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Reinventing the combine

“This is the fourth generation of machines that can carry much more clean grain,” says Ben Dillon, general manager of Tribine Industries, as he stands beside his latest prototype combine, which has a 1,000-bushel grain tank capacity. “The first generation was just based on pulling a grain cart around. But I quickly learned the rear axle had to be powered and it had to be steerable. It (the Tribine) has evolved from there. We’ve been working on this since 1997.”

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Ben Dillon’s Tribine

Dillon’s Tribine, a machine created out of the merger of a transverse rotary combine and a high-capacity grain cart, was stopping show goers in their tracks at a display inside Ag Connect Expo in Kansas City in January. It is the result of Dillon’s long-term efforts to improve the efficiency of combines working on his own Indiana corn and soybean farm.

Dillon says each successive generation of the Tribine incorporated improvements as he fine-tuned the concept. “Each generation has improved,” he says. “This is the first one we feel is robust enough that you can give it to the full spectrum of customers and it’s going to last and work.”

“If you look at new combines, it’s the same basic architecture that Massey-Harris developed in Brantford in the 1940s,” he goes on. “Big front axle; small rear axle; grain tank on top.” Dillon’s Tribine turns that traditional combine design on its head. But it doesn’t change the way grain is actually threshed, something most rotary combines can do with roughly 97 per cent efficiency. So there was no need to mess with that end of things.

The front half of the Tribine is a modified version of a Gleaner S77 transverse rotary combine. Dillon chose that model as the basis for his Tribine because the Gleaner is the lightest combine on the market, and that helps keep the Tribine’s weight down. The Transverse rotor configuration also keeps the front section short. To make the Tribine even more compact, Dillon moved the engine forward to where the grain tank would sit on a standard S77.

Another aspect of the Gleaner combine which lent itself to easy modification was the belt drive, because it made repositioning the AGCO Power diesel engine much simpler than it would have been on a gear drive design.

To help minimize soil compaction, the Tribine’s rear wheels can track exactly behind the front. To accomplish that, the machine needed to steer not only at its articulation point, but it had to have steerable hubs on the rear axle. The steering mode can also be set to crab steering for stability on hillsides.

The hopper, which makes up the rear half of the Tribine, is essentially a 1,000-bushel grain cart with a powered axle underneath. The massive unloading auger can empty the tank in roughly two minutes, which helps improve the Tribine’s efficiency by getting it back to work quickly. “You carry a lot of grain, unload it fast and minimize compaction,” he says.

For a combine with so much carrying capacity, it’s remarkably compact. It has a transport width of just under 12 feet (3.7 metres). Overall length is just 35 feet (10.7 metres). And by distributing its weight over four equal-sized, single tires the Tribine only creates two wheel tracks down a field, instead of four as on a regular combine equipped with dual wheels — or six with triples.

Dillon says the Tribine is really all about generating efficiencies.

Efficiencies

“For operations that have been using a grain cart, It’s feasible to eliminate the tractor, the operator and the grain cart, which saves capital, reduces diesel fuel, saves labour. In a huge operation with multiple combines, it also allows you to serve more combines with fewer grain carts, because the grain cart never has to go to the other end of the field. In Canadian wheat, for instance, we could go over four kilometres before dumping the grain tank. So, you can go down and back in a big field by yourself.”

Dillion nods at a group of farmers milling around the Tribine display both. “The reaction on the internet has overwhelmed me,” he says. “We’ve been getting thousands and thousands of visits to the website (tribine.com) per day.” I didn’t expect that.” Most of those visits have been from people in the U.S., Canada and Germany.

It will be a while before famers can take delivery of a Tribine. Dillon doesn’t want to manufacture it. He wants to attract the attention of an established manufacturer. “We’re here to show grain producers, custom cutters, the industry as a whole and the media the concept of the Tribine for the first time,” he explains. †

Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews.

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Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.

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