(19)
(11)EP 3 610 716 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
12.01.2022 Bulletin 2022/02

(21)Application number: 19020467.7

(22)Date of filing:  12.08.2019
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
A01D 41/14(2006.01)
A01D 41/16(2006.01)
(52)Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC):
A01D 41/141; A01D 41/144; A01D 41/145; A01D 41/16

(54)

SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR GROUND FOLLOWING OF A COMBINE HEADER WITH FLEXIBLE CUTTER BAR

SYSTEM UND VERFAHREN ZUR BODENVERFOLGUNG EINES MÄHDRESCHERS MIT FLEXIBLEM MÄHBALKEN

SYSTÈME ET PROCÉDÉ DE SUIVI DE TERRAIN D'UNE MOISSONNEUSE-BATTEUSE AVEC BARRE DE COUPE FLEXIBLE


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 16.08.2018 US 201815998715

(43)Date of publication of application:
19.02.2020 Bulletin 2020/08

(73)Proprietor: Deere & Company
Moline, IL 61265 (US)

(72)Inventors:
  • Vandeven, Michael L.
    68163 Mannheim (DE)
  • Brimeyer, Alex
    68163 Mannheim (DE)
  • Bomleny, Duane
    68163 Mannheim (DE)
  • Yanke, Brian
    68163 Mannheim (DE)
  • Heeren, Adam
    68163 Mannheim (DE)
  • Pierson, Joshua R.
    68163 Mannheim (DE)

(74)Representative: John Deere GmbH & Co. KG 
Global Intellectual Property Services John-Deere-Straße 70
68163 Mannheim
68163 Mannheim (DE)


(56)References cited: : 
EP-A2- 1 721 509
US-A1- 2008 072 560
BR-A- PI0 702 615
US-A1- 2012 096 825
  
      
    Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


    Description


    [0001] The disclosure relates to headers for combine harvesters, and more particularly headers having flexible cutter bars for ground following during crop cutting.

    [0002] EP 1 721 509 A2 describes a header supported by a suspension supporting the frame of the header on the feederhouse or a combine. The header is rigid. The suspension system comprises float cylinders connected to a float circuit which in turn connects to the main hydraulic circuit of the combine via a float valve which is electronically controlled by a controller based on a pressure sensor and desired pressure input by the operator. In an embodiment with a resilient float system, an accumulator is added to the described hydraulic system.

    [0003] US 2012/0096825 A1 describes a draper header with a flexible cutterbar supported on pivot arms having travel paths limited by upper stops. If a contact of the arms with the stops is sensed, the hydraulic lift cylinders of the feederhouse are activated to lift the header and thus relief the arms from the stops.

    Summary



    [0004] A harvesting head for a combine includes an attachment frame provided at an aft end of the head for attachment with a combine feederhouse. A main frame of the harvesting head is movably connected to the attachment frame to define a roll center therebetween, and the main frame has a range of travel about the roll center with respect to the attachment frame. At least one resilient float element is provided between the attachment frame and the main frame and operable to exert a lifting force on the main frame. A flexible cutterbar is positioned at a forward edge of the main frame and operable to reciprocate for cutting crop material from the ground. The cutterbar is supported on the main frame by a plurality of pivoting arms distributed across a width of the head. With the main frame in a centered position within the range of travel, the plurality of pivoting arms have 10 percent or less of total available travel as upward travel and at least 90 percent of total available travel as downward travel when the harvesting head is set in the centered position. The at least one resilient float element provided between the attachment frame and the main frame is passive in its operation and not actively controlled.

    [0005] With the main frame centered in the range of travel, each of the plurality of pivoting arms can be pivoted maximally upward into contact with a corresponding top stop on the main frame so that the cutterbar is in an uppermost position that is configured to follow ground irregularities exclusively in a downward travel direction from the main frame.

    [0006] The pivoting arms can be biased upwardly to partially counterbalance a weight of the cutterbar supported thereby.

    [0007] Resilient float elements upwardly biasing the plurality of pivoting arms provide a maximum lifting force defining a lower limit position of the plurality of pivoting arms relative to the main frame, and force from the ground pivots the plurality of pivoting arms upward from their lower limit positions.

    [0008] The plurality of pivoting arms can pivot about a point at or below ground level when the main frame is in the centered position.

    [0009] The pivoting arms can be supported by a passive resilient float system including at least one resilient float element.

    [0010] The resilient float system can comprise one resilient float element for each of the plurality of pivoting arms.

    [0011] The main frame can include a plurality of top stops defining respective upper limit positions for the plurality of pivoting arms.

    [0012] The main frame can be provided in sections including a center section and respective left and right sections extending in opposite lateral directions from the center section, wherein the left and right sections are individually pivotably supported relative to the center section.

    [0013] The left and right sections can be supported by a passive resilient floatation system with respect to the center section.

    [0014] An agricultural work vehicle can comprise a combine and the harvesting head according to any one of the claims.

    [0015] Further aspects are set forth in the detailed description and accompanying drawings.

    BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS



    [0016] 

    FIG. 1 is a side view of an agricultural vehicle.

    FIG. 2 is a top view of the agricultural vehicle of FIG. 1.

    FIG. 3 is a front perspective view of a header frame section.

    FIG. 4 is a side view of the header frame section of FIG. 3.

