Brains & brawn

Claas Ax­ion 870 trac­tor with new Claas S10 ter­mi­nal

Farms & Farm Machinery - - Contents -

The 2016 spring sea­son was a frus­trat­ing one for most of Victoria and New South Wales. Rain con­tin­ued to fall, and any hint that tem­per­a­tures were start­ing to warm up were quickly quashed by an­other blast of win­tery con­di­tions.

Hay pro­duc­tion was near im­pos­si­ble, with many farm­ers tak­ing the safer op­tion and choos­ing to use the short win­dows of op­por­tu­nity to pro­duce si­lage.

Th­ese were the sort of weather con­di­tions that I was faced with over the two days I spent test­ing Claas and Ama­zone prod­ucts with dis­trib­u­tor Land­power to­wards the end of Novem­ber.

On the first day I had the priv­i­lege of get­ting be­hind the wheel of the new 295hp Claas Ax­ion 870 trac­tor sow­ing bar­ley into dry soil with an Ama­zone Cir­rus 6003-2C pneu­matic seed drill.

The con­di­tions were so dry that at times we dis­ap­peared into a cloud of dust, and, had it not been for the new S10 ter­mi­nal pro­vid­ing us with pin­point-ac­cu­rate guid­ance, we would have strayed way off our line.

Pre­dictably, the weather turned sour overnight and dumped about 30mm of rain. While the rain is al­ways a wel­come event, it did cause a few headaches to event or­gan­is­ers – and none big­ger than the job of hav­ing to pull a fully loaded Ama­zone Pan­tera self-pro­pelled boom sprayer out of the bog that the down­pour had cre­ated. Ah well, just an­other day on the farm.

You can read my re­view of the Ama­zone Cir­rus 6003-2C on page 30, so for now I want to fo­cus on the Claas Ax­ion 870, a very im­pres­sive piece of au­to­mo­tive en­gi­neer­ing with the new and ad­vanced S10 ter­mi­nal that vir­tu­ally takes the re­spon­si­bil­ity of driv­ing out of our hands.

EN­GINE

Nes­tled un­der a high-lift­ing one-piece bon­net is – yes, you guessed it – a Fiat Pow­er­train Tech­nolo­gies (FPT) diesel en­gine.

It seems that th­ese FPT en­gines are ap­pear­ing un­der trac­tor bon­nets with reg­u­lar­ity, which must say some­thing about their qual­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity.

Up un­til now, the Claas 800 Se­ries trac­tors con­sisted of six mod­els with power rang­ing from 205hp to 264hp. With the aid of Claas Power Man­age­ment (CPM), the new 870 takes that up to 295hp.

The 6.7-litre, 6-cylin­der en­gine meets Stage IV and Tier 4 emis­sions stan­dards us­ing se­lec­tive cat­alytic re­duc­tion (SCR) tech­nol­ogy.

For those who don’t al­ready know, SCR is the process where ni­tro­gen ox­ides, or ex­haust gasses, are con­verted into wa­ter and pure ni­tro­gen.

It is achieved by in­ject­ing AdBlue liq­uid urea into the ex­haust sys­tem be­fore it passes though the SCR cat­alytic con­verter.

The re­sult­ing chem­i­cal re­ac­tion con­verts harm­ful fumes into the more friendly form of ni­tro­gen and wa­ter.

This hap­pens af­ter the com­bus­tion process, so the en­gine is left to func­tion at its op­ti­mum level.

A vari­able ge­om­e­try turbo (VGT) au­to­mat­i­cally ad­justs charge air pres­sure to suit load and speed. As a re­sult, more torque is avail­able at lower revs, which in turn re­sults in lower fuel us­age.

The en­gine con­trol unit (ECU) con­tin­u­ally mon­i­tors the en­gine’s tem­per­a­ture then ad­justs the ro­ta­tion speed of the Visc­tronic elec­tronic cool­ing fan to keep the en­gine at its op­ti­mum op­er­at­ing tem­per­a­ture. Re­duc­ing un­nec­es­sary fan us­age leaves you with more power when you need it, and de­creases fuel con­sump­tion.

Apart from us­ing the CPM sys­tem to gen­er­ate more horse­power, the en­gine is iden­ti­cal to the rest in the 800 se­ries.

