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Out with augers; in with big grain vacs

The latest generation of grain vacs has broken the mould that once relegated them to the role of bin clean-up machines. With capacities now hitting 10,000 bushels per hour, many farmers run whole bins through a grain vac instead of turning to an auger.

As well, the myth that grain vacs are unreliable is being challenged. Manufacturers report that both fan-type and pneumatic-type grain vacs are now running through a million bushels without major maintenance.

The four main suppliers on the Prairies agree that the demand for bigger grain vacs is part of the push to improve efficiency on expanding farms.

That increased efficiency extends to manpower, machine power and also the efficiency of each dollar invested. Producers who buy a new grain vac do so because they see better efficiencies in all three areas.

Prices range from $25,000 to $37,000 and with the higher grain volumes possible, many producers say the modern grain vac has become a better investment than it was just a few years ago.

Another benefit not so easily measured is the human factor. People want to spend as little time as possible inside a grain bin. Bigger grain vacs enable them to get out into fresh air sooner than older vacs or alternative technologies.

Brandt, REM, Walinga and Conveyair, the four main prairie suppliers, each offers large grain vacs.

Brandt 5200 EX

The Brandt 5200 EX, with a capacity of 5,800 bu. of corn per hour and a price tag of $25,170, is the newest model to hit the market.

In designing the new fan-type grain vac, Brandt engineers wanted high volume and significantly longer life expectancy.

One of the biggest improvements is the new double blade centrifugal fan, according to Brandt’s Jason Bouchard.

“The idea of double blades isn’t necessarily to get more capacity. It’s to get better life expectancy from the fan,” he said.

“Twice as much blade material effectively doubles the life of a fan. We run at a slightly higher speed, so there is slightly more capacity, but that’s secondary.

“We also added a replaceable wear strip in the fan housing. If you change it at regular intervals, the housing should last forever.”

The standard hose length on the 5200 EX is 42 feet. Extra hose is available in seven-foot lengths. Bouchard said this should put to rest the myth that fan-type machines only work at a hose length of up to 30 feet.

The minimum power requirement is 70 horsepower.

However, said Bouchard, the spring-loaded air throttle on the 5200 EX is designed to keep power consumption to a minimum in all situations.

“The air throttle on the exhaust regulates the volume of air moving through the vac. It means you’re using the minimum amount of tractor power whatever the vac is doing.

“If you’re vaccing just air, it automatically reduces the load on the tractor. This keeps your tractor in the optimal load range at all times.”

The MaxFlow nozzle, first introduced on a previous Brandt grain vac, is used on the new machine, too. The nozzle is designed to let the operator adjust the mixture of grain and air for maximum grain flow.

Bouchard said other features will lower maintenance costs for 5200 EX owners. These include chrome-plated flighting on the discharge auger, optional bolt on chrome flight wear strips, greaseable hanger bearings, high-wear replaceable chrome drive dogs and a steel exhaust system. A side mounted grease bank allows easy access to service bottom bearings.

REM 3700

With a capacity of 10,000 bu. of wheat per hour, the REM 3700 is the big dog in the grain vac business. Introduced two years ago, the 3700 sells for $36,750 and requires 180 h.p.

The key to its performance is the stacked fan system, which uses three separate fans to create the necessary large vacuum, said REM service manager Tim Gammel.

“With 180 h.p. hooked to the front and a single hose sucking out of a full bin, the 3700 moves 10,000 bu. of wheat or corn in an hour,” he said.

“We see a lot of our customers using the 3700 to totally replace their augers.”

The newly developed airflow on the 3700 reduces the noise volume and pitch. The automatic air throttle stops the suction as soon as the hose has no grain flow.

Suction automatically resumes when the hose is stuck back into the grain.

REM said the settling chamber extends rotor life by keeping heavy debris out of the air stream.

“But some guys move some pretty dirty stuff through their grain vac. Those fine particles are hard on any system. We get about a million bushels out of a fan. That’s a lot less costly to replace than a positive displacement blower.”

