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Market Reasearch for my Alt Energy Tractor Design

 
pollinator
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I keep having this issue where I need to move something ridiculously heavy and where pulleys and leverage are not practical. It has also crossed my mind that flipping the sod in my orchard would be helpful, but there is no way in [insert preferred name of the underworld here] that I'm going to do it with a spade. And by golly, an earth auger would be helpful for planting my several hundred trees. And then there are my neighbors that have to make hay for their cattle, and would love to do it at less cost, their margins already being slim and all. And then there's the guy who has his fields in the bottoms. He grows corn still despite the increased wet weather and repeated crop failures because he can't afford rice equipment. And I hear a lot of folks are fed up to the moon that they need a computer guy just to figure out some minor issue in their equipment.

So I came up with a few things.

1. A small tractor that runs on multiple fuels and turns on a dime, equivalent to 2 draft horses

2. a large tractor that runs on multiple fuels, with differential steering, and is like a team of 16 draft horses

Both tractors have extremely high fuel efficiency, and depending on what you want to power them with, can be used with any flammable liquid or gas by choosing what power kits you want. The design for a solid fuel kit is forthcoming. I just have to work out some bugs with the auto-feed. The engines will have magneto type small generators to run the lights, radios (CB and AM/FM), and pneumatic systems.

3. a new design of reaper for small grains that leaves a row of upright shocks to field dry

4. a small grains thresher and cleaner that runs off of the pto on either of the tractors

5. a corn and sunflower reaper-thresher-cleaner that runs off of ground contact

6. a sod flipper for people that want to start with a clean field but not a tilled one

7. a pto generator

8. a pto irrigation pump

9. a t-post driver-puller

10. a tree-planting auger-transplanter

11. a rice transplanter

12. a soggy ground seed drill with exchangeable parts for larger or smaller seeds and optional harrow or hilling kits

13. potato planter-hiller

14. Potato digger-bagger (digs potatoes, seperates them from the soil, grades them by size, and bags them up in one pass)

So, is there any demand for this or am I wasting my time? Ought I tell the mega-corp tractor manufacturers to go suck on a dirty potato, or ought I just stick to the 2 acre fruit operation? Let me know what you think.
 
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A T-post driver puller is my guess for the unit with most sales potential. The fact that I would like one is perhaps a factor..

I would start with whatever implement you find the most demand for. Not the tractors, too complicated, better to start smaller.
 
pollinator
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Hey, or is it hay Ryan,

Necessity is the mother.

There are generators that run on 3 different fuels.

What are you waiting for? Design away.
 
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for most of the small stuff you mentioned I would say the tuff bilt tractor people have the right idea:  https://www.tuff-bilt.com/tractors.html its a gas engine so power it with gas, propane, woodgas, e85... I don't know if they offer it in diesel...

or the Tillmor people if you are more production oriented:   https://www.tilmor.com/en-us

For bigboys its hard to beat the indian and chinese imports...
 
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Ryan,

You tossed off "So I came up with a few things." and followed it with an impressive list of machinery.

I'm confused though, whether you are designing to meet your own needs or aspire to break into the industry.  Either way, Go Ryan, Go!

Your conversation reminds me of a seminar I attended at Berea College several years ago on Open Source design.  Marcin Jakubowski made a presentation and the Ag Mechanics students committed to building a tractor.  I meant to check up on that project, but haven't yet.
 
Ryan Hobbs
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Thanks for the encouragement. I think I will make that t-post driver-puller first. I think the first production model will be for 3-point hitch and one of the standard pto sizes. The pto on my tractors is a sprocket for a rolling chain with a geared speed control and reversal. Also, my 3 point hitch works differently than the standard (but also doesn't leak all over the place because it isn't hydraulic).

David Baillie wrote:for most of the small stuff you mentioned I would say the tuff bilt tractor people have the right idea:  https://www.tuff-bilt.com/tractors.html its a gas engine so power it with gas, propane, woodgas, e85... I don't know if they offer it in diesel...

or the Tillmor people if you are more production oriented:   https://www.tilmor.com/en-us

For bigboys its hard to beat the indian and chinese imports...



