – the feeder grasped plants of any height and moved them toward the stripping unit, so the large height of the stripping unit became unnecessary.
However, when designing the next header, that circumstance was forgotten and the large height of the stripping unit was preserved. The result was that the new header was also high and interfered with the driver’s visibility. Simple calculations proved that the stripping unit height could be reduced by 375 mm. Introducing this suggestion eliminated EU-4.
Based on the information obtained during the component and structural analysis, the main function of the stripper header and the main functions of its principal units were formulated (Table 1). Ranking the functions of the header units was performed in accordance with the method rules .
The object of the header operation is plant heads. The header detaches heads from stalks and feeds them to a combine harvester thresher. At the detachment moment, part of grains are knocked out of heads. That is why the main function of the stripper header is moving the detached heads and grains knocked out of heads, to the combine harvester thresher.
Now, let us look inside the header. Some of the header units also deal with heads and grains. These units provide performance of the main useful function of the header. Therefore, these functions are ranked as “main”. (Table 1). The remaining units ensure operation of the units – performers of the main functions. These functions are ranked as “auxiliary”.
FUNCTIONALLY IDEAL HEADER MODEL
Trying to make the header more “ideal” may considerably improve the header design.
In TRIZ, the law of increasing the degree of the system’s ideality is the main law of technical system evolution. According to this law, all systems evolve toward increase in ideality degree, there is observed a permanent growth of the ratio of the “benefit” (functional indices of a system) to various “costs” and other recompense factors associated with the performance of useful functions of a system.
In extreme case, required functions must be performed at zero expenses. “An ideal system is the one that is absent while its function is preserved and performed” [12, 13].
One of the effective ways of increasing the system ideality is “convolution” of its structure and functions. A “convolved” system performs all necessary functions at a preset quality level and with a minimum number of components (units) of the system. Convolution of systems and processes within the VEA+TRIZ method may be performed by means of a specially developed and used procedure called “functionally ideal modeling” [11, 14]. Compared to the initial functional model, the functionally ideal model of a system contains fewer additional functions and components that perform these functions.
To increase the system ideality, minor components, that is, components performing harmful and auxiliary functions, are removed from it. Removing a component from a system means that its function either is eliminated because of its needlessness, or, in case it is still needed, is transferred to the remaining components of the system or supersystem.
Of all the header units, only the drive and part of the body (Table. 1) perform auxiliary functions. It is, however, impossible to remove the drive from the header design, because it transfers mechanical energy from a combine harvester to the header tools. Removing or simplifying part of the body is only possible after removing some unit of the header.
How can we determine which unit of the header is less important if the functions of all the remaining units are equally ranked as “main”. To do this, we have analyzed the plant treatment process that occurs within the header.
ANALYZING THE PLANT TREATMENT PROCESS
With such a “process” approach, each unit of the stripper header may be considered as an object performing a specific technological operation of the “detachment of heads from plants” process (Fig. 5).
|Fig. 5. The function and ideality model of the stripper header|
The main function of this process is “obtaining heads and grain”. The process of detachment of heads from plants comprises 6 operations (Table 2). The end product (heads and grains) is only created by one of them – operation 2: “Detachment of heads”. That is why this operation belongs to the “creating” type and has the “main” rank.
The first operation – ‘Preparation of plants” – prepares plants for detachment of heads. This operation ensures performance of the next operation, therefore, it belongs to the “providing” type. The function is ranked as ‘auxiliary’ because it ensures performance of the operation ranked as “main”.
Operations 3, 5, 6 are needed to collect and move heads and grains to the combine harvester thresher. These three operations are in actual fact transport operations and ensure performance of the operation “Detachment of grain from a head” performed by the thresher. These operations are of the “providing” type and their functions are ranked as “auxiliary”.
Operation 4 “Cleaning the header” is needed to eliminate undesirable effect UE-5 – sticking of heads between the header teeth” that occurs during the performance of the previous operations – “Detachment of heads” and “Transportation of heads and grains to the collecting chamber”. It corrects the disadvantages of the previous operations and, hence, is a “correcting” operation with the “auxiliary” function rank. This operation is performed by the beater which itself produces several undesirable effects: UE-6 – poorly removes stuck heads and stalks from the header teeth – and UE 7 – causes formation of a large gap between the header and the front wall of the collecting chamber.
Thus, the analysis of the plant treatment process showed that the beater is only needed to remove the undesirable effect produced while performing the “main” and “auxiliary” operations.
Any “correcting” operation is “auxiliary” and considered as the first candidate for removal from the technological process, so we decided first to remove the beater from the design and to transfer its functions to the remaining header units.
According to the “convolution” rules [11, ñ. 20], we formulated conditions for the beater removal from the header design, constructed a functionally ideal model of a header having no beater and set objectives connected with the realization of this model.
