What difference can a little ‘i’ make to a machine’s performance? Quite a lot is the short answer. In this article, we will look at the intelligent features on Hardi’s Commander 4400 “i” pull-type sprayer. These are the bits that have the potential to make the Commander stand out.
At the heart of the ‘i’ automatic functions lies the electronic SmartValve system, which is controlled both from the cab and control panel on the machine.
First up in the list of automatic functions is AutoWash and its three rinsing programs. Option one is BoomFlush, which is used when the operator has to stop spraying temporarily — it starts to rain unexpectedly, for example. This cycle rinses the spray boom, including the pump and control unit, without diluting the liquid in the main tank.
Another program on the menu is Fast-Flush, which rinses the empty tank but only briefly — ready for the machine to continue spraying the same chemical the next morning.
The most comprehensive wash is provided by the full MultiRinse program. This cycle only starts when the main spray water tank is filled to capacity. With these conditions met, the program cleans the entire machine, going through a sequence of 39 steps — a process that takes 20 minutes to complete while the operator busies himself on other tasks.
And the auto functions don’t stop there. For the tank filling job, AutoFill relies on a tank sensor to measure the liquid level in the tank — it uses pressure — and closes the suction tap when the programmed level is reached. An additional float prevents the tank from overfilling. One slight disappointment is that the filling settings only appear on the cab terminal without being duplicated on the external panel. As a result, the operator has just the one viewing option, a mechanical float, when outside the tractor cab.
Cleverly, the liquid level determines the intensity at which the AutoAgitation system works, and here the operator can choose from “powerful” and “soft’ mode.
The agitator shuts off when there are less than 200 litres remaining in the tank.
And ‘i’ doesn’t end with the jobs of washing and filling. For starters, the first and most entry-level of the automatic in-field features is HeadLand Assist headland management. After operating the boom master control, the system continues spraying for a programmable distance before it shuts off the spray nozzles, raises the boom to a preset height and then levels the leveling system. When the operator activates the master control as he drives into the next tramline, the system mirrors the leveling position of the previous bout, lowers the boom and opens the nozzles.
An even more convenient Hardi feature is AutoHeight. Built by Canadian manufacturer Norac, the system has two boom-mounted ultrasonic sensors that control
the boom angle setting rams, plus another ultrasonic sensor in the middle that takes care of the parallel linkage.
Highlight of AutoHeight, though, is the option to select “soil” and “crop” mode which, in turn, measure either the largest ground clearance or the smallest boomcrop distance to set boom height.
For those looking for all of the bells and whistles, the ultimate level of ‘i’ spec is AutoSectionControl (ASC) which, in simplest terms, equates to GPS-controlled boom sections. Supplied by Australian firm Rinex, ASC receives control signals from the NMEA protocol, which is available from many auto guidance systems.
With the spraying tractor equipped with a GPS receiver, the end result is that, after the sprayer operator has been around the headland once to log the boundaries, he is then left to simply steer the tractor up and down the landwork tramlines while the individual boom section on/off valves take care of themselves.
And on the subject of the boom sections, Hardi’s PrimeFlow option uses CANbus-controlled stepper motors on the individual spray nozzle bodies to provide a pressure-based system for the operation of up to 13 sections. These sections are fully programmable, even down to an individual nozzle.
OTHER POINTS WORTH MENTIONING
The multiple nozzle bodies are rotated manually.
Automatic boom section control allows one to 100 per cent overlaps.
Clean water tank level is also indicated digitally for improved accuracy.
Standard-spec FastFiller injector fills the tank at rates of up to 800 litres per min. A pressure empty draining function is an option.
HC 6500 computer is not yet ISObus compatible, but brings intuitive operation. It is supplied with a joystick.
The Hardi Commander trailed sprayer is marketed in three different tank sizes — 3,200, 4,400 and 6,600 litres (850, 1,150 and 1,750 U. S. gallons) — and a choice of 18m to 36m (60-to 120 -foot) booms.
Our fully spec’ed Hardi Commander 4400 i sprayer, complete with 36m (120-foot) wide Force booms, lists at 47,495 (roughly $100,000) plus tax.
Not only does the new Hardi Commander i fill and rinse its tank automatically, but it sprays automatically, too.
The high-tech functions work effectively, and when the ‘i’ package is taken as a whole, it makes for a convenient-to-use spraying outfit. Even now, though, refinement still remains possible. For example, Hardi could look at better integration of the boom control and boom section control functions into the cab computer.
But that really is fine-tuning.
Once Hardi has taken the next step and built features such as individual nozzle control into the ASC system, it’s difficult to see how the company can take automation much further.
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