    FIG. 5 is a schematic view depicting a first exemplary roll center of the frame section of FIG. 3 positioned at ground level.

    FIG. 6 is a schematic view depicting a second exemplary roll center of the

    frame section of FIG. 3 positioned below ground level.

    FIG. 7 is a plan view of the agricultural vehicle of FIG. 1, having belts

    removed to illustrate a plurality of cutterbar-supporting pivoting arms.

    FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional view of the agricultural harvesting head of FIG. 7 taken at section line 8-8 and showing a first float arm arrangement in accordance with the present invention.

    FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional view of the agricultural harvesting head of FIG. 7 showing a second float arm arrangement in accordance with the present invention.

    FIG. 10 is a cross-sectional view of the agricultural harvesting head of FIG. 7 showing a third float arm arrangement in accordance with the present invention.

    FIG. 11 is a cross-sectional view of the third float arm arrangement of FIG. 10 showing a downwardly pivoted position.

    FIG. 12 is a front view of the harvesting head encountering a first ground irregularity, accommodated by the float arm arrangement alone.

    FIG. 13 is a front view of the harvesting head encountering a second ground irregularity, accommodated in part by the float arm arrangement.


    DETAILED DESCRIPTION



    [0017] Before any embodiments are explained in detail, it is to be understood that the disclosure is not limited in its application to the details of construction and the arrangement of components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the accompanying drawings. The terms "side-to-side," "sideways," "laterally," or "lateral" refer to a direction that is horizontal and generally parallel to the longitudinal extent of the agricultural harvesting head itself. This direction is perpendicular to a direction of travel "V" of the machine as it travels through the field harvesting crops. The terms "in front of," "front," "forward," "fore," and the like refer to the direction of travel "V." The terms "back," "rear," "behind," "to the rear of," and the like refer to a direction opposite to the direction of travel "V."

    [0018] FIG. 1 illustrates an agricultural vehicle 100 including a combine harvester 102 and an agricultural harvesting head 104, or "header", supported on the front of the vehicle 100. The combine harvester 102 includes an operator cabin 106 that contains controls for piloting and operating the combine harvester. A feederhouse 108 is pivotally coupled to the front of the combine harvester 102. One or more actuators 110 are coupled to and between the feeder house 108 and a chassis 112 of the combine harvester 102 to support the forward end of the feederhouse 108 and the agricultural harvesting head 104 above the ground. The chassis 112 is supported on wheels 114 that are driven by hydraulic motors 115 for travel over the ground level G1.

    [0019] The actuators 110 are double-acting hydraulic cylinders capable of moving from an extended position to a retracted position. When the actuators 110 are extended, the forward end of the feederhouse 108 and the agricultural harvesting head 104 are raised upward, pivoting clockwise (in FIG. 1) about a pivot joint 116 that couples the feederhouse 108 to the chassis 112. When the actuators 110 are retracted, the forward end of the feederhouse 108 and the agricultural harvesting head 104 are lowered, pivoting counterclockwise (in FIG. 1) about the pivot joint 116.

    [0020] Thus, by extending and retracting the actuators 110, the height of the feederhouse 108 and the agricultural harvesting head 104 can be varied. Furthermore, changing the hydraulic fluid pressure in the actuators 110 will change the amount of downforce exerted by the agricultural harvesting head 104 against the ground. As the hydraulic fluid pressure in the actuators 110 increases, the downforce applied by the agricultural harvesting head 104 to the ground will decrease. As the hydraulic fluid pressure in the actuators 110 decreases, the downforce due to the weight of the agricultural harvesting head 104 will increase. In an alternative arrangement, the actuators 110 can be electric or pneumatic devices such as linear or rotary motors.

    [0021] The combine harvester 102 receives crop cut by the agricultural harvesting head 104 and conveys it into a threshing system 118. The threshing system 118 includes a rotor 120 that rotates against a concave 122 to separate grain from at least a portion of the "material other than grain" (MOG). The grain falls downward into a cleaning system 124. The cleaning system 124 includes at least one sieve or chaffer 126. Because the grain in the cleaning system can include some light MOG, the cleaning system 124 also includes a fan 128 that blows air through the sieve or chaffer 126. This airflow levitates light MOG and carries it rearward where it is deposited on the ground.

    [0022] A re-thresher 130 is provided at the rear of the threshing system 118 to receive the MOG separated from the grain. Grain remaining within the MOG is further separated from the MOG in the re-thresher 130 and drops into the cleaning system 124. The MOG leaves the threshing system 118 and is conveyed backward into a chopper 132, which throws the MOG onto the ground behind the vehicle 100.

    [0023] The grain that is cleaned in the cleaning system 124 is carried to an auger 134 that carries the clean grain to one side of the combine harvester 102. An elevator 136 receives the clean grain from the auger 134 and lifts the clean grain upward depositing it into a grain tank 138.

    [0024] Periodically, an unloading vehicle such as a grain truck or grain cart will travel alongside the vehicle 100 and an auger 140 in the grain tank will unload the grain tank 138 through an elongate outlet 142. The elongate outlet 142 is pivoted outward from the vehicle 100 to extend over the grain truck or grain cart which receives the clean grain and carries it away for storage.