BEATER CONVOLUTION CONDITIONS
The main function of the beater is “removing stuck heads and stalks from the stripping unit”.
The beater may be eliminated if:
À) heads and stalks are absent;
Á) heads and stalks remove themselves from the stripping unit;
Â) the function “removing stuck heads and stalks from the stripping unit” is performed by
• the remaining units of the stripper header:
– stripping unit;
– collecting chamber;
– inclined chamber;
• the objects of the supersystem:
By analogy with the formula of ideal technical system [12, p. 136] it may be said that the “ideal process is the one that is absent while its function is preserved and performed”.
The main function of the process is obtaining a product of a preset quality level. Thus, the “ideal process is the situation when the process is absent while the product of a required or better quality is produced.
From this point of view, the presence of auxiliary operations in the technological process is its disadvantage. To increase the technological process ideality, it is necessary to eliminate, if possible, all auxiliary operations and to reduce the number of creating operations, preserving the quality of the product at the same or higher level.
ANALYZING CONVOLUTION CONDITIONS AND FORMULATING PROBLEMS
Condition “A”, when heads and stalks are absent, cannot be further considered because the function of a header is working with heads and stalks.
Condition “B” leads to the following idea: stuck heads and stalks free themselves from the stripper teeth in the zone of discharge into the collecting chamber. This idea is already being partially realized – part of heads, grains and stalks fall from the upper portion of the stripping unit because of momentum, when the stripper belt makes a sharp bend and runs down.
But the inertia force is not enough, so some heads with stalks entangle between the teeth of the stripping unit and remain there for a long time.
At this point, the fist problem was formulated.
Problem ¹1. How can cohesion of heads and stalks with the teeth of the stripping unit in its upper portion be reduced so that “the heads and stalks remove themselves from the stripping unit”?
Condition”B” contains many variants but since removed heads and stalks should be thrown into the collection chamber, it is expedient to transfer the beater’s function to the units located near the former beater location – the upper portion of the stripping unit and the edge of the collection chamber wall.
Accordingly, the following problems can be formulated.
Problem ¹2. How can the upper portion of the stripping unit be changed so that it removes stuck heads from the stripping unit teeth?
Problem ¹3. How can the collecting chamber wall edge be changed so that it removes stuck heads from the stripping unit teeth?
Because selecting the condition “A” is prohibited, a functionally ideal header model may be built according to conditions “B” and “C”. As a result, there was obtained a model that provided a high-quality performance of the main function of the header without a beater and accompanying disadvantages – UE-6 and UE-7. For this model to become real, it is necessary to solve problems 1, 2, 3.
Problems formulated according to the rules of building a functionally ideal model of a system have the following specific features:
• they are fewer than the revealed undesirable effects;
• they are invisible to specialists and only appear after using the system “convolution” procedure;
• solving these problems enhances the functional possibilities of a system and, at the same time, reduces costs and other recompense factors;
• solving these problems outsteps improvement of single units and is connected with the perfection of the entire system.
Sometimes such problems do not contain any contradictions and may be solved by known design methods.
SOLUTION TO PROBLEMS ¹1 AND ¹2
To reduce cohesion of heads and stalks with the stripping unit teeth, the stripping unit belt was made vibrating – vibrations reduce friction force between the contacting surfaces. To impart vibrations to the stripping unit belt, the surface of the stripping unit upper shaft was made ribbed. When rotating on the ribbed shaft, the striping unit belt vibrated and heads became easier to throw off at the belt turn.
SOLUTION TO PROBLEM ¹3
For the front wall of the collecting chamber to remove stuck heads, it was suggested:
• making the front wall edge toothed;
• arranging the teeth so that they pass between the stripping unit teeth;
• mounting the teeth at such an angle that they help remove heads and stalks (Fig. 6).
|Fig. 6. Proposals for changing the upper edge of the collecting chamber wall|
Introducing the proposed solutions did not cause any serious difficulties and allowed the beater to be removed from the header design. UE-6 and UE-7 disappeared together with the beater.
Removing the beater caused the following positive changes in the header design:
• the stripper unit was placed maximally close to the collecting chamber wall and the gap between them was reduced; this significantly decreased the carrying of detached heads and grains away from the header, that is, considerably weakened UE-5;
• the stripping unit was given a flatter slope, which reduced the possibility for knocked-out grains to fall out of the stripping chamber and reduced to some extent the stripper header height, that is, UE-4 was slightly weakened;
• the beater-rotating mechanism became unnecessary, which simplified the mechanical drive of the header, reduced the header size and weight and removed the header skewing toward the drive, that is, UE-9 was eliminated.
