(19)
(11)EP 3 646 711 A1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT APPLICATION

(43)Date of publication:
06.05.2020 Bulletin 2020/19

(21)Application number: 18204216.8

(22)Date of filing:  02.11.2018
(51)Int. Cl.: 
A01F 15/04  (2006.01)
B30B 15/06  (2006.01)
B30B 9/30  (2006.01)
(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
Designated Extension States:
BA ME
Designated Validation States:
KH MA MD TN

(71)Applicant: CNH Industrial Belgium NV
8210 Zedelgem (BE)

(72)Inventors:
  • BONTE, Xavier G.J.M.
    4505 PB Zuidzande (NL)
  • DEMON, Frederik
    8310 Brugge (Sint-Kruis) (BE)

(74)Representative: CNH Industrial IP Department 
Patent Department, Leon Claeysstraat 3A
8210 Zedelgem
8210 Zedelgem (BE)

  


(54)AGRICULTURAL BALER WITH FRAMELESS AND WELDLESS PLUNGER


(57) A plunger (30) for an agricultural baler (10) includes a plurality of plunger sections (210A, 210B, 210C) held together to form the plunger (30), the plurality of plunger sections (210A, 210B, 210C) including a pair of plunger end sections (210A, 210C); and at least one roller (220A, 220B) and/or at least one sliding block attached to and extending laterally from each of the plunger end sections (210A, 210C). The plunger (30) is characterized in that each of the plunger sections (210A, 210B, 210C) includes at least one tube holding portion (211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F, 711, 811, 1211A, 1211B) including a tube opening (212A, 212B, 212C, 212D, 212E, 212F, 712, 816, 1212A, 1212B) formed therein; and a tube (231, 232, 731, 831, 1231, 1232) placed within the tube opening (212A, 212B, 212C, 212D, 212E, 212F, 712, 816, 1212A, 1212B) of each tube holding portion (211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F, 711, 811, 1211A, 1211B) such that an interference fit is formed between the tube (231, 232, 731, 831, 1231, 1232) and the at least one tube holding portion (211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F, 711, 811, 1211A, 1211B) of each plunger section (210A, 210B, 210C) to hold the plunger sections (210A, 210B, 210C) together.




Description

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION



[0001] The present invention relates to agricultural balers, and, more particularly, to plungers of agricultural balers.

[0002] Agricultural harvesting machines, such as balers, are used to consolidate and package crop material so as to facilitate the storage and handling of the crop material for later use. In the case of hay, a mower-conditioner is typically used to cut and condition the crop material for windrow drying in the sun. In the case of straw, an agricultural combine discharges non-grain crop material from the rear of the combine defining the straw (such as wheat or oat straw) which is to be picked up by the baler. The cut crop material is typically raked and dried, and a baler, such as a large square baler or round baler, straddles the windrows and travels along the windrows to pick up the crop material and form it into bales.

[0003] On a large square baler, a pickup unit at the front of the baler gathers the cut and windrowed crop material from the ground. The pickup unit includes a pickup roll, and optionally may include other components such as side shields, stub augers, wind guard, etc.

[0004] A packer unit is used to move the crop material from the pickup unit to a duct or pre-compression chamber. The packer unit forms a wad of crop within the pre-compression chamber, which is then transferred to a main bale chamber. (For purposes of discussion, the charge of crop material within the pre-compression chamber will be termed a "wad", and the charge of crop material after being compressed within the main bale chamber will be termed a "flake"). Typically such a packer unit includes packer tines or forks to move the crop material from the pickup unit into the pre-compression chamber. Instead of a packer unit it is also known to use a rotor cutter unit, which chops the crop material into smaller pieces.

[0005] A stuffer unit transfers the wad of crop material in charges from the pre-compression chamber to the main bale chamber. Typically such a stuffer unit includes stuffer forks which are used to move the wad of crop material from the pre-compression chamber to the main bale chamber, in sequence with the reciprocating action of a plunger within the main bale chamber.

[0006] In the main bale chamber, the plunger compresses the wad of crop material into flakes to form a bale and, at the same time, gradually advances the bale toward the outlet of the bale chamber. The plunger reciprocates, back and forth, toward and away from the discharge end of the baler. The plunger may include a number of rollers, which extend laterally outward from the sides of the plunger. The rollers on each side of the plunger are received within a respective plunger slot formed in the sidewalls of the bale chamber, with the plunger slots guiding the plunger during the reciprocating movements.

[0007] When enough flakes have been added and the bale reaches a full (or other predetermined) size, a number of knotters are actuated which wrap and tie twine, cord or the like around the bale while it is still in the main bale chamber. The twine is cut and the formed baled is ejected out the back of the baler as a new bale is formed.

