Edited by: Mike Santora • Associate Editor
When Blueline Manufacturing Company sought to enable its blueberry harvester to reduce harvest loss by up to 50%, the company looked to Eaton for a custom hydraulic system. The goal was to develop a new blueberry harvester that would improve driver ergonomics and reduce waste. The machine was to feature a custom harvesting system that removes berries from plants and reduces the amount of berries dropping on the ground, increasing farmers’ bottom lines.
The new harvesting machine included a complete hydraulic system, featuring DuraForce pumps and piston motors for propulsion, a compact X20 420 series open-loop piston with gear pump, and hydraulic
integrated circuit (HIC) manifold for steering, conveyor and fan functions. Additionally, to ensure the harvesting machine remains level, an auto-leveling feature was added as well as an auto-steering assist system. Creating a new hydraulic system with this level of detail was not without its challenges though.
The lead time to build the prototype harvester was severely constrained. Among other challenges, designers needed to program the complete system for end-customer functionality. In addition, they had to configure the sensor selection with high enough resolution to control Auto Leveling and Auto Steering Assist features. Modifying the original design was necessary to program the steering of two independent wheels.
Additionally, Eaton’s Pro-FX Electronic Controls and Software allow harvester operators to take control of every system function from one screen.
“Eaton and Spencer Fluid Power developed the hydraulic system for a fully electronic Blueline machine that reduced harvest losses by 50% on its proof of concept test,” said Gregg Marrs, president, Blueline Manufacturing Company.
Traction control and four-wheel drive were added into the design—allowing operators to maintain proper grip through inclement conditions. The machine includes electronic steering and a fully consolidated hydraulics system with fan controls that are also operable from the touch of one screen.
“By uniting electrical and hydraulic solutions we were able to develop a complete hydraulic system incorporating a broad range of products,” said Patrick Nolan, area sales manager, Eaton. “With our full line, including DuraForce, Pro-FX electronic controls and software, and the X20 series, the design team responded quickly, providing a system that delivers immediate results.”