My 2DHMF Traction Engine Model 1 is about the size of either of those tractors, but it is heavier and has more torque and doesn't look like a go cart. The 16DHMF Traction Engine Model 1 is a full size tractor. The smaller tractor would probably be about the same price as the tuff-bilt, but is a lot more flexible in its fuel options and the owner can fix it if they have the tools (which are commonly available). Just try fixing a drop in engine when you're not a mechanic and you will see the utility of easy access and common tooling. I have tried to fix brakes and radiators and fuel lines in the car, only to find out I needed a tool that cost a grand or was only available to dealers and then have to re-assemble the thing, still broken, and have it towed to a mechanic that could work on it. The larger would probably be about the same price as a 2019 full size Kubota, but like I said before, more powerful, flexible fuel options, and easy to repair. The price estimates assume that an acceptable economy of scale has been reached by mechanization of some processes, by distributed work load, and by bulk purchases of materials. Initially, they may well be more expensive because I have to make parts individually and assemble the things myself. The prototypes are going to be built mostly of scrap materials for less expense.  But I live close to 4 steel mills so sourcing is not an issue if demand takes off.
 
Ryan Hobbs
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Ruth Meyers wrote:Ryan,

You tossed off "So I came up with a few things." and followed it with an impressive list of machinery.

I'm confused though, whether you are designing to meet your own needs or aspire to break into the industry.  Either way, Go Ryan, Go!

Your conversation reminds me of a seminar I attended at Berea College several years ago on Open Source design.  Marcin Jakubowski made a presentation and the Ag Mechanics students committed to building a tractor.  I meant to check up on that project, but haven't yet.



I guess both?

I do mind if someone starts producing my exact tech for profit, but not if some dude makes himself a new piston because he loved my tractor so much he wore it out. So I guess it is partially Open Source, at least in repair. I also don't mind modifications. If I'm able to build a company from this set of designs, I might even have prizes for exceptional modifications to encourage it. If they post their mods on youtube, it would be free advertising for my tractors and lets them show off their genius. It's a win-win.
 
D Nikolls
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I have a hard time imagining an alternative PTO design succeeding commercially; there are sooo many implements and tractors out there for existing PTOs.

It would seem to me that it would have to be a *much* better mousetrap, given the incredible headstart the current gear has.. What benefits are you aiming for, vs the standard shaft-driven pto setups?


On the tractors, are you picturing needing to deal with emissions regulations, or finding a workaround..?


Are you thinking rapid jack-hammer style t-post driver, or more conventional post-pounder type gravity/spring driven big fricking hammerblow? Or...?


Interested to see where this list goes!
 
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Ryan Hobbs wrote:

14. Potato digger-bagger (digs potatoes, seperates them from the soil, grades them by size, and bags them up in one pass)


Good luck on that one! That will involve computers, cameras and all sorts of complicated tech and something too big to drag around a field.

First things to think about are..

1 does this not already exist in 2 wheel forms? Especially if you look in the Asian markets.
2 why will your version be better?
3 does anyone other than a very small group want an "alternative" powered tractor and where would one get such a thing serviced? (baring electric I can see a demand there)

I think maybe parts for existing 2 wheel tractors would probably do most of these jobs, and may or may not exist already.
 
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A small tractor that runs on multiple fuels and turns on a dime, equivalent to 2 draft horses



I think you may struggle competing here — my tractor (JCB 210S) fits both of these qualifications. It's diesel (+ biodiesel) powered and has 4-wheel steering. As a bonus, the backhoe even slides horizontally to maximize digging in tight spaces. Skid-steers also fit this bill, able to turn 360˚ without any forward movement.

Maintenance is always my struggle with heavy equipment. A small tractor that sees infrequent use always seems to eat up man-hours keeping up the fuel-related systems and batteries. I'd love something that didn't require such babying and could be started up every 6 months would be highly desirable (to me).
 
Ryan Hobbs
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D Nikolls wrote:I have a hard time imagining an alternative PTO design succeeding commercially; there are sooo many implements and tractors out there for existing PTOs.

It would seem to me that it would have to be a *much* better mousetrap, given the incredible headstart the current gear has.. What benefits are you aiming for, vs the standard shaft-driven pto setups?