    [0025] As shown in FIG. 2, the harvesting head 104 is supported on an end of the feederhouse 108 and extends transversely to direction of travel V and to a central axis 143 of the harvester vehicle 102. The harvesting head 104 can also have a center axis that is aligned with the central axis 143 of the harvester vehicle 102. In the illustrated embodiment, the harvesting head 104 is wider than the chassis 112. The harvesting head 104 includes a forward edge 144, a rear edge 146, and a cutterbar 148 coupled to the forward edge 144. The cutterbar 148 extends substantially along the width of the harvesting head 104 and cuts or separates crop plants (not shown) from the ground G as the harvester vehicle 102 moves along the ground G. The cutterbar 148 may alternately be referred to as a cutting bar or reciprocating knife. The cutterbar 148 is flexible throughout (i.e., across the width of the harvesting head 104).

    [0026] The harvesting head 104 supports a first or right side conveyor 150, a second or left side conveyor 152, and an intermediate or center conveyor 154 positioned between the right side conveyor 150 and the left side conveyor 152. In the illustrated embodiment, the center conveyor 154 is aligned with the chassis 112 centerline and, and each of the conveyors 150, 152, 154 are formed as endless belt conveyors. Each of the right side conveyor 150 and left side conveyor 152 comprises an endless belt that is supported on an inner roller adjacent to the center conveyor 154 and an outer roller adjacent to the respective distal ends of a main frame 204. As the cutting bar 148 severs crops from the ground G, the cut material falls onto the conveyors 150, 152, 154. The right side conveyor 150 moves cut material in a first direction 156 toward the center conveyor 154, and the left side conveyor 152 moves cut material in a second direction 158 toward the center conveyor 154. The center conveyor 154 moves the cut material in a third direction 160 past a feed drum 162 and toward the feederhouse 108.

    [0027] FIGS. 3 and 4 show an exemplary embodiment of a header frame section 200 having first and second frame portions, for example an attachment frame 202 and a main frame 204. The attachment frame 202 connects to the feederhouse 108, and the main frame 204 supports the other components of the harvesting head 104, for example the cutterbar 148 and conveyors 150, 152, 154 shown in FIG. 2.

    [0028] The main frame 204 is pivotally connected to the attachment frame 202 by a pair of upper control arms 206 and a pair of lower control arms 208. The upper control arms 206 are pivotally connected to a first bracket 210 on the attachment frame 202 at a first connection point 212 and pivotally connected to a second bracket 214 on the main frame 204 at a second connection point 216. The lower control arms 208 are pivotally connected to a third bracket 218 on the attachment frame 202 at a third connection point 220 and pivotally connected a fourth bracket 222 on the main frame 204 at a fourth connection point 224. The upper and lower control arms 206, 208 allow for height adjustment of the main frame 204 as it traverses uneven ground. In particular, one or more resilient float elements (e.g., springs or hydraulic cylinders) 225 are provided and arranged to exert a lifting force on the main frame 204. Although movement of the feederhouse 108 by the actuators 110 can raise or lower the harvesting head 104 as needed, the main frame 204 of the harvesting head 104 is supported by the resilient float elements 225 for movement relative to the feederhouse 108 and the attachment frame 202 secured thereto. The main frame 204 of the harvesting head 104 may float passively relative to the feederhouse 108 and the attachment frame 202 by the resilient float elements 225, without being actively controlled. Although the main frame 204 is movably supported by the attachment frame 202, the main frame 204 has a limited range of travel. A nominal position of the main frame 204 and of the resilient float element(s) 225 is defined as an intermediate position within the range of travel, from which position the main frame 204 has the capability to travel in an upward direction and an opposite downward direction with respect to the attachment frame 202. The harvesting head 104 is configured to assume the nominal position on flat, level ground (i.e., when there is no need for following upward or downward ground irregularities). Although the actuators 110 are operable to vary the position of the feederhouse 108 and thus the position of the main frame 204 with respect to the attachment frame 202 by inducing more or less ground force, the nominal position of the feederhouse 108 and the actuators 110 is also taken as the position or setting that corresponds to or brings about the nominal position of the main frame 204. In some constructions, the nominal position is defined as the main frame 204 being at the center of the range of travel with respect to the attachment frame 202, and the feederhouse position corresponding thereto, such that equal amounts of upward and downward travel from the nominal position are available.

    [0029] In an exemplary embodiment the control arms 206, 208 extend along an axial direction that is non-parallel to the chassis axis 143. The upper control arms 206 are angled so that they diverge from the chassis axis 143 in the direction of travel V, with the first connection point 212 positioned closer to the chassis axis 143 than the second connection point 216. The lower control arms 208 are angled so that they converge toward the chassis axis 143 in the direction of travel V, with the third connection point 220 positioned further from the chassis axis 143 than the fourth connection point 224. In other embodiments, the control arms 206, 208 can extend along an axis in a common plane which may or may not be parallel to the plane of the chassis axis 143.

    [0030] FIGS. 5 and 6 show a simplified, two-dimensional representation of the attachment frame 202, the main frame 204, the upper control arms 206, the lower control arms 208 and the first through fourth connection points 212, 216, 220, 224 that define a roll center 226 for the attachment frame. FIG. 5 shows a first roll center 226 positioned at ground level G and FIG. 6 shows a second roll center 226 positioned below ground level G. In this schematic view the attachment frame 202, the main frame 204, the upper control arms 206, and the lower control arms 208 form a four-bar linkage with the intersection of the control arms 206, 208 defining the roll center 226.

