Air drill uses springs to manage openers

Versatile’s new ML air drill features independent parallel linkage without hydraulics, real time depth control and quick switch furrow profile changes for different seed sizes.

Versatile engineer Sylvio Tessier says the new ML series has been on the Ezee-On drawing board for years. When Versatile bought Ezee-On, the blueprints received a shot of money and engineering expertise that brought the drill to life.

“The first thing we wanted to accomplish was to bring a solution to the problem of high hydraulic demand in parallel linkage independent openers,” Tessier said.

“Some drills require that the pump be engaged at all times, and that robs horsepower that should be used to pull the drill. The oil keeps flowing, creating heat and wasting energy. We designed a purely mechanical system with parallel linkage independent openers. You don’t need a tractor with huge hydraulic capacity to operate this drill.”

Tessier said a spring on each opener allows it to individually respond to the contour of the field surface. The fan still requires hydraulic power and the frame is still lifted and lowered hydraulically, but the openers are managed solely by mechanical springs.

He said the drill is a good fit for producers who don’t have the necessary hydraulic power on their tractor to handle a bigger drill.

“This drill doesn’t enslave you to your hydraulic pump. And two or three years down the road, you won’t be wasting time hunting down hydraulic leaks and replacing hoses and seals. It’s a very simple hydraulic system.”

Most drill designers say hydraulics respond faster and provide more accurate depth control.

“That’s a very nice argument, but we have two things to say to address their point,” Tessier said.

“First, many of those drills have the seeding tool trip action dependent on the hydraulic cylinders. When the seeding tool goes into soft ground at the bottom of the hills or around potholes, you don’t want too much hydraulic pressure because that pushes it down too deep.

“But when you go to the hard ground on the knoll, you need to hold the openers firm. As a result, the operator spends a lot of time adjusting the hydraulic pressure in the cab, up and down.

“If he doesn’t ride the hydraulic control, he’ll be bouncing openers out of the ground on the knolls and seeding down to China in the low spots.”

Tessier said the ML eliminates that problem by using an independent spring trip on each seeding tool. Only the seeding tools move when an opener hits a stone.

“This allows us to be somewhat less dependent on the variability in soil resistance. It trips only when you actually hit a stone,” he said.

“It does not move by encountering soil firmness, compaction or muddy conditions. It gives you the same seeding depth regardless of where you are in the field.”

Tessier said the drill also features ALIVE technology (Active Level Independent Vertical Emergence), which continually senses the depth of the opener.

“We have a gauge wheel with an ALIVE sensor rolling on the soil surface. Just beside, we have an opener with an identical ALIVE sensor. The software simply measures the depth difference between the two sensors. We have a continuous real time measurement of where the opener is relative to the soil surface.”

Tessier said when the drill approaches a knoll with harder soil, the sensors tell the controller that the opener is too close to the surface. The vertical gap between the two sensing points is too small. The controller then puts more down pressure on the frame to keep the openers down at the prescribed depth.

Conversely, moving into soft soil, the sensors tell the controller that the openers will go too deep and it reduces down pressure on the frame.

The system is automatic. It is optional on three-section ML drills and standard equipment on all five-section drills. Tessier said the company is working on a plan that would put an ALIVE system on each individual section of any of its drills.

He said the ML can also switch between three furrow profile settings without forcing operators to crawl under the drill.

Instead, they can select “shallow” for small seeds such as canola, “medium” for cereals and “deep” for crops such as peas. The openers operate within the parameters of one of those profiles, which the operator selects from the cab.

For example, if the operator selects the shallow profile for flax, the ALIVE controller prevents the openers from dropping into the medium or deep furrow profiles.

Depth control is in 1/8 inch increments, with clips on the cylinders to ensure the setting doesn’t change. The ML has four seed boot options, with a variety of single shoot spread patterns. After-market boots are also available.

Spring cushion shanks are 3.5 inches wide with full width nylon graphite bushings. The assemblies have dual springs with either 350 or 550 pound break-out force.

The front caster wheels are placed inside the first row of the frame to shorten the wheelbase so the drill can follow uneven ground.

Dual castors are standard on all drills bigger than 40 feet. To provide the best possible trash flow, the drill has clearance of 35 inches from the opener to the frame in the working position. The frame has 46 inches of clearance in the raised position.

Packer gangs are mounted on walking beams that are independent of each other. Obstructions in front of one gang do not affect adjacent gangs. Semi-pneumatic packers are available for wet sticky soil. Steel packers with a six-inch face are available for rocky conditions.

One time-saving option is the central grease bank. Located at the front of the machine, high pressure hoses connect to each rockshaft bearing in the middle of the drill frame.

The optional two-row in-frame harrows with 16 inch tines can be adjusted by the operator for angle and down force to match field conditions. For tough conditions, rock deflectors are available to prevent stones and stumps from lodging between packer wheels. The steel packers can be fitted with adjustable mud scrapers.

The ML930 is the three section drill, with widths ranging from 28 feet to 40 feet. The ML950 is the five section drill, with widths from 40 feet to 70 feet.

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