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Controlling Systems in Farm Equipment
Attempting to simplify and bring the controls of a large tractor into the 21st century

Hey everyone!

First off, I'm not 100% sure what my boss's policy is on discussing business on an open forum, so I apologize in advance if I am somewhat vague on some details (Not because we do anything top secret or high tech, I just haven't brought any of this up with him yet). This company is quite small and I'm the only person there who has any background in automation languages, which isn't saying much. My degree is in manufacturing, and I have taken a class that spent half the semester discussing PLCs/ladder logic and the other half in V+/robotics, but I am, by no means, comfortable taking on a project like this without help.

The company I work for builds farm equipment. We build one type of vehicle from the ground up. It's powered by a Cummins 6.7/Allison powertrain and has standard features that you'd find on an offroad vehicle (HVAC, CB radio, stereo, interior and exterior lights, etc) along with an added hydraulic system attached to a pair of augers. Currently, the powertrain is integrated with a control system specifically built for this kind of tractor, but the auxiliary systems are controlled with manual relays, switches, and lights.

I'd really like to propose updating the electrical systems of our tractors that are beginning production in Q2 of next year. So I guess my question comes down to, what are my options here? Is there a way to easily control multiple systems on one user-friendly output device (similar to the touch screen of a automobile)?. Should I try to keep it more simple, where I can just control how warning lights/buzzers and switches work together, maybe off one PLC?

Thanks in advance!!

By Bob Peterson on 5 September, 2017 - 1:01 pm

A PLC and operator interface of some sort that are commercially available would probably work adequately, depending on what it is you actually need.

I think your time frame is unrealistic. By the time everyone involves buys into the idea and you hire someone to do the work for you and get a design and a prototype and then test it, it will more likely be Q2 of 2019.

I would want something that has the ability to communicate with the likely proprietary control system that is already there.

A lot depends on just how many of these you want to make. It is tough to justify a lot of money on development and testing for something that will never have a pay back. You also have to consider how you will train the service techs to deal with this new wrinkle.

Personally, I think your best bet might be a unit that has a touchscreen and PLC integrated into the same device. There are a bunch of such devices on the market. You can probably get one made with your logo on it.

By Jeremy Pollard on 6 September, 2017 - 8:54 am

I would talk to Terry Divelbiss - they specialize in devices and software for mobile equipment

Cheers from: Jeremy Pollard, CET The Caring Canuckian! Crisis, necessity, change

Integrator, Educator, Consulting, Columnist - Control Design