On the tractors, are you picturing needing to deal with emissions regulations, or finding a workaround..?


Are you thinking rapid jack-hammer style t-post driver, or more conventional post-pounder type gravity/spring driven big fricking hammerblow? Or...?


Interested to see where this list goes!



The suspension systems don't allow for a drive shaft pto unless I find a way to make it very flexible, but even doing that, there would be power loss. Also, with the sprocket and chain, I can change gears on the pto output and reverse the direction. It works similarly to a manual gear shift on a car. I might change that though if I can figure out a way to turn the chain drive 90 deg and have it drive a stumpy pto shaft.

I'm trying to find a workaround first. I'm not sure that external combustion engines would have the same rules as internal combustion engines. This is the factor that allows for literally any fuel with only a change in burner and fuel feed.

Rapid trip hammer and ratcheting leverage puller. There is a magazine for t-posts and you never have to leave the tractor seat. Nothing on this earth will put up a fence or take it down faster than this for this price point. There is an optional fence wire spool and stretcher made to fit Red Brand and Gaucho wire. Someone on the ground has to apply the wire clips, but that's a small price to pay to put up 800 ft of fence in one pass on one afternoon.
 
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We might not be at this point yet, but the common energy currency we're looking for is probably electricity.

The major downside to diesel and biodiesel traction is that you need to keep it running the whole day long just to keep it in efficient operational condition. That's one of the reasons that soundproofed cabins are a big deal on larger equipment. And hearing protection.

Electric motors, though, don't need to rev up to get the torque you want for certain stationary applications. When you want it, you flick it on, and the motors do their thing. When you're done with it, they shut off, ready to go at an instant's notice.

I think accessories that have their own on-board electric motors, purpose-designed for what that implement does, would be the best option. No giant PTO roaring away, literally sitting idle until a tiny burst of power is required.

Also, an electric tractor could have wheel-hub motors, and strategically located battery banks, for weight distribution resulting in a really low centre of gravity.

This doesn't sound a lot like what you're proposing, Ryan, but it actually might be more flexible than what you're looking at with the three or more interchangeable fuel sources. You can, in fact, use all those fuel sources and more. Instead of building the energy production into your tractor, though, you build another stationary accessory that holds and charges one whole set of tractor battery packs, maybe more, and possibly the accessory battery packs, too. You can even give it a modicum of mobility to go out and reach tools that have perhaps stalled.

And you could design it to take all the fuels the tractor might, but as it's a generator, those fuels are only combusted in an engine running at peak efficiency for the generation of energy, without changes in load. And you might already have solar on-site, so you could use that. Or you might generate electricity some other way. Or you might have a giant battery wall of second-hand EV batteries that charge during the off-peak times for use during peak times.

Honestly, I love the idea of a wood gas pyroliser powering my traction and generating activated charcoal for biochar production, but I don't want to carry a cargo-container-sized retort on a wagon behind my tractor to do it. And to be able to have on-demand torque without the noise and vibration of a diesel, or even a gas, engine, would probably appeal to many on the homestead-end of things.

-CK
 
Ryan Hobbs
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Skandi Rogers wrote:

Ryan Hobbs wrote:

14. Potato digger-bagger (digs potatoes, seperates them from the soil, grades them by size, and bags them up in one pass)


Good luck on that one! That will involve computers, cameras and all sorts of complicated tech and something too big to drag around a field.

First things to think about are..

1 does this not already exist in 2 wheel forms? Especially if you look in the Asian markets.
2 why will your version be better?
3 does anyone other than a very small group want an "alternative" powered tractor and where would one get such a thing serviced? (baring electric I can see a demand there)

I think maybe parts for existing 2 wheel tractors would probably do most of these jobs, and may or may not exist already.



The potato digger-bagger is entirely mechanical. It is based on several public domain designs from the 1870s. It is about the width of the large tractor's wheel base, and is actually rather compact. It does leave some dirt on the spuds, but it's not meant to wash them anyways, most potato farms sell their dirty potatoes as-is to a packaging plant that washes them. But with the potatoes pre-sorted, they can ask for better prices from the middle-men for say, the little fingerlings or steamers. They can reserve the mediums for seed potatoes, and the big ones can get sold as bakers.

