Honey Bee goes big, cuts weight

Saskatchewan company builds a 50 foot wide combine header while keeping it lightweight

Getting some air is generally not something producers are looking for with their combines’ flex headers.

Growers don’t want gaps with the ground when they are down low harvesting the last of the lentils, peas, chickpeas or soybeans.

A new combine header from Honey Bee of Frontier, Sask., is causing some buzz with farmers. The Airflex uses airbags to keep it floating along the contours of the field.

However, producers attending last week’s Crop Production Show in Saskatoon were largely stopping to check out the header because of its size.

At 50 feet wide, the giant flex header is still fairly light, which Glenn Honey says makes it appealing to farmers.

“We engineered the weight out of the Airflex drapers,” he said.

“Flex headers have a tendency to be heavy in the first place, and we wanted to improve on that. In the end we improved on every part of it.”

The Airflex’s onboard systems were reduced, losing a lot hydraulic lines and other drive components.

Moving all the heavy drive components to the centre of the machine helped the Honeys avoid having to support that extra weight on the outboard ends.

Knife and reel drives are in the middle of the unit, which allows the company to narrow up the crop dividers and shorten the units overall. The mechanical, reversible drive also saves weight.

Air bags fed from an electrically powered compressor manage the flex system, allowing for easy control in changing conditions.  |  Honey Bee photo

Air bags fed from an electrically powered compressor manage the flex system, allowing for easy control in changing conditions. | Honey Bee photo

An electric compressor runs the air bags that provide control and suspension of the header design. The Airflex has a nine inch total travel on the knife.

The systems are all independent when it comes to drapers, knife and reel speed.

A shaped shield at the top of the table’s back guides crop into the feeder and keeps it from rising over the top. The shield replaces a pea auger, which is found on many draper headers.

“There is a lot of research and development in the shape and location of (that shield),” Honey said.

“It alone cut the weight and maintenance of a header.”

The units are also available in 30, 36, 40 and 45 foot widths, which range in price from $109,000 to $129,000. However, the price of the 50 foot width wasn’t available at press time.

Weight of the units varies from 6,400 to 8,400 pounds.

“Engineering the weight out also engineered some of the price out, too,” he said.

The company also lightened up the centre-drive reel.

“It is the lightest design we have seen, and you can have any finger spacing you want. Doubling up (the fingers) to clear the cutter bar is easily done. You can go to 2.5 inches on every other bat, you name it,” said Honey.

The cutter bar flexes separately from the draper units and knives are set very low, so it can cut very short crops or those podded well down on the plants without a high angle of attack. | Honey Bee photo

The cutter bar flexes separately from the draper units and knives are set very low, so it can cut very short crops or those podded well down on the plants without a high angle of attack. | Honey Bee photo

Honey Bee’s Automatix controller manages the header.

A push button unit allows the operator to take the machine from rigid to flex from the cab, while sensors keep the header height optimized in either cutting mode.

“We have a little weather channel on there that monitors conditions for you,” he said.

“It can remind you in the evening when it’s likely time to shut down.”

A built-in cart system helps transport the headers. A pair of wheels is rolled into place in the centre of the unit, and a hitch and wheel set attaches to the operator’s left side of the header.

“We wanted it fast and easy to use. It has the built in lights and electric brakes,” said Honey.

LED stubble lights are standard.

Testing in soybeans last fall showed that growers running the 50 foot units were able to move faster than they could with smaller headers.

“Some folks might want to slow down and get wider, but we found they could keep the crop feeding and pick up the speed,” he said.

“The draper is able to move a lot of material.”

Honey said the flex headers are “tough enough to do the job” despite the light weight.

“We didn’t cut where it would compromise the life of the machines.”

Visit producer.com to view video of the Airflex working last fall.

For more information, phone 306-296-2297.

michael.raine@producer.com

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