The hydraulic requirement on the 3700 is two gallons per minute at 2100 psi. The 12 inch auger has a 16 foot clearance.

“It’s not really suitable for filling bins. It’s intended to fill trucks quickly,” said Gammel.

“And with that much suction, there’s no longer any need for a broom. It’s as easy as vacuuming your house. And then you’re ready for next year.

Walinga 7614

Priced at $30,000, the Walinga 7614, a pneumatic-type machine, moves 4,500 bu. of wheat per hour. That volume puts it into close competition with most fan-type machines and moves it to a new level.

“A lot of producers still don’t realize that grain vacs with this kind of capacity are no longer just for bin cleanup,” said Jack Vandermeulen, Walinga sales representative at Carman, Man.

“A lot of our guys don’t even use an auger anymore. They run everything through their 7614. Guys will use it to suck out a 200 foot Quonset shed very easily. Just keep laying down more pipe till you get to the back wall.

“That’s one advantage of a blower type. It sucks greater distances and blows greater distances than a fan type. But, I think at really close distances, the fan type can actually suck better than ours. But once you get to 30 feet, the fan type starts to power out.”

Vandermeulen said for farmers who are using vacs for only loading trucks, the performance of a fan type with an auger is fine. But if farmers need to move grain more than 14 feet from the bin, a pneumatic grain vac is the only option.

“This is what they need if they’re moving grain from bin to bin or from the bin to a dryer setup or something like that.

“You need a blower that can suck the grain in and blow it out. We can easily fill a 100 foot silo or really high bins, no problem. Our company and Conveyair have the only two push-pull air blower systems. We have no augers.”

The 7614 uses either six inch or seven-inch lines. It has a Walinga-built positive displacement blower with a 10-vane rotor with stainless steel tips. It requires 130 to 150 h.p.

Buhler Conveyair 6640

The Buhler Conveyair 6640 is a full pneumatic vacuum pressure grain vac, rated at 3,800 bu. of wheat per hour with a 110 h.p. requirement. It uses either five inch or six-inch hoses.

The 6640 is priced at $26,450.

“We have a number of customers who now use the Ultim 6 and nothing esle throughout their operations.”

“The bins are all plumbed to the top for filling. It’s just simple cheap pipe running up to the top.

“I’ve personally blown grain to the top of 120 foot structures. It’s no problem filling a Harvestore silo. Brett Young Seeds uses our previous generation Ultima 6 for everything.”

Schmidt said a vacuum grain vac can handle all types of crops, including grass seed, which often bridges in an auger. He added that most seed growers and soybean producers use a vacuum system because it’s gentler on crops.

“Big outfits like Golden Harvest in the states won’t have anything to do with producers who use augers. Nothing at all, because they have zero tolerance for seed coat damage.”

He said the higher capacities of a fan don’t necessarily pay big dividends.

“If a push-pull grain vac loads a semi in 20 minutes and a fan type loads in 15 minutes, I don’t see much difference really.”

Schmidt said the old myth that positive displacement blowers are inherently unreliable has been proven false since 1993 when Conveyair began installing a pre-cleaning system on their grain vacs.

“We have Conveyair vacs down in the soybean states that were built shortly after 1993. Some of these have now moved four million bushels of soybeans without blower problems.

“Soybeans are probably the worst crop to handle because they cut them so low and they get all that dirt. Crops like lentils and other pulse crops that are cut low also go through the system without problems.”

Dust is another problem pneumatic grain vacs handle better than fan-type grain vacs, said Schmidt.

“The fan-type system puts a fan in a housing to create the vacuum, which sucks the grain up into the machine. That’s no problem.

“But once the airflow and the grain get up to the auger, they don’t need the air anymore. So all that air is blown out the exhaust. And all the dust goes along with it, right into your working environment.

“Our system and the Walinga use the air to suck grain into the machine and then blow it out again. The dust follows the airflow and the grain to its destination.”

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