1 no
2 better than literally everything else on the market? Ease of repair by owner, can be run on any flammable fuel, has more power for its size than any other current model by the big manufacturers, massive savings in fuel cost, runs quietly, has seating for 2 but is driven by one so your SO can ride along, etc...
3 Fuel prices just keep going up, having a flexible fuel option is a huge savings. You can buy whatever is cheap, or run it on crop residues, or wood, or paper, or used fryer grease. You can service it yourself. It will come with a repair manual, tool kit, and parts list. The engine is dead simple. The suspension and drive are more complicated, but can be fixed by nearly any mechanic whether they work on tractors usually or not. They just need a suitable lift. So, for the big tractor you need a lift that can pick up a semi. But for the small one, a regular work-truck lift will do. But I kind of doubt the suspension will give you trouble. I designed it to be over-built for the weight and stress and the wheels are all independently suspended using the same method as US tank retrieval trucks (but a different design that clears the patent law hurdle).
 
Ryan Hobbs
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Chris Kott wrote:We might not be at this point yet, but the common energy currency we're looking for is probably electricity.

The major downside to diesel and biodiesel traction is that you need to keep it running the whole day long just to keep it in efficient operational condition. That's one of the reasons that soundproofed cabins are a big deal on larger equipment. And hearing protection.

Electric motors, though, don't need to rev up to get the torque you want for certain stationary applications. When you want it, you flick it on, and the motors do their thing. When you're done with it, they shut off, ready to go at an instant's notice.

I think accessories that have their own on-board electric motors, purpose-designed for what that implement does, would be the best option. No giant PTO roaring away, literally sitting idle until a tiny burst of power is required.

Also, an electric tractor could have wheel-hub motors, and strategically located battery banks, for weight distribution resulting in a really low centre of gravity.

This doesn't sound a lot like what you're proposing, Ryan, but it actually might be more flexible than what you're looking at with the three or more interchangeable fuel sources. You can, in fact, use all those fuel sources and more. Instead of building the energy production into your tractor, though, you build another stationary accessory that holds and charges one whole set of tractor battery packs, maybe more, and possibly the accessory battery packs, too. You can even give it a modicum of mobility to go out and reach tools that have perhaps stalled.

And you could design it to take all the fuels the tractor might, but as it's a generator, those fuels are only combusted in an engine running at peak efficiency for the generation of energy, without changes in load. And you might already have solar on-site, so you could use that. Or you might generate electricity some other way. Or you might have a giant battery wall of second-hand EV batteries that charge during the off-peak times for use during peak times.

Honestly, I love the idea of a wood gas pyroliser powering my traction and generating activated charcoal for biochar production, but I don't want to carry a cargo-container-sized retort on a wagon behind my tractor to do it. And to be able to have on-demand torque without the noise and vibration of a diesel, or even a gas, engine, would probably appeal to many on the homestead-end of things.

-CK



It's not a pyrolyser. It burns the fuel completely using forced air. You could make it produce biochar by restricting airflow, but then it won't auto-feed or power the engine properly. All burning carbon based things produce CO2 and CO. So all carbon based burning things can be used as fuel as long as you get it into the right place at the right time and then have a way to remove them when spent.
 
Chris Kott
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That's awesome. But it does put me in mind of those ancient printer/scanner/copier/fax combo jobs of yesteryear. How much bulk is going to be built into these things just to add that functionality, and will that bulk impede functionality in other ways? Also, how does the complexity of multiple fuels affect failure conditions, both mechanical and those likely to be caused by human error?

-CK

 
Ryan Hobbs
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Chris Kott wrote:That's awesome. But it does put me in mind of those ancient printer/scanner/copier/fax combo jobs of yesteryear. How much bulk is going to be built into these things just to add that functionality, and will that bulk impede functionality in other ways? Also, how does the complexity of multiple fuels affect failure conditions, both mechanical and those likely to be caused by human error?