En­gine oil ser­vice in­ter­vals are set at 600 hours, and a 455-litre fuel tank should keep you go­ing all day un­der nor­mal con­di­tions.

TRANS­MIS­SION

Man­ual stick shift trans­mis­sions have largely be­come a thing of the past, with most trac­tors – es­pe­cially those in the higher-horse­power bracket – opt­ing for the more ef­fi­cient con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sions (CVTs).

The Ax­ion 870’s CMATIC ZF Ter­ra­matic CVT ef­fec­tively sends power to the axles via four me­chan­i­cal ranges that are au­to­mat­i­cally se­lected by multi-disc clutches.

All the trac­tors in the 800 se­ries, in­clud­ing the 870, have a speed range from 0.05 to 50km/h, allowing for pin­point ac­cu­racy at su­per­low speeds in the pad­dock while still pro­vid­ing an ex­cel­lent top speed for road trans­port.

Three dif­fer­ent modes of op­er­a­tion pro­vide you with the choice of us­ing the ac­cel­er­a­tor pedal or the CMOTION mul­ti­func­tion con­trol lever, which au­to­mat­i­cally ad­justs en­gine speed and trans­mis­sion ra­tio to achieve max­i­mum ef­fi­ciency and fuel econ­omy.

At any time you can switch be­tween us­ing the ac­cel­er­a­tor pedal and CMOTION mode by press­ing the mode but­ton on the arm­rest. The third op­tion is man­ual mode.

The CMOTION mul­ti­func­tion con­trol lever is the Class ver­sion of trans­mis­sion con­trol levers. It is well placed on the arm­rest and fits com­fort­ably into my hand. Func­tion but­tons for the trac­tor’s di­rec­tion, link­age, hy­draulic, au­tosteer, head­land man­age­ment, and trans­mis­sion are built into the con­trol lever.

All good so far, but an area I am not com­pletely com­fort­able with is how the CMOTION con­troller works when the trac­tor is in re­verse. Com­mon sense and in­tu­ition say to me that, to in­crease speed in re­verse, I should pull back on the con­trol lever. In­stead, with the Claas CMATIC trans­mis­sion, if I want to go faster backwards I have to push the lever fur­ther for­wards. It just seems to defy logic and could bring some new­com­ers to the world of CVT trans­mis­sions un­stuck when un­der pres­sure.

To help main­tain a safe work­ing en­vi­ron­ment, the Ax­ion’s for­ward/ re­verse shut­tle shift lever has a built-in park-lock func­tion. The lever can be man­u­ally placed in the park po­si­tion or left to en­gage au­to­mat­i­cally in four cir­cum­stances: when the en­gine is switched off; when the en­gine is switched on; if the ac­cel­er­a­tor or CMOTION have not been used for a few sec­onds when the trac­tor is sta­tion­ary; or when the driver leaves the seat when the trac­tor is sta­tion­ary.

THE BRAINS

The Claas S10 ter­mi­nal can be in­te­grated into Ax­ion, Arion, Lex­ion, Xe­rion, and Jaguar ma­chines. It of­fers pre­cise guid­ance that can be scaled from a stan­dard ac­cu­racy of 30cm up to RTK (Real-Time Kine­matic) ac­cu­ra­cies of 2.5cm. In ad­di­tion to op­er­at­ing steer­ing sys­tems and cam­eras, the S10 is also ca­pa­ble of op­er­at­ing ISOBUS im­ple­ments – in­clud­ing sec­tion con­trol and task man­age­ment.

Un­wanted over­lap­ping is pre­vented by au­to­matic sec­tion con­trol switch-off, re­gard­less of whether a crop pro­tec­tion sprayer, fer­tiliser spreader, or seed drill is be­ing used.

Task man­age­ment al­lows de­tailed record­ing of job data and will pro­vide ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion of the work that was car­ried out (such as chem­i­cal ap­plied, ap­pli­ca­tion area, time taken, bale count, and yield).

This al­lows fer­tilis­ers, pes­ti­cides and seed to be ap­plied, mea­sured in re­la­tion to yield, re­sult­ing in cost re­duc­tions and im­prove­ments in en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion lev­els.

De­spite the added func­tion­al­ity, the S10 ter­mi­nal has re­mained a sim­ple and in­tu­itive sys­tem to op­er­ate. The sys­tem can be eas­ily retro­fit­ted to Claas steer-ready equip­ment, with in­stal­la­tion and cal­i­bra­tion tak­ing less than one hour.