[0008] Many plungers are formed by plunger sections that are welded to a frame, which holds the plunger sections together to form the plunger. Due to the constant reciprocating action of the plunger, many plunger designs are prone to durability issues.

[0009] What is needed in the art is an agricultural baler with a plunger that has increased durability compared to known plungers.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION



[0010] The present invention provides an agricultural baler with a plunger that includes a plurality of plunger sections each having a tube holding portion that forms an interference fit with a tube to hold the plunger sections together and form the plunger.

[0011] The invention in one form is directed to a plunger for an agricultural baler including a plurality of plunger sections held together to form the plunger, the plurality of plunger sections includes a pair of plunger end sections and at least one roller and/or at least one sliding block is attached to each of the plunger end sections. The plunger is characterized in that each of the plunger sections includes at least one tube holding portion having a tube opening formed therein and a tube placed within the tube opening of each tube holding portion such that an interference fit is formed between the tube and the at least one tube holding portion of each plunger section to hold the plunger sections together.

[0012] In another form of the invention, the tube opening is an adjustable size tube opening.

[0013] In another form of the invention, the at least one tube holding portion includes at least one pair of spaced apart clamp openings, the plunger further including at least one clamp urging the at least one pair of spaced apart clamp openings toward one another to clamp the at least one tube holding portion onto the tube.

[0014] In another form of the invention, the at least one clamp includes a plurality of clamps, each of the plurality of clamps urging the at least one pair of spaced apart clamp openings of a respective tube holding portion toward one another.

[0015] In another form of the invention, a single clamp urges the at least one pair of spaced apart clamp openings of multiple tube holding portions toward one another.

[0016] In another form of the invention, the at least one clamp includes a pair of spaced apart clamp bars urged toward one another by a connector, a portion of each clamp bar being held in a respective one of the clamp openings.

[0017] In another form of the invention, the clamp bars each include at least one bearing portion held in a respective clamp opening, each of the bearing portions including a rounded notch.

[0018] In yet another form of the invention, each of the tube openings defines a tube opening diameter and the tube includes a plurality of increased diameter portions that are each placed in and compressed by a respective tube opening, each increased diameter portion defining an increased diameter that is greater than the tube opening diameter of the respective tube opening in which the increased diameter portion is placed when the increased diameter portion is uncompressed.

[0019] In yet another form of the invention, the plunger further includes a bushing bearing on the tube and the tube opening.

[0020] In yet another form of the invention, each plunger section includes at least one pair of spaced apart tube holding portions, the tube openings of each respective pair of tube holding portions being coaxially aligned with one another.

[0021] In yet another form of the invention, each plunger section includes a first tube holding portion including the tube opening and a second tube holding portion including a second tube opening. The plunger further includes a second tube placed within the second tube opening of each second tube holding portion such that an interference fit is formed between the second tube and the second tube holding portion of each plunger section.

[0022] In yet another form of the invention, at least one of the plunger sections includes a driver connection portion connected to the tube holding portion, the driver connection portion including a rod opening sized to hold a connecting rod therein.

[0023] In yet another form of the invention, the plunger includes a roller connecting portion connected to the tube holding portion of each of the plunger end sections and to the at least one roller.

[0024] In yet another form of the invention, an agricultural baler is provided. The agricultural baler includes a main bale chamber and any of the aforementioned plungers disposed within the main bale chamber. The main bale chamber includes a pair of spaced apart plunger rails, each of the plunger rails being in contact with the roller attached to a respective one of the plunger end sections.

[0025] In another form of the invention, a connecting rod couples to the plunger for reciprocatingly driving the plunger.

[0026] An advantage of the present invention is that the plunger may be formed without a frame structure to which the plunger sections are welded. The absence of welds holding the plunger sections to the frame structure can increase the durability of the plunger by eliminating material weak spots that are produced during welding.

[0027] Another advantage is that the formed interference fit between the plunger sections and the tube(s) may provide more surface area and therefore be stronger than comparable welds because the size of the welds may be reduced by space constraints adjacent to the frame and plunger sections.