    [0031] In the illustrated embodiments, the roll center 226 is defined at the intersection between an upper control arm axis AI and a lower control arm axis A2. As discussed above, the control arms 206, 208 can extend non-parallel to the chassis axis 143 and in different planes.

    [0032] Accordingly, the roll center 226 is determined by a planar or two-dimensional representation of the upper and lower control arm axes Al, A2. The upper control arm axis AI is defined by the axis that extends through the first and second connection points 212, 216 viewed in a single plane. The lower control arm axis A2 is defined by the axis that extend through the third and fourth connection points 220, 224 viewed in a single plane. FIG. 5 shows an embodiment in which the upper control arm axis Al and the lower control arm axis A2 intersect at ground level G, therefore creating a roll center 226 at ground level G. FIG. 6 shows an embodiment in which the upper control arm axis Al and the lower control arm axis A2 intersect below ground level G, therefore creating a roll center 226 below ground level G. Because the ground level position is not typically flat (as shown in FIG. 1), the term ground level can mean ground level in the ordinary use of the term and also as a plane defined by the lower points of the front and back wheels 114, or other ground engaging members such as treads. As shown in FIGS. 5 and 6, both roll centers 126 are positioned below the harvester 102 and also between the wheels 114.

    [0033] As mentioned, when the vehicle 100 is traveling, the height of the ground can vary. Abrupt changes in height can cause engagement of the harvesting head 104 with the ground.

    [0034] Striking the ground creates a draft force that can increase the downward load on the main frame 204 and dislodges the proper position of the cutterbar 148, causing it to dig into the ground instead of cutting material just about ground level. When this happens repeatedly, the cutterbar 148 can become clogged with debris, and an operator will have to stop the operation of the agricultural vehicle 100 to clear the debris. By positioning the roll center at or below ground level, the draft forces acting on the harvester head 104 will act to lift the cutterbar 148, helping it to ride up and over crop material more easily, rather than pushing material in front of the cutterbar 148.

    [0035] In addition to the movement afforded between the main frame 204 and the attachment frame 202, movement or articulation within the main frame 204 may be enabled by a main frame 204 provided in sections such as a center section 204C, a left section or "wing" 204L movably (e.g., pivotally) coupled to the center section 204C, and a right section or "wing" 204R movably (e.g., pivotally) coupled to the center section 204C. Fore-and-aft extending pivot axes may be defined between the center section 204C and each of the left and right sections 204L, 204R. Each of the pivot axes can be defined by a simple hinge pin or by multiple links that define a point of intersection. The left and right sections 204L, 204R may be independently supported with respect to the center section 204C with one or more resilient float elements (e.g., springs or hydraulic cylinders). In some constructions, the floatation system provided for the left and right sections 204L, 204R by the resilient float elements is a passive floatation system that is not actively controlled.

    [0036] As shown in FIGS. 7-9, each of a plurality of pivoting arms 326 (or "float arms") is pivotally coupled to the main frame 204 at the rear ends to pivot about a corresponding horizontal and laterally extending pivot axis 328. The pivoting arms 326 are spaced apart across the width of the agricultural harvesting head 104 to provide distributed support to the cutterbar 148.

    [0037] The cutterbar 148 is fixed to and supported on the front ends of the pivoting arms 326. The cutterbar 148 is flexible along its length in a generally vertical direction such that it can flex and follow the contours of the ground (e.g., even assuming multiple arcs within either half thereof) as the ground rises and falls underneath the agricultural harvesting head 104 during forward travel. The pivoting arms 326 on which the cutterbar 148 is supported accommodate this up-and-down flexing of the reciprocating knife and hold the cutterbar 148 in position at the forward margin of the agricultural harvesting head 104.

    [0038] Each of the pivoting arms 326 has a skid 330 fixed to its front end adjacent to the cutterbar 148. As the agricultural harvester travels over the field, this skid 330 can lightly drag along the ground. As the ground presses up against the skid 330 the force provided by the ground lifts the forward end of the pivoting arms, causing them to pivot upward about their pivot points.

    [0039] FIG. 8 is a side view of a single pivoting arm 326. This pivoting arm is the same as all the other pivoting arms 326 that are supported on the main frame 204. In the pivoting arm arrangement of FIG. 8, a multi-bar linkage 332 couples the pivoting arm 326 to the main frame

    [0040] 204. This multi-bar linkage 332 includes a first link 334 extending between the pivoting arm 326 and the main frame 204. The first link 334 is pivotally coupled to the pivoting arm 326 at a first pivot joint 336 and is pivotally coupled to the main frame 204 at a second pivot joint 338. The multi-bar linkage 332 includes a second link 340 extending between the pivoting arm 326 and the main frame 204. The second link 340 is pivotally coupled to the pivoting arm 326 at a first pivot joint 342, and is pivotally coupled to the main frame 204 to second pivot joint 344.

