Hoses for Harvesting: Interview

Known as the breadbasket of the world, Brazil has a prominent role of providing varied types of food to global markets. The roughly 106,000,000 hectares of fertile undeveloped land, and amiable weather, has allowed Brazil to become the world’s largest exporter of coffee, soybeans, beef, and crop-based ethanol. With an average of 720 million tons of sugar produced per year, the country’s primary agricultural focus is on the production of sugar. While the country has a natural proclivity to produce an abundance of crops, Brazil owes much of its agrarian success to its investment in innovative agriculture based applications and technology. When considering the success of its sugar production specifically, much of the credit can be given to the quality equipment that is used for planting, irrigation and harvesting these crops.

Hose + Coupling World recently had the opportunity to speak with Marketing Director, Silvio Campos and Product Specialist Engineer Fabio Silva, from for CASE HI Agriculture, about the type of equipment required to harvest abrasive crops, such as sugarcane, as well as the types of hoses these applications require.

By João Carlos Vitorino and Angelica Pajkovic

Reaping Sugarcane

A wide variety of hose types are used in the production of sugarcane. From the moment the crop is planted until the time it is harvested, agricultural discharge hoses, suction hoses and fertilizer hoses are used to rear, fertilize, and irrigate the crops. Once the sugarcane is ready for harvest, however, an entirely different type of hose becomes essential; hydraulic hoses.

Figure 1: Sugarcane harvester in field.

Unlike other types of crops, that require roughly 300 hours of labor per year for harvest, sugarcane requires an average of 4,000 hours per year to reap the cane. In order to accomplish this task, hydraulic hose powered harvesting machines are used, see Figure 1. The mechanics of harvesting machines vary based on their intended application, and require highly robust internal components, such as high pressure hoses and highly reliable couplings that can withstand the most diverse types of environments; such as excessive heat and continuous uninterrupted work regimes.

To account for the harshness of the environment in which these applications are operating, manufacturers of harvesting equipment, such as CASE IH, invest in technology and the quality of its products. “Agricultural environments, such as a sugarcane field, require equipment with strict specifications and quality control. We therefore have ‘a beast’ composed of motors, hoses, and all kind of hydraulics that is used to harvest the crops,” said Campos. “The selection and acquisition of the components that make up the harvesting machine are fundamental to guarantee durability in the most diverse work environments.”

Hoses for Harvesting

A typical sugarcane harvesting machine operates all of its components using a hydraulic engine or pump. “There are essentially four large pumps which distribute hydraulic fluid along the harvest machine,” explained Silva. “There is one main circuit at the front of the machine, one in the middle, and a third system that runs the rear, each distributing hydraulic fluid through hoses to move various parts of the machine.” The schematic 3D model, Figure 2, shows the entire ramification of the hydraulic system. It highlights where the hoses and couplings interconnect with the four main hydraulic pumps, Figure 4. These hoses and pumps work in tandem with actuators and hydraulic motors to provide the different parts of the harvester with the necessary power and mobility.

Figure 2: Harvester schematic hydraulic circuit.

The hoses used for the high-pressure circuits and low pressure circuits on the machine are determined based on the environmental or regional conditions of the area that is being harvested. “We use a variety of hose classes, including hoses that have abrasion resistant cover options, flexibility, and a wide range of working pressures, such as 100R3, 100R17, 100R12, and 100R15. They are constructed with an oil-resistant and reinforced synthetic rubber tube, that uses high-strength textile braid or braided steel wires, and are more robust than other industrial hoses,” said Silva. All hydraulic hoses used for these applications are equipped with the latest Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) J517 and J30 standards, must comply with the SAE J516 and J518 standards and have a minimum bend radius of 1/2 SAE.

Preventative Maintenance

Unless a hose leaks due to damage caused by abrasive particles or perforation, there is no reason to replace it. Preventative checks on the hoses and couplings of the motors and hydraulic pumps must always be respected; some recommendations suggest every 500 to 1,500 hour as established in the manufacturer’s manual. In an effort to reduce the risk of downtime or equipment malfunction however, Campo suggests looking for wears, leakage, or damage to the hoses on a daily basis, as a form of preventative maintenance. “Although we do our best to avoid wears, by establishing correct routings and selecting suitable materials, the mill’s harsh environment often makes it unavoidable,” expressed Campos.

Figure 3: Example of uninterrupted work, start of the night shift.

While abrasion between the hoses caused by friction in normal work operations is the main cause of wear, other factors including weather, dust and changing temperatures can lead to a shortened lifecycle. Ensuring the best specification of materials, as well as the choice of hose and coupling suppliers is therefore a constant focus for both Campos and Silva.

Testing and Validation

As the agrarian conditions in Brazil are particularly difficult, when compared to many other large food producing countries, it is the ideal place for validation tests of the various components of agricultural equipment. “A common practice of ours is to run a number of different validation tests, called missions, on our hoses,” explained Campos. “We choose the toughest parts and expose them to the toughest conditions. If the hose, or any other component, can run in this condition, it can run in any other condition,” added Silva. By performing these types of tests on the harvesters, Campos and Silva can determine the needs of various hoses that experience a wide range of conditions, and take these needs to their engineering team, who transform them into product specifications and product improvements. It is these improvements that allow for the proper function of the dynamic harvesting systems.

Figure 4: Hydraulic Pumps.

End Note

Although a number of agricultural hoses are used in the production of sugarcane, the final product would not be obtainable without the aid of innovative equipment used to cut and collect the crops. The hydraulic hoses that provide power and mobility to that equipment, are therefore an essential part of the production process.