Turbodrum solves crop feeding problems

22 Jan, 2017 02:00 AM
Phillbourne Merredin principal Laurie Phillips rolls out another Turbodrum from his factory.
Phillbourne Merredin principal Laurie Phillips rolls out another Turbodrum from his factory.

IT'S the classic farmer-led product.

When Esperance farmer and iPaddock founder Mic Fels reached a level of frustration with his draper front, direct heading canola and lupins, he called Merredin manufacturer Laurie Phillips, Phillbourne, and asked him if he could make a better feed drum.

It had to be easily retro-fitted to his draper and built as simple and as strong as possible.

Blocks and jams and downtime with bent crank shafts and cracking end plates, plagued Mic's harvesting attempts in bulky canola and lupins crops.

When Laurie heard Mic describe the feed drum's performance he instinctively understood the problem.

"I knew it was not strong enough for Australian conditions," he said.

Between Mic's ideas on how to improve the feeding performance, and Laurie's experience making bullet-proof pickup fronts, the two developed and then refined their own version of a feed drum to suit Mic's Macdon fronts.

Enter the Turbodrum, which sees a smaller diameter barrel, larger flighting, more aggressive fingers and a beefier crankshaft and bearings, as used in Laurie's Rollerdown swath pick-up.

"We designed it as a plug-out and plug-in feed drum that delivers the crop into the feeder house, so it's easy to take out the existing drum and replace it with the Turbodrum," Laurie said.

"I think this is the solution that farmers are looking for because many are turning back to tin fronts purely because of the problems draper fronts have taking in broadleaf crops."

Mic agrees saying it's the proverbial chalk and cheese comparison between the original feed drum on his draper front and the Turbodrum.

"The standard feed drum works okay in normal cereals, but it is like a sewing machine when you look inside," he said.

"We have lost so much time with clutch failures, bent crankshafts and broken components, and every time it fails you have to completely remove it to fix it again," Mic said. "Nobody wants to do it.

"My main reason for redesigning the feed drum though, was the trouble we used to have direct-heading canola with our drapers.

"When it's hot and dry the crop moves to the middle of the front and then just sits there, until the feed drum finally grabs it and pulls it all through at once.

"It's too smooth to grab the crop, and when it does there is not enough room underneath it to fit it all through.

"All that blocking and reversing sooner or later leads to breakdowns right through the whole machine. "Even worse, crop losses go through the roof as soon as the crop hesitates on the front, and this one component has given draper fronts a bit of a bad name in canola.

"Our top speed in canola was usually 7 or 8 km/h, but the headers will handle up to twice that speed if only we could get it in the front.

"I know some people who can't get over 3 or 4 km/h in some areas. I would have to stop at the ends and scream if that was me.

"Getting a new CLAAS header with a Vario front last year opened my eyes to how much productivity we were losing crawling along with the draper fronts on our older headers.

"It's no good paying for a Class 9 header, and driving it like a Class 4.

"We made a heap of incremental changes when we designed the Turbodrum, with the aim of delivering the crop to the header in a smooth continuous flow instead of in big lumps.

"I know I shouldn't admit to being surprised, but I couldn't believe how much better it was than our unmodified Macdon front, especially in canola.

"The Turbodrum was keeping up with our Vario front, even on wheel tracks which normally do your head in."

Hearing of Mic's success, other farmers followed suit to claim a unit from a limited production run, and it wasn't long before orders were coming through as fast as Laurie could build them.

Two "spec" units sent to New South Wales were snapped up during the late harvest in that State.

"From the farmer reaction I've had, I think this is going to be a winner because we are heading towards general demand in several States," Laurie said.

To keep the sale price as low as possible, Mic and Laurie are experimenting with online sales through the turbodrum.com.au website, and are hoping that a big discount and free freight for early orders will avoid being unable to keep up with a surge of orders leading into next harvest.

Ken Wilson

Ken Wilson

is Farm Weekly's machinery writer


Screen name *
Email address *
Remember me?
Comment *


light grey arrow
Rusty...A shearing shed on a small place, might be used a week to five each year. 50 years down
light grey arrow
No varieties of barley left in WA suitable for Craft Beer production and little research. Craft
light grey arrow
We farm at Beacon we had no rain last time .Since the 1st of Jan.we have recorded 45 mm ,6mm