In addition, introducing the suggestion to reduce the header height by 375 mm (See above) considerably reduced the height and weight not only of the stripping unit, but also of the header hood (UE-8 was removed), body sides, front wall of the collecting chamber and the entire stripper header. There were created good conditions for observing the front edge of the header from the combine cabin (UE-4 was completely eliminated).
All that resulted in a functionally ideal model, which provides a high-quality performance of the main function of the stripper header without a beater (Table 3).
Realizing this model considerably simplified the header design, reduced its weight and improved its functioning quality.
|Fig. 7. The stripper header after VEA-TRIZ|
The resulting changes in the header design are (Fig. 7):
• the beater was removed;
• the part of the drive mechanism responsible for beater rotation was removed;
• the size and weight of eight header units were reduced;
• UE-4, UE-6, UE-7, UE-8, EU-9 were eliminated, UE-5 was weakened;
• the stripping belt was made multisection, which allowed the combine crew themselves to repair it in the field;
• the toothed wall of the collecting chamber began removing heads and stalks from the stripping unit teeth.
Thus, using the law of increasing the ideality degree of a system made it possible to find new, “hidden” reserves for header improvement.
VEA+TRIZ: analytical tools
• Component analysis
• Structural analysis
• Functional analysis
• Diagnostic analysis
• Creating of functionally ideal models of TS
• Law of TS evolution
VEA+TRIZ: problem solving tools
• Principles of eliminating technical contradictions
• Principles of eliminating physical contradictions
• Standard solutions to inventive problems
• Algorithm of inventive problem solving
• Indices of effects (physical, chemical, geometrical, biological…)
Testing the prototype
Because the work on the improvement of the header design was conducted at early design stages and because designers and process engineers participated in that work, it was not difficult to introduce changes in the header design. The working documentation was quickly elaborated and the header prototype was successfully tested in Belarus and Russia  (Fig. 8).
|Fig. 8. View of the toothed edge of the collecting chamber|
Testing the improved stripper header proved that the research team managed to accomplish their objectives.
The technical solutions underlying the improved header design are covered by patents [16, 17, 18, 19, 20]. One of the header versions was included in the production plan of the Tula Combine Factory. However, the tight economic situation that existed in Russia at the beginning of the nineties, did not allow production of this header to be started.
Using the VEA+TRIZ method:
• reduced the header weight from 2130 to 1700 kg;
• reduced the header height and made visible the zone where the header meets plants;
• reduced grain losses from 4.5–9% to 1.5–3%.
The process also resulted in the creation of the image of an ideal stripper header that is a farther evolution forecast of these devices.
List of reference
1. Strakšas A. Development of a stripper-header for grain harvesting // Agronomy Research. 2006. 4(1)
6. Report on conducting VEA of a stripping adapter module. TsNIIMEH. NPO «Belsekhozmekhanizatsia». Minsk, 1990.
7. Chuksin P.I., Skuratovich A.I., Shpakovsky N.A. Using VEA+TRIZ method for improving a grain-harvesting device. Minsk, 1999. http://www.trizland.ru/trizba.php?id=223
8. Litvin S.S., Gerasimov V.M. If you think that you are an engineer, then think: A talk of blind sages. // TRIZ. 1990. V. 1. ¹2.
9. Litvin S.S., Gerasimov V.M. TRIZ-VEA system (summary) // TRIZ. 1990. V. 2. ¹2.
10. Litvin S.S., Gerasimov V.M. Basic notions of VEA methods: methodical recommendations. P. 4 and 5 // TRIZ. 1992. 3.2. ¹6.
11. Basic notions of VEA methods: Methodical recommendations. Ì.: Inform-VEA, 1991.
12. Altshuller G.S. Creation as an exact science. 2nd enl.ed.,. Petrozavodsk: Skandinavia, 2004.
13. Salamatov Y.P. System of technology evolution laws (foundations of the technical system evolution theory). 2nd augm.ed. A book for a TRIZ-studying inventor. Institute of innovative design: Krasnoyarsk, 1996. http://www.trizminsk.org/e/21101300.htm
14. Gerasimov V.M., Litvin S.S. Considering the technology evolution laws while conducting VEA of technological processes // VEA practice in electrical engineering / Edited by M.G. Karpunina. M.: Energoatomizdat, 1987.
15. Losev V., Chuksin P., Shpakovsky N. Stripping adaptor AGSK-4 // Agropanorama. 1995. ¹1.
16. US Patent – US5974772 System for harvesting crops by combing.
17. German patent – DE19581928T System for harvesting crops by combing.
18. Canadian patent – CA2203761 System for harvesting crops by combing.
19. UK Patent – GB2309369 System for harvesting crops by combing.
20. International patent – WO9612400 System for harvesting crops by combing.