[0028] Another advantage is that the plunger sections and tube(s) may be easily separable from another for repair and/or replacement, if necessary.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS



[0029] The above-mentioned and other features and advantages of this invention, and the manner of attaining them, will become more apparent and the invention will be better understood by reference to the following description of embodiments of the invention taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is a perspective cutaway view showing the internal workings of a large square baler, which includes a main bale chamber housing a plunger formed according to the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of a plunger formed according to the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a close-up perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of tube holding portions of plunger sections illustrated in FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of a plunger end section illustrated in FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of an intermediate plunger section illustrated in FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of a plunger section illustrated in FIG. 1 that includes a driver connection portion;

FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view of an exemplary embodiment of a tube holding portion and a clamp that are clamped onto a cylindrical tube;

FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional view of another exemplary embodiment of a tube holding portion and a clamp that may be used to clamp the tube holding portion onto a non-circular tube;

FIG. 9 is a front view of another exemplary embodiment of a clamp bar of a clamp that may be used to clamp a tube holding portion of the plunger illustrated in FIG. 2 onto a tube;

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of the clamp bar illustrated in FIG. 9;

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of another exemplary embodiment of a plunger formed according to the present invention that includes clamps that clamp multiple tube holding portions onto a tube;

FIG. 12 is a perspective view of another exemplary embodiment of plunger sections formed according to the present invention held together by a tube with increased diameter portions that form an interference fit in tube openings of the plunger sections;

FIG. 13 is a side view illustrating a bushing disposed between the tube and one of the tube openings illustrated in FIG. 12; and

FIG. 14 is another cross-sectional view illustrating bushings disposed between the tube and multiple tube openings illustrated in FIG. 12.



[0030] Corresponding reference characters indicate corresponding parts throughout the several views. The exemplifications set out herein illustrate embodiments of the invention, and such exemplifications are not to be construed as limiting the scope of the invention in any manner.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION



[0031] Referring now to the drawings, and more particularly to FIG. 1, there is shown a perspective cutaway view showing the internal workings of a large square baler 10. The baler 10 operates on a two stage feeding system. Crop material is lifted from windrows into the baler 10 using a pickup unit 12. The pickup unit 12 includes a rotating pickup roll 14 with tines 16 which move the crop rearward toward a packer unit 18. An optional pair of stub augers (one of which is shown, but not numbered) are positioned above the pickup roll 14 to move the crop material laterally inward. The packer unit 18 includes packer tines 20 which push the crop into a pre-compression chamber 22 to form a wad of crop material. The packer tines 20 intertwine the crop together and pack the crop within the pre-compression chamber 22. The pre-compression chamber 22 and the packer tines 20 function as the first stage for crop compression. Once the pressure in the pre-compression chamber 22 reaches a predetermined sensed value, a stuffer unit 24 moves the wad of crop from the pre-compression chamber 22 to a main bale chamber 26. The stuffer unit 24 includes stuffer forks 28 which thrust the wad of crop directly in front of a plunger 30, which reciprocates within the main bale chamber 26 and compresses the wad of crop into a flake. The stuffer forks 28 return to their original stationary state after the wad of material has been moved into the main bale chamber 26. The plunger 30 compresses the wads of crop into flakes to form a bale and, at the same time, gradually advances the bale toward an outlet 32 of the main bale chamber 26. The main bale chamber 26 and the plunger 30 function as the second stage for crop compression. When enough flakes have been added and the bale reaches a full (or other predetermined) size, knotters 34 are actuated which wrap and tie twine around the bale while it is still in the main bale chamber 26. Needles 36 bring the lower twine up to the knotters 34 and the tying process then takes place. The twine is cut and the formed bale is ejected from a discharge chute 38 as a new bale is formed.

[0032] The plunger 30 is connected via a crank arm 40 with a gear box 42. The plunger 30 may be connected to the crank arm 40 by one or more connecting rods 52, which are also commonly referred to as "conrods," as will be described further herein. The gear box 42 is driven by a flywheel 44, which in turn is connected via a drive shaft 46 with the power take-off (PTO) coupler 48. The PTO coupler 48 is detachably connected with the PTO spline at the rear of the traction unit, such as a tractor (not shown). The PTO coupler 48, the drive shaft 46 and the flywheel 44 together define a portion of a driveline 50, which provides rotative power to the gearbox 42. The flywheel 44 has a sufficient mass to carry the plunger 30 through a compression stroke as power is applied to the drive shaft 46 by the traction unit (not shown).