    [0041] The first link 334, the second link 340, the pivoting arm 326 and the main frame 204 function together to define a four bar linkage. Due to the geometry of the four bar linkage, the pivoting arm 326 pivots with respect to the main frame 204 about a pivot point 346 that is disposed below the pivoting arm 326, below the cutterbar 148, below the skid 330, and below the surface of the ground G.

    [0042] The pivot point 346 is lower than pivot points are in the prior art. Therefore, if the cutterbar 148 or the skid 330 at the forward end of the pivoting arm 326 digs into the ground or runs into an object lying on the ground, the horizontal force applied to the cutterbar or skid by these obstacles will cause the pivoting arm 326 to lift upwards, away from the obstacle, as the pivoting arm 326 is forced backwards. This rearward and upward movement of the pivoting arm 326 will therefore tend to lift the front end of the arm 326 out of the ground and thus reduce the horizontal force. In short, the cutterbar 148 and skid 330 are lifted upward away from contact, rather than force downward into deeper contact us they would be if they pivoted about a pivot point located above the skid shoe and the cutterbar as shown in the prior art.

    [0043] In this manner, any damage to the agricultural harvesting head 104 due to collisions with obstacles in the field is reduced.

    [0044] There are other pivot joint arrangements that similarly permit a pivoting arm 326 to pivot about a pivot point below the pivot arm, the reciprocating knife, and/or the shoe when encountering an obstacle in the field.

    [0045] In FIG. 9, for example, two rollers 500, 502 are fixed to the pivoting arm 326. The main frame 204 has as an elongate curved slot 504 that receives the two rollers 500, 502. The slot 504 is longer than the distance between the two rollers 500, 502 and has the same width as the diameter of the two rollers 500, 502. Therefore, the pivoting arm 326 is constrained to roll back and forth in the slot 504. Due to the curvature of the slot 504, the pivoting arm 326 effectively pivots about a pivot point 506. Pivot point 506 is located at the center of curvature of the elongate curved slot 504.

    [0046] Pivot point 506 (like pivot point 346 in the previous arrangement) causes the pivoting arm 326 to pivot with respect to the elongate frame 124 about pivot point 506. Pivot point 506 is disposed below the pivoting arm 326, below the cutterbar 148, below the skid 330, and below the surface of the ground G.

    [0047] FIGS. 10 and 11 illustrate another pivoting arm arrangement for the harvesting head 104, and this arrangement is provided with pivoting arms 626 supported by first and second links 634, 640 similar to those of FIG. 8 for defining a pivot point 646 with respect to the mainframe 204 that is disposed below the pivoting arm 626, below the cutterbar 148, below the skid 630, and below the surface of the ground G. A resilient float element 650 (e.g., spring or hydraulic cylinder) acts on the four-bar linkage (e.g., between the main frame 204 and the second link 640) to bias the pivoting arm 626 upward to counter the weight of the cutterbar 148. In a completely passive arrangement, a maximum downward position of the pivoting arm 626 is defined for example by a spring constant or hydraulic pressure of the resilient float element 650. As shown in FIG. 10, each pivoting arm 626 has a limit of upward travel or rotation (clockwise in FIG. 10) provided by a stop 602. All of the pivoting arms 626 throughout the harvesting head 104 may also have respective stops 602. The stops 602 are provided on the main frame 204. The stops 602 are configured at a common height throughout the harvesting head 104 so that all the pivoting arms 626 align with each other in side view and the cutterbar 148 is straight when all the stops 602 are engaged. Due to the stops 602, the range of travel of each pivoting arm 626 is defined in a range exclusively below the stops 602. FIG. 11 illustrates the pivoting arm 626 pivoted down away from the stop 602, which occurs as a result of the reduction of ground support from the nominal condition.

    [0048] On level ground with the harvesting head 104 set in its nominal position, the pivoting arms 626 are engaged with the stops 602. To engage the pivoting arms 626 with the stops 602, force from the ground G must be exerted on the pivoting arms 626, despite the resilient float elements 650 providing an upward bias. Only when the harvesting head 104 encounters a localized downward irregularity (i.e., a dip or depression) in the ground G will the pivoting arms 626 pivot down as shown in FIG. 11. Downward pivoting of the pivoting arms 626 is generated passively by the weight of the cutterbar 148 against the bias of the resilient float elements 650.

    [0049] The pivoting arms 626 need not pivot down to follow the ground G if the ground irregularity is strictly on a macro level that is capable of being followed by articulation of the floatation system between the attachment frame 202 and the main frame 204 and/or the floatation system between sections 204C, 204L, 204R or "wings" of the main frame, if so equipped. This operational configuration is described in further detail with reference to FIGS. 12 and 13.

    [0050] If the harvesting head 104 is lifted completely off the ground (e.g., by the upward movement of the feederhouse 108 via the actuators 110), the cutterbar 148 will fall to its lower limit of travel with respect to the main frame 204, and the main frame 204 will fall to its lower limit of travel with respect to the attachment frame 202. When lowered to initiate ground contact and force from the ground G onto the harvesting head 104, the pivoting arms 626 (e.g., at the skids 330) contact first and begin to pivot upwardly toward the stops 602. The main frame 204 remains at its lower limit of travel. Once the pivoting arms 626 reach the stops 602, ground force is transmitted through the pivoting arms 626 and the stops 602 to the main frame 204, and with increasing ground force, the main frame 204 begins to settle toward the nominal position.

