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Profi article: Poetry in HARDI's Motion

29 juin 2015
HARDI ALPHA evo EcoDrive

Reprint from Profi The Farm Machinery Magazine (June 2015) - by Mervyn Bailey
 

We last looked at the HARDI ALPHA self-propelled sprayer in 2004, and there are now over 20 of these machines operating in the UK. But just like time, technology marches on. With this in mind HARDI has recently transferred many of its top-end trailed Commander features across to the updated ALPHA


When it comes to mounted and trailed sprayers HARDI has always been a major UK player. Perhaps surprisingly, though, it has never enjoyed the same level of success with its self-propelled machine, the ALPHA, which is built at the HARDI-Evrard plant in Northern France from where more than 200 self-propelleds roll off the line every year. Like other HARDI products the self-propelled remains separate from other members of the Excel Industries family such as Berthoud and Tecnoma; these brands share the skid unit but then add their own design of spray pack.


 
evoCab

Big changes came to the ALPHA back in 2011 when it gained a larger and much improved cab, with a hinged rather than sliding door: appropriately, evo stands for Ergonomics, Visibility and Optimisation. In the following years, however, the HARDI designers haven’t simply been sitting around sipping wine and munching on garlic. Oh no. In reality, they’ve been steadily refining the ALPHA package, with the latest spec changes applying, in the main, to the transmission and drive units. In addition, HARDI has adopted the DynamicFluid4 system that was introduced on the COMMANDER in 2013. HARDI sticks with an engine, cab then spray pack configuration, which it says gives an ideal weight distribution between front and rear axles. The front engine layout also provides more direct access to the engine bay as you don’t have to clamber in between cab and tank to carry out a service.


Providing the grunt is a Stage IIIB, 180kW/ 245hp Deutz six-pot motor sitting in a ladder chassis. The rear-hinged bonnet is raised using a manual hydraulic pump — something you need to be aware of if you want to top up the windscreen washer bottle. The righthand side panel is popped off to reach the engine oil dipstick. One oversight is the lack of a sight gauge on the steel construction coolant tank. The front rad on the cooling pack can hinge to the side for cleaning, but you have to undo a couple of bolts first. Despite these engine bay shortcomings, the rest of the machine is better laid out.

 
ALPHA evo superb visibility

Take, for example, the ALPHA’s spacious cab from where visibility is superb out to the sides and especially to the rear thanks to those large, curved windows. A high seating position and sloping bonnet combine to offer a good view to the front, too. And things get even better, because the HC9500 display can be used to present images from a maximum of up to four cameras.


Staying with HARDI’s touch-screen HC9500 display for a moment, this 12.1in unit is sourced from Ag Leader, which also supplies the GPS wizardry including the option of full auto-steer with either Egnos or RTK correction; there is a Trimble option if you prefer. Section control is standard on the ALPHA as is height control using Norac sensors. The HC9500 takes care of the spraying side of things with four customisable lots of information shown on the main home screen. One of the main features of DynamicFluid4 is the use of a regulation valve positioned just downstream of the 320-litre/min diaphragm pump; together with the main computer this valve monitors the amount of liquid required at the nozzles. If several sections are turned off, the valve increases the amount of liquid being returned directly to the tank; conversely, as sections are opened, flow is increased to the boom. It is all about reducing reaction times (HARDI claims as little as three seconds) and minimising any changes in pressure so that an even droplet size is maintained.
An additional blister button controller is fitted down by the induction hopper, with various programs set through the in-cab screen. Tank capacities are 3,500- or 4,100 litres, with a 410-litre rinse tank.

 
TWIN suspension

Boom options include aluminium and steel with details in the ‘Data sheet’ (below); as an example, the current UK demo machine sports a 30m TWIN FORCE air While this does add around  £17,000 to the price of the sprayer, HARDI says it’s a feature that users tend to stick with once they’ve experienced the benefits. As well as increasing the spraying window by allowing application on slightly windier days there is the potential to reduce chemical costs.
Theory: the air outlet manifold can be angled in relation to the prevailing wind, so the air flow momentarily opens the crop canopy as the boom passes over, allowing the chemical to cover a larger area of the plant. Hardi also says the TWIN FORCE is three star LERAP-rated with all its ISO nozzles — the only sprayer on the market to have this.


Similarities to the trailed COMMANDER also show up in the boom mounting, which is a coil spring pendulum suspension with hydraulic damping. On our test it worked well, maintaining the height over the ground even when turning on the headland. The height of either boom side can be controlled independently. The two-speed hydrostatic transmission has field and road, as well as up and down hill modes, which are all selected via a rotary dial. This latest generation of ALPHA sprayer has larger capacity Poclain C18 wheel motors with dynamic foot braking. There is a 115l/min pump for each axle along with front and rear diffs and, for stickier situations, there is even the option of a full traction control system. The increase in pump capacity also explains why the top speed of 50km/hr can be reached at reduced engine revs resulting in a 20-30% fuel saving when compared with earlier HARDI SP models.


Summary: HARDI is managing to put a foot on the self-propelled ladder, with a handful of the new shape ALPHAs now sold in the UK and working alongside their older brethren. Biggest stumbling block for many buyers will be the engine up front issue, but once seated it is no different to being in a tractor — better in fact as the view to the rear is superb, thanks to no interrupting cab pillars. The engine bay could be improved, to ease daily checks and regular maintenance, but the rest of the machine seems to be well thought out.


DATA SHEET - HARDI ALPHA evo EcoDrive 4100

Engine
Deutz TCD 6.1, six-cylinder with common-rail injection, turbocharging and intercooling. Max power 180kW/245hp.
Fuel capacity 320 litres

Transmission
Twin-range hydrostatic transmission giving 0-50km/hr forward and reverse

Brakes
Combination of hydrostatic braking (the transmission) and oil-immersed, selfadjusting wet disc brakes

Axles
High clearance (1.2m) design with Poclain wheel motors

Tank options
3,500- and 4,100 litres

Boom options
24-36m FORCE (steel) or 24-44m POMMIER (aluminium) or 18-36m TWIN (air sleeve)

Machine weight
9,795kg (as tested)

Price as tested (excl. VAT)
£205,000 with 4,100-litre tank and 30m TWIN FORCE boom, auto steer ready, differential locks and LED lighting upgrade