[0033] Now, additionally referring to FIGS. 2-6, an exemplary embodiment of the plunger 30 shown in FIG. 1 is illustrated. The plunger 30 generally includes a plurality of plunger sections 210A, 210B, 210C held together to form the plunger 30, with the plunger 30 including a pair of plunger end sections 210A, 210C. In the illustrated embodiment, a plurality of intermediate plunger sections 210B are placed between the plunger end sections 210A and 210C, but it should be appreciated that the intermediate plunger sections 210B may not be necessary to form the plunger 30. One or more rollers 220A, 220B, illustrated as two rollers, are attached to each plunger end section 210A, 210C to help guide the reciprocating movement of the plunger 30 in the main bale chamber 26. The rollers 220A, 220B may be in contact with, for example, a pair of spaced apart plunger rails 221A, 221B (illustrated in dotted lines) of the main bale chamber 26, as is known. The roller(s) 220A may be in contact with a first plunger rail 221A and the roller(s) 220B may be in contact with a second plunger rail 221B opposite the first plunger rail 221A. As the plunger 30 reciprocates within the main bale chamber 26, the rollers 220A, 220B stay in contact with their respective plunger rail 221A, 221B to keep the plunger 30 properly positioned to compress wads of crop into flakes and form the bale. In some embodiments, sliding blocks may be utilized in place of, or in addition to, the rollers 220A, 220B to achieve a similar effect. The general shape of the plunger 30, and each of the plunger sections 210A, 210B, 210C forming the plunger 30, may be adjusted as desired, with many suitable shapes being known. Therefore, it should be appreciated that the plunger 30 formed according to the present invention may have any suitable shape for reciprocating movement to form bales in the main bale chamber 26.

[0034] To hold the plunger sections 210A, 210B, 210C together and form the plunger 30, each of the plunger sections 210A, 210B, 210C includes at least one tube holding portion 211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F having a tube opening 212A, 212B, 212C, 212D, 212E, 212F formed therein and one or more tubes, illustrated as a first tube 231 and a second tube 232, placed within the tube opening 212A, 212B, 212C, 212D, 212E, 212F of each tube holding portion 211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F. While the tubes 231, 232 are illustrated as being hollow, in some embodiments the tubes are solid. Further, the tubes 231, 232 may be adjusted to provide tubes with suitable strength for holding the plunger sections 210A, 210B, 210C together by, for example, increasing a tube diameter of the tubes 231, 232. In the exemplary embodiment illustrated, each of the plunger sections 210A, 210B, 210C has two pairs of tube holding portions: the end plunger section 210A has a pair of top tube holding portions 211A and a pair of bottom tube holding portions 211B; the intermediate plunger sections 210B have a pair of top tube holding portions 211C and a pair of bottom tube holding portions 211D; and the other end plunger section 210C has a pair of top tube holding portions 211E and a pair of bottom tube holding portions 211E. In this respect, the top tube holding portions 211A, 211C, and 211E may be referred to as "first tube holding portions" for holding the tube 231 in first tube openings 212A, 212C, 212E and the bottom tube holding portions 211B, 211D, 211F may be referred to as "second tube holding portions" for holding the second tube 232 in second tube openings 212B, 212D, 212F. In some embodiments, spacers are provided between adjacent tube holding portions 211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F to prevent the plunger sections 210A, 210B, 210C from sliding closer together along the tubes 231, 232. It should be appreciated that while the plunger sections 210A, 210B, 210C, and their respective tube holding portions 211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F, are illustrated as each having four total tube holding portions, in some embodiments each of the plunger sections 210A, 210B, 210C has only one tube holding portion. Alternatively, each of the plunger sections 210A, 210B, 210C may have more than one tube holding portions, such as two, three, four, or more tube holding portions.

[0035] The tubes 231 and 232 are placed in the tube openings 212A, 212B, 212C, 212D, 212E, 212F of each tube holding portion 211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F such that an interference fit is formed between the tubes 231, 232 and the tube holding portions 211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F of each plunger section 210A, 210B, 210C. The interference fit between the tubs 231, 232 and the tube holding portions 211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F hold the plunger sections 210A, 210B, 210C together to form the plunger 30 without requiring, for example, a separate plunger frame to which the plunger sections 210A, 210B, 210C are welded. To form the interference fit between the tube holding portions 211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F and the tubes 231, 232, each of the tube openings 212A, 212B, 212C, 212D, 212E, 212F may be an adjustable size opening that is closed by a respective clamp 240, 241.

[0036] Referring specifically now to FIG. 3, some of the clamps 240, 241 closing tube openings, such as the tube openings 212A and 212C of the tube holding portions 211A and 211C, are illustrated in more detail. The tube openings 212A of each tube holding portion 211A may be coaxially aligned with one another and the tube openings 212C of each tube holding portion 211C may be coaxially aligned with one another, as well as with the tube openings 212A. The plunger sections 210A, 210B with the tube holding portions 211A, 211C are shown in further detail in FIGS. 4-5, respectively. The tube holding portions 211A and 211C may each have at least one pair of spaced apart clamp openings, illustrated as two pairs of clamp openings 313A and 313C, formed in respective opening arms 314A, 314C of the tube holding portions 211A, 211C that define a gap G therebetween. The opening arms 314A, 314C are movable toward one another to open or close the gap G and adjust the size of the tube openings 212A and 212C, respectively.