    [0051] Thus, when operating the harvesting head 104 over uneven ground from the nominal position, upward ground irregularities are immediately transmitted to the main frame 204 without requiring any take-up in the pivoting arms 626 (i.e., no pivoting movement prior engaging the stops 602). As such, the pivoting arms 626 are configured for one-way operation in the downward direction from the main frame 204 as the harvesting head 104 traverses the ground G. FIG. 12 shows such an example of the one-way downward operation when only a portion of the head 104 encounters a downward irregularity 1002 in the ground G. With the localized reduction in ground force to the pivoting arms 626, the pivoting arms 626 allow the cutterbar 148 to fall by its own weight with respect to the main frame 204. The pivoting arms 626 have the availability of their full range of travel since the nominal position is in engagement with the stops 602. Conversely, a portion of the harvesting head 104 may encounter an upward irregularity 1004 as in FIG. 13. When this occurs, ground force from the irregularity 1004 in the ground G is transmitted directly to the main frame 204 without requiring any take-up in the pivoting arms 626. As such, upward articulation is provided by the resilient floatation system between the main frame 204 and the attachment frame 202 and/or the resilient floatation system between the sections 204C, 204L, 204R of the main frame 204 (both are shown in the example of FIG. 13). As the main frame 204, or a section thereof, rises to the highest point of the upward irregularity 1004, adjacent portions of the flexible cutterbar 148 descend freely from the main frame 204. The full range of downward travel is available for each of the pivoting arms 626. Thus, depending on the particular ground surface, portions of the cutterbar 148 can follow level or even depressed portions of the ground G while the main frame 204 is upwardly articulated by the upward irregularity 1004. Although the description directly above is particularly directed toward the pivoting arms 626 of FIGS. 10 and 11 in which drawings the stops 602 are also illustrated, it is noted that the configurations and operations described herein with respect to the pivoting arms 626 may be equally applied to the other disclosed embodiments of pivoting arms 326 in FIGS. 7-9. Furthermore, while it has been described that the pivoting arms can be pivoted fully upward to an upper limit when the harvesting head 104 is set in the nominal position, and certain benefits are obtained by such a configuration, it is also noted that in other constructions the pivoting arms have 10 percent or less of total available travel as upward travel and at least 90 percent of total available travel as downward travel when the harvesting head 104 is set in the nominal position.

    [0052] Operation of the agricultural vehicle 100 including the combine harvester 102 and the harvesting head 104 as disclosed above can obviate the need to actively manage a sensor-based ground-following routine with the combine harvester 102 whereby the positions of the various pivoting arms are monitored and used as a controller input for raising and lowering the main frame 204 (e.g., by raising and lowering the feederhouse 108 with the actuators 110). To the contrary, the above disclosed structure and method of operation need not actively manage the position of the harvesting head 104 or portions thereof. Thus, the ground-following feature of the harvesting head 104 can be entirely passive (and thus, mechanical rather than computer- controlled) within the travel range of the main frame 204 with respect to the attachment frame 202. Although designed to be fully capable of following irregular ground without sensor feedback of active positioning, the agricultural vehicle 100 may be equipped with one or more limit sensors that are configured to detect the main frame 204 reaching or approaching its maximum limit of travel (up or down) with respect to the attachment frame 202. Such detection may be configured (e.g., controller-programmed) to bring about a repositioning of the feederhouse 108 under certain conditions (e.g., time duration exceeding a threshold limit).

    [0053] The foregoing detailed description of the certain exemplary embodiments has been provided for the purpose of explaining the general principles and practical application, thereby enabling others skilled in the art to understand the disclosure for various embodiments and with various modifications as are suited to the particular use contemplated. This description is not necessarily intended to be exhaustive or to limit the disclosure to the exemplary embodiments disclosed. Accordingly, additional embodiments are possible and are intended to be encompassed within this specification and the scope of the appended claims. The specification describes specific examples to accomplish a more general goal that may be accomplished in another way.

    [0054] As used in this application, the terms "front," "rear," "upper," "lower," "upwardly," "downwardly," and other orientational descriptors are intended to facilitate the description of the exemplary embodiments of the present disclosure, and are not intended to limit the structure of the exemplary embodiments of the present disclosure to any particular position or orientation.

    [0055] Terms of degree, such as "substantially" or "approximately" are understood by those of ordinary skill to refer to reasonable ranges outside of the given value, for example, general tolerances associated with manufacturing, assembly, and use of the described embodiments.

    [0056] Various features and advantages are set forth in the following claims.


    Claims

    1. A harvesting head (104) for a combine (102), the harvesting head (104) comprising:

    an attachment frame (202) provided at an aft end of the head (104) for attachment with a combine (102) feederhouse;

    a main frame (204) movably connected to the attachment frame (202) to define a roll center therebetween, wherein the main frame (204) has a range of travel about the roll center with respect to the attachment frame (202);

    at least one resilient float element (225) provided between the attachment frame (202) and the main frame (204) and operable to exert a lifting force on the main frame (204);

    a cutterbar (148) positioned at a forward edge of the main frame (204) and operable to reciprocate for cutting crop material from the ground,

    characterized in that the cutterbar (148) is flexible and supported on the main frame (204) by a plurality of pivoting arms (326) distributed across a width of the head (104); and in that, with the main frame (204) in a centered position within the range of travel, the plurality of pivoting arms (326) have 10 percent or less of total available travel as upward travel and at least 90 percent of total available travel as downward travel when the harvesting head (104) is set in the centered position,

    and in that the at least one resilient float element (225) provided between the attachment frame (202) and the main frame (204) is passive in its operation and not actively controlled.


