Since 1970, PMC Harvesters have been manufacturing machines for agriculture. The company, operating from Fakenham, England, is part of the Ploeger Oxbo Group and specialises in the manufacture of potato harvesters, pea and broad bean harvesters, soya harvesters and detasslers, which are world-renowned for their efficiency and reliability.
As a brand, perhaps one of PMC Harvester’s main appeals lies in its embrace of new technology. New machines boast hydrostatic transmissions for efficient hydraulic agitation. Furthermore, new manufacturing techniques and processes are being utilised to make the machines. This constant strive for innovation is what makes PMC Harvesters unique.
PMC Harvesters are always looking for new ways to improve their production cycle. Their engineers wanted to reduce the costs of machining certain parts for their vehicles. They decided to kick-start that with the construction of the Oxbo 5170 detassler, of which engineer Paul Wooding was tasked. Having had previous experience with 3D printing, Paul decided to incorporate 3D printing into the process to manufacture durable, end-use parts.
A detassler removes the pollen-producing flower from the top of corn, and precisely tracks the varying height of plants. To achieve this, the Oxbo 5170 had to have an adjustable suspension. Changes in the suspension are measured by sensors, and it is the casings for those sensors that were to be manufactured with 3D printing.
For this, Paul chose the Zortrax M200 3D printer and Z-ULTRAT filament.
The Oxbo 5170 detassler is a heavy-duty machine that is expected to meet the demands of farmers. The sensors that measure the changes in the suspension are located on the outside of the 5170, so they needed reliable protection. Z-ULTRAT was chosen for the 3D printing material, because it has a high hardness level and a low level of deformation.
Initial designs for the casings went through careful testing. CAD drawings were created for several prototypes, before the best design was found. In total, seven 3D printed parts were needed: 4 suspension sensor holders, an angle sensor holder, a width indicator and speaker holder. All were made on Zortrax M200, and printed with Z-ULTRAT.
All seven of the 3D printed parts were installed on the Oxbo 5170 detassler, and all seven of them passed their tests. The Zortrax M200 was present throughout the design and manufacturing stages. The material used, Z-ULTRAT, performed perfectly in tests, providing an excellent level of protection. Paul doesn’t even have to process the parts overly much afterwards – all that’s needed is a little sanding. Of course, the supports need to be removed too!
Now, Paul uses the Zortrax M200 to manufacture the casings for Oxbo 5170 models, with savings made on development and manufacturing costs. For instance, manufacturing a casing through machining would cost $265, but 3D printing that same part costs just $75. Due to this, PMC Harvesters will likely look to 3D printing to manufacture new casings in the future.
To find out more about how PMC Harvesters is utilising 3D printing in their manufacturing efforts, read the original case study on the Zortrax website.