[0037] The clamps 240, 241 may each include a pair of respective clamp bars, with the clamp 240 including clamp bars 242A and 242B and the clamp 241 including clamp bars 243A and 243B, that are held together by one or more connectors 244, 245. Portions of the clamp bars 242A, 242B, 243A, 243B, such as bearing portions 247A, 247B, are placed in respective clamp openings 313A, 313C. The connectors 244, 245, illustrated as bolts, are tightened to urge the respective clamp bars 242A, 242B, 243A, 243B and the clamp openings 313A, 313C toward one another to close the gap G between the opening arms 314A, 314C and clamp the tube holding portions 211A, 211C onto the tube 231. Clamping the tube holding portions 211A, 211C onto the tube 231 forms the interference fit that holds the respective plunger sections together via connection to the tube 231. As can be appreciated from FIG. 3, a lateral distance between the opening arms 314A of the two adjacent tube holding portions 211A is less than a lateral distance between the opening arms 314C of the two adjacent tube holding portion 211C, with a length of the clamp bars 243A, 243B being relatively greater than a length of the clamp bars 242A, 242B and two bolts 245 holding the clamp bars 243A, 243B together to account for this difference. In some embodiments, each of the clamp bars 242A, 242B, 243A, 243B are provided with a lip 246 that connects to the bearing portions 247A, 247B and extends toward the gap G to secure the clamp bars 242A, 242B, 243A, 243B within their respective clamp openings 313A, 313C. While only the clamps 240 and 241 used to form the interference fit between the tube 231 and the tube holding portions 211A and 211C are illustrated in FIG. 3, it should be appreciated that the interference fit between the tubes 231 and 232 and the other tube holding portions 211B, 211D, 211E, and 211F can be formed in a similar fashion to hold the other plunger sections 210A, 210B, 210C together and form the plunger 30.

[0038] It should be appreciated that while clamps 240 are illustrated as being used to adjust the size of the tube openings 212A, 212B, 212C, 212D, 212E, 212F, in some embodiments the tube openings are partially open and naturally biased toward being closed by, for example, spring force in material of the tube holding portions 211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F. In such embodiments, the natural closing bias may be temporarily counteracted to allow insertion of the tubes in the tube openings before removing the counteracting force, allowing the natural closing bias to urge the tube openings closed to clamp the tube holding portions onto the tubes and form the interference fit between the tube and the tube holding portions that holds the plunger sections together.

[0039] Referring specifically now to FIG. 4, one of the plunger end sections 210A is illustrated in further detail. The plunger end section 210A may have a roller connecting portion 411 that is connected to the tube holding portions 211A and 211B and extends rearwardly. One of the rollers 220A, such as a rear roller, may connect to the roller connecting portion 411 by, for example, being placed and held within a roller opening 412 formed in the roller connecting portion 411, as illustrated in FIG. 2. Another roller 220A, such as a front roller, may be placed and held within another roller opening 413 formed in a side surface 414 of the plunger end section 210A. The roller connecting portion 411 may be sized and the roller opening 412 formed in the roller connecting portion 411 to provide a desired separation between the front and rear rollers 220A when the rollers 220A are installed in the roller openings 412, 413. A side roller connecting portion 415 may also be provided for connecting a side roller (or a sliding block) to the plunger end section 210 that engages a side of one of the plunger rails 221A. The other plunger end section 210C may be similar to the plunger end section 210A, but formed as a mirror image, so a separate description of the plunger end section 210C is omitted for brevity.

[0040] Referring specifically now to FIG. 5, an exemplary embodiment of one of the intermediate plunger sections 210B is illustrated by itself in greater detail. Some of the intermediate plunger sections 210B may be formed similarly to the intermediate plunger section 210B illustrated in FIG. 5. The major features of the intermediate plunger section 210B have been described previously, so further description is omitted for brevity.

[0041] Referring specifically now to FIG. 6, one of the intermediate plunger sections 210B is illustrated with a pair of driver connection portions 611 connected to the pair of tube holding portions 211C, 211D of the plunger section 210B. The pair of driver connection portions 611 each include a rod opening 612 that is sized to hold a connecting rod, such as the previously described connecting rod 52. The rod openings 612 of the pair of driver connection portions 611 may be coaxially aligned with one another to hold the connecting rod 52 in both rod openings 612. In this respect, the pair of driver connection portions 611 connect the connecting rod 52 to the plunger section 210B, and thus the other plunger sections 210A, 210B, 210C forming the plunger 30, to reciprocatingly drive the plunger 30 by the crank arm 40. It should be appreciated that the plunger 30 may be formed to have two plunger sections 210B with one or more driver connection portions 611, as illustrated in FIG. 2, to connect the plunger 30 to two crank arms. Further, while the plunger section 210B is described and illustrated as having a pair of driver connection portions 611 each having a respective rod opening 612, in some embodiments the plunger section may have a single driver connection portion 611 with a rod opening 612 to hold the connecting rod 52 (illustrated in dotted lines). In some embodiments, a rod bushing 613 is placed in the rod opening 612 to form a tight fit between the rod opening 612 and the inserted connecting rod 52.