     
    2. The harvesting head (104) of claim 1, wherein the plurality of pivoting arms (326) are biased upwardly to partially counterbalance a weight of the cutterbar (148) supported thereby.
     
    3. The harvesting head (104) of claim 2, wherein resilient float elements (650) upwardly biasing the plurality of pivoting arms (326) provide a maximum lifting force defining a lower limit position of the plurality of pivoting arms (326) relative to the main frame (204), and force from the ground pivots the plurality of pivoting arms (326) upward from their lower limit positions.
     
    4. The harvesting head (104) of claim 1, wherein the plurality of pivoting arms (326) pivot about a point at or below ground level when the main frame (204) is in the centered position.
     
    5. The harvesting head (104) of claim 1, wherein the plurality of pivoting arms (326) are supported by a passive resilient float system including at least one resilient float element (650).
     
    6. The harvesting head (104) of claim 5, wherein the resilient float system comprises one resilient float element (650) for each of the plurality of pivoting arms (326).
     
    7. The harvesting head (104) of claim 1, wherein the main frame (204) includes a plurality of top stops (602) defining respective upper limit positions for the plurality of pivoting arms (326).
     
    8. The harvesting head (104) of claim 1, wherein the main frame (204) is provided in sections including a center section (204C) and respective left and right sections (204L 204R) extending in opposite lateral directions from the center section (204C), wherein the left and right sections (204L, 204C) are individually pivotably supported relative to the center section (204C).
     
    9. The harvesting head (104) of claim 8, wherein the left and right sections (204L, 204R) are supported by a passive resilient floatation system with respect to the center section (204C).
     


    Ansprüche

    1. Erntevorsatz (104) für einen Mähdrescher (102), wobei der Erntevorsatz (104) umfasst:

    einen Befestigungsrahmen (202), der an einem hinteren Ende des Vorsatzes (104) für eine Befestigung mit einem Schrägförderer des Mähdreschers (102) bereitgestellt ist;

    einen Hauptrahmen (204), der beweglich mit dem Befestigungsrahmen (202) verbunden ist, um ein Rollzentrum dazwischen zu definieren, wobei der Hauptrahmen (204) einen Verfahrbereich um das Rollzentrum in Bezug auf den Befestigungsrahmen (202) aufweist;

    mindestens ein elastisches Schwebeelement (225), das zwischen dem Befestigungsrahmen (202) und dem Hauptrahmen (204) bereitgestellt und dazu betreibbar ist, eine Hubkraft auf den Hauptrahmen (204) aufzubringen;

    eine Schneidleiste (148), die an einer Vorderkante des Hauptrahmens (204) positioniert und dazu betreibbar ist, sich hin und her zu bewegen, um Erntegutmaterial vom Boden abzuschneiden,

    dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Schneidleiste (148) flexibel ist und an dem Hauptrahmen (204) durch eine Mehrzahl von Schwenkarmen (326) gehalten ist, die über eine Breite des Vorsatzes (104) verteilt sind;

    und dadurch, dass

    wenn sich der Hauptrahmen (204) in einer mittigen Position innerhalb des Verfahrbereichs befindet, die Mehrzahl von Schwenkarmen (326) 10 Prozent oder weniger eines gesamten verfügbaren Verfahrwegs als Verfahrweg nach oben und mindestens 90 Prozent des gesamten verfügbaren Verfahrwegs als Verfahrweg nach unten aufweisen, wenn der Erntevorsatz (104) in der mittigen Position eingestellt ist,

    und dadurch, dass das mindestens eine elastische Schwebeelement (225), das zwischen dem Befestigungsrahmen (202) und dem Hauptrahmen (204) bereitgestellt ist, in seinem Betrieb passiv und nicht aktiv gesteuert ist.


     
    2. Erntevorsatz (104) nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Mehrzahl von Schwenkarmen (326) nach oben vorgespannt sind, um ein Gewicht der dadurch gehaltenen Schneidleiste (148) teilweise auszugleichen.
     
    3. Erntevorsatz (104) nach Anspruch 2, wobei elastische Schwebeelemente (650), die die Mehrzahl von Schwenkarmen (326) nach oben vorspannen, eine maximale Hubkraft bereitstellen, die eine untere Grenzposition der Mehrzahl von Schwenkarmen (326) in Relation zu dem Hauptrahmen (204) definiert, und Kraft vom Boden die Mehrzahl von Schwenkarmen (326) von ihren unteren Grenzpositionen nach oben schwenkt.
     
    4. Erntevorsatz (104) nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Mehrzahl von Schwenkarmen (326) um einen Punkt an oder unterhalb Bodenhöhe schwenken, wenn der Hauptrahmen (204) in der mittigen Position ist.
     
    5. Erntevorsatz (104) nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Mehrzahl von Schwenkarmen (326) durch ein passives elastisches Schwebesystem gehalten sind, das mindestens ein elastisches Schwebeelement (650) umfasst.
     