-CK



They don't come with all the fuel kits, you can choose 1 as you wish to come with it (solid, liquid, or gas). And removing one kit will make room for another. It is a modular system. The solid fuel kit is the bulkiest, because solid fuel is not a fluid that can go through narrow tubes. But it doesn't impede use any more than the others unless you're dead-set on having a passenger. The solid kit also has a pto-driven mill that pulverizes and compresses whatever solid fuel you want to use in record time. You can toss logs into it and they come out as fuel nuggets. Theoretically, you could use a mixture of different solids to make the nuggets: such as coal, char, hay, straw, wood logs, branches, paper, hemp, corn stalks, yard waste, peanut shells, empty bean pods, chaff from grains, old seed catalogues, etc...
 
David Baillie
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Ryan Hobbs wrote:

Chris Kott wrote:That's awesome. But it does put me in mind of those ancient printer/scanner/copier/fax combo jobs of yesteryear. How much bulk is going to be built into these things just to add that functionality, and will that bulk impede functionality in other ways? Also, how does the complexity of multiple fuels affect failure conditions, both mechanical and those likely to be caused by human error?

-CK



They don't come with all the fuel kits, you can choose 1 as you wish to come with it (solid, liquid, or gas). And removing one kit will make room for another. It is a modular system. The solid fuel kit is the bulkiest, because solid fuel is not a fluid that can go through narrow tubes. But it doesn't impede use any more than the others unless you're dead-set on having a passenger. The solid kit also has a pto-driven mill that pulverizes and compresses whatever solid fuel you want to use in record time. You can toss logs into it and they come out as fuel nuggets. Theoretically, you could use a mixture of different solids to make the nuggets: such as coal, char, hay, straw, wood logs, branches, paper, hemp, corn stalks, yard waste, peanut shells, empty bean pods, chaff from grains, old seed catalogues, etc...

Ryan it the solid fuel option tested and out there? I would love to see some links to what you have done so far. I am heavily involved in charcoal gasification and am always interested in a better mousetrap...
Cheers,  David
 
D Nikolls
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Ryan Hobbs wrote:

D Nikolls wrote:I have a hard time imagining an alternative PTO design succeeding commercially; there are sooo many implements and tractors out there for existing PTOs.

It would seem to me that it would have to be a *much* better mousetrap, given the incredible headstart the current gear has.. What benefits are you aiming for, vs the standard shaft-driven pto setups?


On the tractors, are you picturing needing to deal with emissions regulations, or finding a workaround..?


Are you thinking rapid jack-hammer style t-post driver, or more conventional post-pounder type gravity/spring driven big fricking hammerblow? Or...?


Interested to see where this list goes!



The suspension systems don't allow for a drive shaft pto unless I find a way to make it very flexible, but even doing that, there would be power loss. Also, with the sprocket and chain, I can change gears on the pto output and reverse the direction. It works similarly to a manual gear shift on a car. I might change that though if I can figure out a way to turn the chain drive 90 deg and have it drive a stumpy pto shaft.

I'm trying to find a workaround first. I'm not sure that external combustion engines would have the same rules as internal combustion engines. This is the factor that allows for literally any fuel with only a change in burner and fuel feed.

Rapid trip hammer and ratcheting leverage puller. There is a magazine for t-posts and you never have to leave the tractor seat. Nothing on this earth will put up a fence or take it down faster than this for this price point. There is an optional fence wire spool and stretcher made to fit Red Brand and Gaucho wire. Someone on the ground has to apply the wire clips, but that's a small price to pay to put up 800 ft of fence in one pass on one afternoon.



I would definitely enjoy gearing options on my PTO, as is common on some of the grey market japanese stuff.

I am no engineer, but intercompatibility with existing gear seems very important indeed. And, a chain drive is not a thing I would want to have involved when haying, brush-cutting, etc; too much opportunity for suboptimal interactions.

With no mental image of your envisioned setup, I will abstain from offering any suggestions rooted in ignorance!

--

Hm. Certainly worth a shot, or perhaps selling in some sort of kit form would be a way around, at least at first? I would assume any large scale success will likely end up involving regulations, but.. also that they could be a dealbreaker if trying to start small and scale up..

--
Mag fed sounds very nice!

Will it play nice with 10ft heavy-duty T-posts? How about pipe for corner posts?

Getting the post vertical and in line is as much fuss as driving, any plans on that front?
 
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