[0042] From the foregoing, it should be appreciated that forming the plunger 30 by holding together plunger sections 210A, 210B, 210C around one or more tubes 231, 232 eliminates the need to weld the plunger sections 210A, 210B, 210C to, for example, a separate plunger frame. It has been found that such welding can cause durability issues in plungers due to material weakness that is caused by the heat used to form the welds. Further, there can be tight spaces between the plunger frame and sections where a welding tool, such as a welding torch, cannot reach, leading to incomplete welds that may not span an entire interface between the frame and the sections. The combination of reduced material strength and incomplete welds can lead to durability issues such as, for example, fractures formed in the plunger section adjacent to the welds between the plunger section and frame. The formed fractures tend to propagate through the plunger section and may ultimately make the plunger unsuitable and/or unsafe for further use.

[0043] The plunger 30, on the other hand, foregoes the need for welding the plunger sections 210A, 210B, 210C to a separate frame to form the plunger 30. Instead, the plunger sections 210A, 210B, 210C each have one or more tube holding portions 211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F that form an interference fit with one or more tubes 231, 232 to hold the plunger sections 210A, 210B, 210C together. The size of the interference fit interface may be adjusted by, for example, providing relatively large tubes to produce significant friction between the tube holding portions 211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F and the tubes 231, 232, providing a secure fit. In some embodiments, the tube holding portions 211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F are clamped to the tube(s) 231, 232, and the amount of clamping force can be varied to produce a desired friction between the tube holding portions 211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F and the tube(s) 231, 232 that prevents the plunger sections 210A, 210B, 210C from separating from the tube(s) 231, 232. If one of the plunger sections 210A, 210B, 210C does begin to loosen, due to material wear or otherwise, the clamping force can simply be increased by re-tightening the loose section to the tube(s) 231, 232. Further, if one of the plunger sections 210A, 210B, 210C is damaged during operation, the damaged plunger section can be easily removed from the tube(s) 231, 232 by unclamping the damaged plunger section and removing it from the tube 231, 232. Thus, the plunger 30 formed according to the present invention can be sufficiently strong and more durable than plungers formed by welding plunger sections to a frame, while also providing a way to easily repair and/or replace loose or damaged plunger sections.

[0044] Referring now to FIG. 7, another exemplary embodiment of a tube holding portion 711 forming an interference fit with a tube 731 that may be provided on a plunger section in accordance with the present invention is illustrated. As can be seen, the tube holding portion 711 has a tube opening 712 formed therein that holds the tube 731. The tube opening 712 is formed in a pair of planar surfaces 713A, 713B, with each of the planar surfaces 713A, 713B being on an opposite side of the tube 731. A clamp 740 with a round notch 741 is connected to the planar surfaces 713A, 713B by connectors 742 to form an interference fit between the tube 731 and the tube holding portion 711, holding the tube holding portion 711 to the tube 731. The round notch 741 can have a complementary shape to the tube 731 so the clamp 740 directly bears on the tube 731 to press the tube 731 into a similarly round notch in the tube holding portion 711 and form the interference fit. In some embodiments, another clamp is placed on a side of the tube 731 opposite the clamp 740 and connected to the planar surfaces 713A, 713B so the tube 731 is clamped between the clamps to the tube holding portion 711.

[0045] Referring now to FIG. 8, another exemplary embodiment of a tube holding portion 811 forming an interference fit with a tube 831 that may be provided on a plunger section in accordance with the present invention is illustrated. Unlike previously described and illustrated tubes, which are cylindrical, the tube 831 has a rectangular cross-section. To form the interference fit between the tube 831 and the tube holding portion 811, a clamp 840 may be provided that bears on the tube 831 and presses the tube 831 into a tube opening 816 of the tube holding portion 811. The clamp 840 may include, for example, a first portion 841 that pivotably connects to a corresponding portion 812 of the tube holding portion 811 via a pivot pin 813 and a second portion 842 connected to the first portion 841 and to a corresponding portion 814 of the tube holding portion 811 via a bolt 815. The clamp 840, therefore, may pivot about the pivot pin 813 to insert the tube 831 into a tube opening 816 of the tube holding portion 811 before connecting the second portion 842 of the clamp 840 to the portion 814 with the bolt 815 to securely hold the tube holding portion 811 to the tube 831. It should thus be appreciated that the tubes and clamps provided in accordance with the present disclosure may have many different types of cross-sectional shapes and configurations.

