Removing and reattaching tine arms to reduce transport height can be a time consuming exercise, one which is affecting the ever increasing size of modern rakes. To get around this, several manufacturers have come up with quick height-reducing solutions. James Rickard tries out the new Vicon 904 Hydro.
Hydraulic cylinders allow the complete machine to be lowered for transport.
Joining the ever growing trend towards larger working width twin rotor rakes, last year saw Vicon replace its Andex 844 model with a new machine, the Andex 904 Hydro.
Designed with restrictive transport limitations in mind, the new 904 gets around height limits by hydraulically lowing itself by 400mm via rams on the machine’s rear wheels. In combination with the rear wheels, the towing tractor’s link arms can also be lowered to reduce the rake’s overall transport height to under 4m - importantly, without the need to remove any tine arms. Other benefits include a lower centre of gravity for transport, and in theory, a more stable machine on the road.
So with transport limitations seemingly solved, how does it perform in-field?
The 904 features two 3.85m diameter rotors, with 14 tine arms per rotor.
Working width can be adjusted from 8m to 9m, and swath width from 1.2m to 2.2m proportional to working width.
It also comes equipped with a heavy duty, maintenance free gearbox and a revised cam track design, said to produce a more uniform swath.
Once the main chassis beam has been put into work position, levelled up and the rotors folded down, it is then a simple case of manually adjusting the working height of the rotors to match conditions.
This is done via crank handle on each rotor, although confusingly, the decals which tell you how high the rotors are set at are positioned on the opposite side of the rotor to which you are standing.
Also, there is nothing to tell you which way to wind. It is a case of suck it and see.
To follow contours, standard rotor bogies include the firm’s TerraLink Quattro system which sees wheels arranged in a triangular pattern, with twin castor wheels leading (affecting pitch) and two wheels set wide apart (affecting tilt). All wheels are positioned as close as possible to the rotor’s tines for maximum contour following accuracy.
As an option you can specify a bogie with three pairs of castor wheels. As we found though, the standard bogie arrangement did a decent job of terrain following, even at higher speeds.
To help rotor stability when raising and lowering, a spring system holds the head in place, avoiding uneven landing of the tines on the ground, reducing soil contamination.
Tine arms are also swept backwards for a faster lift of tines, which the firm says particularly helps in sticky, sugary crops.
A single hydraulic service is used to adjust swath/working width, raise and lower of rear wheels for transport, individual lifting of rotors and tandem lifting of rotors.
This is done using a control box to select what function the hydraulic service carries out, then activating that hydraulic service. For example, to adjust working width, select working width on the control box, then adjust using the hydraulic circuit.
During operation, and for the most part, twin lifting of rotors will be selected allowing you to lift both rotors at once. However, for working into triangles, where one rotor is required to be lifted first, a single rotor can be selected.
Even with hydraulic lifting of the rear wheels, rear wheel steering has not been sacrificed, controlled via a linkage from the headstock. The headstock also allows 80 degrees of steering angle to be made making for some decent agile headland turns.
If transport height is a limitation, then tine arms can also be removed which are held in place by lynch pins. For improved wear, fatter lynch pins are now used along with beefier locating lugs.
As a result of the updates, rotors run smooth and should be easier to maintain.
To reduce service time, the 904 uses oil immersed, maintenance-free gearbox rotor heads. In addition, a hardened dry-running cam track is also a feature.
Tine arms are also retained in the head via bolts, so should you have a fight with a tree, tine arms can be replaced without having to split the rotor head housing.
The standout feature of this rake has to be its hydraulically lowering party piece. It is a feature which should help, particularly when it comes to quickly changing from field to field during busy periods, saving downtime. It is certainly an interesting take on a way to reduce transport height.
In-field set-up is fairly simple, although a few more decals to give you a clue as to what the various functions are doing would not go a miss.
Similarly, operation is pretty straightforward, thanks to an intuitive control box to select various functions. It is pretty simple to use, but if you were working in a lot of odd shaped fields you could get fed up of constantly switching between which rotor to lift. If this was the case, then maybe an option whereby two hydraulic services could be used, one per rotor, might be a good idea.
Overall, get the settings right with this rake and you will be rewarded with a clean sweep and a neat swath. However, as we found, the rake could do with a bit more lift clearance as the rotors can catch some of the taller swaths.