A more ad­vanced fea­ture of the S10 mon­i­tor is its abil­ity to com­plete head­land turns au­to­mat­i­cally with­out any in­put from the driver. Be­fore im­ple­ment­ing the auto-turn fea­ture, you have to cal­i­brate the turn­ing cir­cle of each im­ple­ment so that the sys­tem knows what the min­i­mum turn­ing ra­dius is.

From there, the sys­tem will of­fer four turn­ing sce­nar­ios:

• Cur­rent po­si­tion – The trac­tor will com­plete a head­land turn

when­ever you press the GO but­ton on the screen

• Head­land line – The trac­tor will prompt you about 30 sec­onds be­fore you reach your pre-de­fined head­land line and, if you ac­cept the prompt, will start its au­to­matic turn as soon as it reaches the head­land line

• In­side bound­ary – Sim­i­lar to head­land line, ex­cept the trac­tor will

turn within the field bound­ary (the fence line)

• Head­land tracks – Again, the op­er­a­tor will be prompted to ac­cept, and then the trac­tor will turn when it reaches the wheel tracks within the head­land.

The new and ad­vanced S10 ter­mi­nal vir­tu­ally takes the re­spon­si­bil­ity of driv­ing out of our hands

For all sce­nar­ios, the op­er­a­tor can se­lect the di­rec­tion he or she wants the trac­tor to turn, and can also de­fine how many passes to skip. It should be stressed that the trac­tor will only ini­ti­ate a full driverless and se­quence man­age­ment turn af­ter the prompt has been ac­cepted by the driver.

Apart from that one piece of hu­man in­ter­ven­tion, the trac­tor vir­tu­ally has a mind of its own, show­ing that it is more than likely we will see fully au­ton­o­mous, driverless, trac­tors op­er­at­ing on farms sooner rather than later. Mis­judg­ing the dis­tance at the end of a run and get­ting jammed up against the fence will be a thing of the past.

Al­though this is a highly so­phis­ti­cated piece of equip­ment, I found the S10 ter­mi­nal was very self-ex­plana­tory and easy to op­er­ate.

WELL EQUIPPED

The Ax­ion 870 has a PTO with four speeds: 540, 540E, 1000, and 1000E. On lighter jobs, the op­tion of econ­omy mode (E) in both PTO speeds al­lows for a sub­stan­tial re­duc­tion in fuel us­age.

A load-sens­ing hy­draulic sys­tem de­liv­ers up to 150L/min of oil flow to the stan­dard fitout of three elec­tronic spool valves, or to a max­i­mum of seven.

Max­i­mum lift­ing ca­pac­ity at the rear ball ends is 10,200kg.

The front link­age has a lift­ing ca­pac­ity of 5800kg with vi­bra­tion damp­en­ing and is com­ple­mented by a 1000rpm front PTO.

ON THE JOB

Driv­ing the Claas Ax­ion 870 trac­tor threw up no real sur­prises. Within a rel­a­tively short time I was con­fi­dently op­er­at­ing it – mainly due to the well-placed con­trols.

They were laid out nicely and la­belled clearly on the arm­rest and ad­join­ing con­sole to my right.

De­spite hav­ing the ex­tra S10 mon­i­tor mounted on the right-hand side, the four-pil­lar cab of­fers ex­cep­tional vis­i­bil­ity all-round and, with the lux­ury of up to four mounted cam­eras stream­ing images back to the S10 screen, noth­ing goes un­seen.

The cabin al­lows an un­ob­structed view to the im­ple­ments on both sides, and a sin­gle-piece front wind­screen run­ning right down to the floor fur­ther adds to the vis­i­bil­ity and pro­vides a gen­eral sense of space.

Four-point cabin sus­pen­sion com­pletely iso­lates the cabin from the chas­sis and, when com­bined with a heated and cooled sus­pen­sion seat, front axle sus­pen­sion, and vi­bra­tion damp­en­ing on both the front and rear link­age, the driver is pro­vided with com­plete com­fort in even the rough­est of con­di­tions.

The in­tel­li­gent front-axle sus­pen­sion clev­erly ad­justs it­self to keep the trac­tor level and elim­i­nate front droop un­der brak­ing.