[0046] Referring now to FIGS. 9-10, another exemplary embodiment of a clamp bar 942 that may be used in a clamp to form an interference fit between a tube and a tube holding portion of a plunger section is illustrated. The clamp bar 942 includes a base 943 with one or more connector openings 1044 formed therein to hold, for example, bolts (not illustrated in FIGS. 9-10). The bolts may hold two clamp bars 942 together, similar to the previously described clamps 240, 241. The clamp bar 942 may further include a pair of bearing portions 944A, 944B on opposite sides of the base 943 that each have a lip 945 connected thereto, similarly to the previously described clamp bars 242A, 242B, 243A, 243B. The bearing portions 944A, 944B can be held in respective clamp openings of a tube holding portion, with the lips 945 securing the clamp bar 942 in the clamp opening. The clamp bar 942 may further include a rounded notch 946 formed in each of the bearing portions 944A, 944B that will bear on the tube holding portion. The rounded notches 946 may, for example, allow slight rotation of the clamp bars 942 in the clamp openings during operation. When the clamp bar 942 is formed with rounded notches 946 in the bearing portions 944A, 944B, the clamp opening in which the clamp bar 942 is placed may include a rounded recess in which the rounded notches 946 are placed to allow the rotation. In other respects, the clamp bar 942 may be similar to the previously described clamp bars 242A, 242B, 243A, 243B.

[0047] Referring now to FIG. 11, intermediate plunger sections 210B of the plunger 30 are illustrated with respective tube holding portions 211C, 211D that are clamped to the tubes 231, 232 using clamps 1140A, 1140B that clamp multiple tube holding portions 211C, 211D to the tubes 231, 232. As illustrated, the clamp 1140A is used to clamp the tube holding portions 211C to the tube 231 and the clamp 1140B is used to clamp the tube holding portions 211D to the tube 232. In this respect, each clamp 1140A, 1140B may include a pair of respective clamp bars 1142A, 1142B that are connected to one another to urge spaced apart clamp openings of the tube holding portions 211C, 211D toward one another to clamp the tube holding portions 211C, 211D onto the tubes 231, 232, similarly to the previously described clamps 240. Other than the clamps 1140A, 1140B being lengthened in order to clamp multiple tube holding portions 211C, 211D onto the tubes 231, 232, the clamps 1140A, 1140B can be similar to the previously described clamps 240.

[0048] Referring now to FIGS. 12-14, another exemplary embodiment of plunger sections 1210 held together around one or more tubes 1231, 1232 to form the plunger 30 is illustrated. It should be appreciated that while plunger end sections having rollers attached thereto are not illustrated in FIGS. 12-14, the plunger end sections can be formed similarly to the plunger sections 1210 that are illustrated. Each of the plunger sections 1210 includes one or more tube holding portion, illustrated as respective pairs of tube holding portions 1211A, 1211B. Each of the tube holding portions 1211A, 1211B has a respective tube opening 1212A, 1212B that holds a portion of one of the tubes 1231, 1232. The tube openings 1212A of the tube holding portions 1211A can be coaxially aligned with one another and the tube openings 1212B can be coaxially aligned with one another.

[0049] As can be seen, each of the tubes 1231, 1232 may include a plurality of increased diameter portions 1233, 1234 where the tubes 1231, 1232 define an increased diameter DI (illustrated in FIGS. 13-14) compared to a normal diameter D (illustrated in FIGS. 13-14) of the tubes 1231, 1232. The increased diameter portions 1233, 1234 may be formed on the tubes 1231, 1232 by placing diameter increasing elements, such as bushings 1350 (illustrated in FIGS. 13-14), on portions of the tubes 1231, 1232, with the increased diameter DI of the increased diameter portions 1233, 1234 being equal to the sum of the normal diameter D of the tubes 1231, 1232 plus a bushing diameter BD of the bushings 1350. Alternatively, the increased diameter portions 1233, 1234 of the tubes 1231, 1232 may be formed, for example, by forming the tubes 1231, 1232 with the increased diameter portions 1233, 1234 during formation of the tubes 1231, 1232, i.e., the increased diameter portions 1233, 1234 are integrally formed with their respective tube 1231, 1232. Each of the tube openings 1212A, 1212B formed in the tube holding portions 1211A, 1212 define a respective tube opening diameter TOD. In some embodiments, all of the tube openings 1212A, 1212B have the same tube opening diameter TOD and the increased diameter portions 1233, 1234 each have the same increased diameter DI.