    6. Erntevorsatz (104) nach Anspruch 5, wobei das elastische Schwebesystem ein elastisches Schwebeelement (650) für jeden der Mehrzahl von Schwenkarmen (326) umfasst.
     
    7. Erntevorsatz (104) nach Anspruch 1, wobei der Hauptrahmen (204) eine Mehrzahl von oberen Anschlägen (602) umfasst, die jeweilige obere Grenzpositionen für die Mehrzahl von Schwenkarmen (326) definieren.
     
    8. Erntevorsatz (104) nach Anspruch 1, wobei der Hauptrahmen (204) in Abschnitten bereitgestellt ist, die einen mittleren Abschnitt (204C) und jeweilige linke und rechte Abschnitte (204L, 204R) umfassen, die sich in entgegengesetzte laterale Richtungen von dem mittleren Abschnitt (204C) erstrecken, wobei die linken und rechten Abschnitte (204L, 204C) einzeln schwenkbar in Relation zu dem mittleren Abschnitt (204C) gehalten sind.
     
    9. Erntevorsatz (104) nach Anspruch 8, wobei die linken und rechten Abschnitte (204L, 204R) durch ein passives elastisches Schwebesystem in Bezug auf den mittleren Abschnitt (204C) gehalten sind.
     


    Revendications

    1. Tête de récolte (104) pour une moissonneuse-batteuse (102), la tête de récolte (104) comprenant :

    un cadre d'attache (202) prévu à une extrémité arrière de la tête (104) pour l'attache à une chambre d'alimentation de la moissonneuse-batteuse (102) ;

    un cadre principal (204) raccordé de façon mobile au cadre d'attache (202) pour définir un centre de roulement entre ceux-ci, dans laquelle le cadre principal (204) a une étendue de déplacement autour du centre de roulement par rapport au cadre d'attache (202) ;

    au moins un élément flotteur résilient (225) prévu entre le cadre d'attache (202) et le cadre principal (204) et utilisable pour exercer une force de levage sur le cadre principal (204) ;

    une barre de coupe (148) positionnée à un bord avant du cadre principal (204) et utilisable pour se mouvoir en va-et-vient pour couper une matière de récolte à partir du sol,

    caractérisée en ce que la barre de coupe (148) est flexible et supportée sur le cadre principal (204) par une pluralité d'arbres pivotants (326) distribués sur une largeur de la tête (104) ;

    et en ce que,

    avec le cadre principal (204) dans une position centrée au sein de l'étendue de déplacement, la pluralité d'arbres pivotants (326) ont 10 pour cent ou moins de déplacement disponible total en tant que déplacement vers le haut et au moins 90 pour cent de déplacement disponible total en tant que déplacement vers le bas lorsque la tête de récolte (104) est mise dans la position centrée,

    et en ce que l'au moins un élément flotteur résilient (225) prévu entre le cadre d'attache (202) et le cadre principal (204) est passif dans son fonctionnement et non activement commandé.


     
    2. Tête de récolte (104) selon la revendication 1, dans laquelle la pluralité d'arbres pivotants (326) sont sollicités vers le haut pour partiellement contrebalancer un poids de la barre de coupe (148) supportée par ceux-ci.
     
    3. Tête de récolte (104) selon la revendication 2, dans laquelle des éléments flotteurs résilients (650) sollicitant vers le haut la pluralité d'arbres pivotants (326) fournissent une force de levage maximum définissant une position limite inférieure de la pluralité d'arbres pivotants (326) relativement au cadre principal (204), et une force provenant du sol fait pivoter la pluralité d'arbres pivotants (326) vers le haut à partir de leurs positions limites inférieures.
     
    4. Tête de récolte (104) selon la revendication 1, dans laquelle la pluralité d'arbres pivotants (326) pivotent autour d'un point au niveau du sol ou en dessous du niveau du sol lorsque le cadre principal (204) est dans la position centrée.
     
    5. Tête de récolte (104) selon la revendication 1, dans laquelle la pluralité d'arbres pivotants (326) sont supportés par un système flotteur résilient passif incluant au moins un élément flotteur résilient (650).
     
    6. Tête de récolte (104) selon la revendication 5, dans laquelle le système flotteur résilient comprend un élément flotteur résilient (650) pour chacun de la pluralité d'arbres pivotants (326).
     
    7. Tête de récolte (104) selon la revendication 1, dans laquelle le cadre principal (204) inclut une pluralité de butées supérieures (602) définissant des positions limites supérieures respectives pour la pluralité d'arbres pivotants (326).
     
    8. Tête de récolte (104) selon la revendication 1, dans laquelle le cadre principal (204) est prévu en sections incluant une section centrale (204C) et des sections gauche et droite respectives (204L, 204R) s'étendant dans des directions latérales opposées depuis la section centrale (204C), dans laquelle les sections gauche et droite (204L, 204C) sont supportées de façon individuellement pivotable relativement à la section centrale (204C).
     
    9. Tête de récolte (104) selon la revendication 8, dans laquelle les sections gauche et droite (204L, 204R) sont supportées par un système flotteur résilient passif par rapport à la section centrale (204C).
     




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    Cited references

    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



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    Patent documents cited in the description