I felt a sense of fa­mil­iar­ity through Claas’s use of the same cab lay­out across a va­ri­ety of its prod­ucts. The con­trols and po­si­tion­ing of the mon­i­tor in the arm­rest are the same as that found in the Ax­ion 900 and Arion 600 and 500 se­ries. The CMOTION mul­ti­func­tion con­trol lever can also be found in Claas har­vesters.

Ac­cord­ing to Claas Trac­tors group prod­uct man­ager Dave Knowles, Claas has gone to great lengths to stan­dard­ise the con­trol struc­ture so that drivers can jump from one Claas ma­chine to the next and im­me­di­ately feel at home be­hind the wheel.

De­spite hous­ing al­most all of the op­er­at­ing con­trols, the arm­rest con­trol unit didn’t feel clut­tered. The PTO speed se­lec­tion but­tons

and rear link­age set­ting con­trols are lo­cated on the rear right cabin pil­lar at about shoul­der height.

THE BOT­TOM LINE

In the cur­rent fi­nan­cial cli­mate, farm­ers need a trac­tor that can be used for a va­ri­ety of jobs, not just task-ori­ented ones.

In Europe, each im­ple­ment has its des­ig­nated trac­tor. But here in Aus­tralia, we need the trac­tor to be do­ing as many hours as pos­si­ble to make them – and farm­ing – vi­able.

The 295hp Claas Ax­ion 870 is a good ex­am­ple of max­imis­ing ef­fi­ciency and, there­fore, cost sav­ing. At the start of the year it can be the heavy haul­ing trac­tor used for cul­ti­va­tion and sow­ing du­ties. At a touch over nine tonnes it will be more than ca­pa­ble of han­dling a high-vol­ume spray rig through­out the grow­ing sea­son.

Come hay and si­lage time, a set of triple mow­ers could be op­er­ated and, with the amount of power it’s got, it could run in PTO econ­omy mode to save on fuel.

This is where the op­por­tu­nity arises for a mas­sive re­duc­tion in costs, be­cause one trac­tor, mower and driver com­bi­na­tion is tak­ing the place of three sep­a­rate units.

Af­ter a reg­u­la­tion ser­vice, it could then take over the bal­ing du­ties or haul­ing the si­lage loader wagon. Drag­ging around one of those huge chaser bins in pur­suit of to­day’s hun­gry head­ers would be a fit­ting way to fin­ish off the year.

What I’m get­ting at is that I reckon this is a trac­tor that could vir­tu­ally do it all. And, with the aid of a full auto-steer pack­age and the new S10 guid­ance and head­land man­age­ment sys­tem, you can just sit back and en­joy the ride.

Pho­tos by Andrew Brit­ten

1. A 6m-wide Cir­rus all-in-one sow­ing unit of­fered lit­tle re­sis­tance to the new Claas Ax­ion 870 trac­tor

2. Claas places a lot of em­pha­sis on hav­ing a stan­dard­ised con­trol lay­out so that ev­ery driver im­me­di­ately feels at home in the cabin 3. Reg­u­larly used func­tions on the CMOTION mul­ti­func­tion con­trol lever are op­er­ated us­ing your thumb and fore­fin­gers, allowing your hand to stay in the same place for the ma­jor­ity of the time to min­imise fa­tigue 4. Ex­ter­nal con­trols for the rear link­age, PTO

and one se­lectable spool valve

5. There’s a 455-litre diesel tank with in­te­grated

42-litre AdBlue tank

6. At 295hp, the Ax­ion 870 has the power and ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity to take on vir­tu­ally any job on the farm

7. The air fil­ter is po­si­tioned in an ac­ces­si­ble lo­ca­tion in the cool zone in front of the ra­di­a­tor pan­els so there are no ob­sta­cles to re­mov­ing it for reg­u­lar clean­ing

8. It’s not hard to find a comfy po­si­tion with the fully ad­justable air sus­pen­sion seat and steer­ing col­umn

9. The diesel ox­i­da­tion cat­alytic con­verter (DOC) is po­si­tioned un­der the bon­net and im­me­di­ately be­hind the tur­bocharger be­cause it needs high ex­haust tem­per­a­tures to pro­duce an op­ti­mum re­ac­tion

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