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Auger designed to save life, limbs

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – An Australian farmer whose daughter was killed in an auger accident has developed a polyurethane auger with an internal clutch to protect human limbs.

The new Augersafe was presented to the recent International Conference on Crop Harvesting and Processing in Louisville, Kentucky, by export representative Jim Raz of Adelaide, South Australia.

Raz said auger danger statistics are startling. An average of 1.2 auger accidents were reported a week in Canada between 1990 and 2000. Eighty percent of hospitalized farm injuries in that decade were the result of people becoming entangled in an auger.

In a recent Iowa study, almost all auger accidents happened when the guards had been removed. Most accidents occurred near the end of the day when operators were physically and mentally fatigued.

“According to the Iowa data, it happens when you’re trying to get just one more load off the field and into the bin,” Raz said.

“It’s carelessness and time pressure and no guards on the auger. It all comes together at the end of a long day.”

Closer to home for Raz, a recent Australian study interviewed 717 farmers who owned an average of 2.5 augers each. The augers were relatively new, with an average age of 3.2 years.

“Despite the fact that we were looking at fairly new augers, half of them had the guards removed,” said Raz, adding that the situation was ripe for human injuries.

Raz said his research on auger guards has spanned the globe and one of the brightest stars he found was in Saskatchewan.

“On the bright side, we found a star-shaped guard developed by PAMI (Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute) in Saskatchewan. The star shape seems to reduce bridging and thus reduces the need to get in there and push the grain. The guard still provides good protection for the operator.” (See story on page 45.)

Raz said the star configuration may be the best guard design for augers, as long as it remains installed. However, he said the ultimate answer to saving lives on the farm may be the polyurethane flighting coupled with an internal clutch. The flighting is pure poly with no hard steel parts.

“There is no hard, sharp edge like you have with steel flighting. It won’t chop off a hand or a foot.”

While the poly flighting is a key element in the patented Augersafe design, Raz said the internal clutch also plays a big role in preventing injuries.

“The whole Augersafe device is designed to replace the bottom two feet on any type of round auger tube. This two foot section is what it’s all about. This is where everything happens,” he said.

“The clutch will disengage if anything gets jammed, whether it’s the operator’s hand or a foot or just a grain plug. The bottom 24 inches stops instantly while the rest of the steel auger keeps running all the way to the top to clean out the grain in the tube.

“The clutch trigger is set to a torque level of 80 Newton metres (59 foot pounds). When it senses that level of resistance, the power to the Augersafe component immediately stops.”

Raz said the internal clutch is located where the Augersafe connects to the conventional steel flighting. It will not re-engage until the operator deliberately slows the auger down. When that happens, the clutch automatically kicks back into play.

Raz said Augersafe also has an unanticipated side benefit.

“We’ve found the polyurethane flighting to be more gentle on the grain compared to steel flighting. We notice this particularly in large seeds like peas and beans,” he said.

“With a conventional steel auger, the first thing your crop touches is that hard, sharp metal knife. It causes a lot of seed damage. And that damage takes place in the first two feet at the bottom of the auger.

“Once the grain is moving up the tube, the flighting can be steel. It doesn’t matter up there. The chopping effect is all at the inlet end of the auger.”

Reduced wear

Longevity is another economic benefit, Raz said.

“Auger wear is typically at the intake, not further up the tube. The polyurethane we use is more resistant to abrasion than steel flighting, so it lasts longer.”

Raz was in Louisville to gauge the reaction from the agricultural engineers attending the conference.

He is also looking for a North American company that might be interested in manufacturing the Augersafe on this continent.

“We don’t want to build them in Australia and then transport them over the ocean. My job right now is to find a business partner so we can put this thing into production here in North America.”

For more information, contact Jim Raz in Adelaide, South Australia, at jim@exportaccess.com.

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