[0050] Referring now to FIGS. 13-14, it can be seen that the increased diameter portions 1233 with bushings 1350 fit within the tube openings 1212A to form the interference fit between the tube 1231 and the tube holding portions 1211A to hold the plunger sections 1210 together. To form the interference fit, the increased diameter DI of the increased diameter portions 1233 is greater than the tube opening diameter TOD of the tube openings 1212A when the increased diameter portions 1233 are uncompressed. Thus, when the tube 1231 is inserted through the tube openings 1212A such that the increased diameter portions 1233 are placed in the tube openings 1212A, the increased diameter portions 1233 compress to the same diameter of the tube openings 1212A, i.e., the tube opening diameter TOD. The bushings 1350 may comprise a relatively compressible material to compress within the tube openings 1212A when inserted therein. Compressing the increased diameter portions 1233 from the increased diameter DI to the tube opening diameter TOD creates a counteracting force in material of the increased diameter portions 1233, such as the bushings 1350, that is exerted on the tube openings 1212A, denoted by the arrow CF in FIGS. 13-14. This counteracting force CF produces a significant amount of friction between the tube 1231 and the tube holding portion 1211A, which forms an interference fit between the tube 1231 and the tube holding portion 1211A. The interference fit formed between the tubes 1231, 1232 and the tube holding portions 1211A, 1211B due to these counteracting forces CF, therefore, hold the plunger sections 1210 together. In this respect, oversizing the increased diameter portions 1233,1234, relative to the tube openings 1212A, 1212B, can be used to form interference fits and hold the plunger sections 1212 together to form the plunger 30, rather than using clamps.

[0051] In some embodiments, driver connectors 1220 may also be connected to the tubes 1231, 1232 by undersizing tube mounting openings 1221A, 1221B of the driver connectors 1220 relative to the increased diameter portions 1233, 1234 of the tubes 1231, 1232, i.e., the tube mounting openings 1221A, 1221B define smaller diameters than the increased diameter DI of the increased diameter portions 1233, 1234. The driver connectors 1220 each also have a rod opening 1223 that is sized to hold a connecting rod, such as the previously described connecting rod 52, therein to couple the plunger sections 1210 to the connecting rod 52 for reciprocatingly driving the plunger. While the driver connectors 1220 are illustrated as being separate from the tube holding portions 1211A, 1211B, it should be appreciated that the driver connectors can be integrally formed with and connect the tube holding portions 1211A, 1211B, similarly to the previously described driver connection portions 611.

[0052] While this invention has been described with respect to at least one embodiment, the present invention can be further modified within the spirit and scope of this disclosure. This application is therefore intended to cover any variations, uses, or adaptations of the invention using its general principles. Further, this application is intended to cover such departures from the present disclosure as come within known or customary practice in the art to which this invention pertains and which fall within the limits of the appended claims.


Claims

1. A plunger (30) for an agricultural baler (10), comprising:

a plurality of plunger sections (210A, 210B, 210C) held together to form the plunger (30), the plurality of plunger sections (210A, 210B, 210C) comprising a pair of plunger end sections (210A, 210C); and

at least one roller (220A, 220B) and/or at least one sliding block attached to and extending laterally from each of the plunger end sections (210A, 210C);

characterized in that:

each of the plunger sections (210A, 210B, 210C) comprises at least one tube holding portion (211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F, 711, 811, 1211A, 1211B) comprising a tube opening (212A, 212B, 212C, 212D, 212E, 212F, 712, 816, 1212A, 1212B) formed therein; and

a tube (231, 232, 731, 831, 1231, 1232) placed within the tube opening (212A, 212B, 212C, 212D, 212E, 212F, 712, 816, 1212A, 1212B) of each tube holding portion (211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F, 711, 811, 1211A, 1211B) such that an interference fit is formed between the tube (231, 232, 731, 831, 1231, 1232) and the at least one tube holding portion (211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F, 711, 811, 1211A, 1211B) of each plunger section (210A, 210B, 210C) to hold the plunger sections (210A, 210B, 210C) together.


 
2. The plunger (30) of claim 1, wherein the tube opening (212A, 212B, 212C, 212D, 212E, 212F) is an adjustable size tube opening.
 
3. The plunger (30) of claim 2, wherein the at least one tube holding portion (211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F) comprises at least one pair of spaced apart clamp openings (313A, 313C), the plunger (30) further comprising at least one clamp (240, 241, 1140A, 1140B) urging the at least one pair of spaced apart clamp openings (313A, 313C) toward one another to clamp the at least one tube holding portion (211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F) onto the tube (231, 232).
 
4. The plunger (30) of claim 3, wherein the at least one clamp (240, 241) comprises a plurality of clamps (240, 241), each of the plurality of clamps (240, 241) urging the at least one pair of spaced apart clamp openings (313A, 313C) of a respective tube holding portion (211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F) toward one another.
 
5. The plunger (30) of claim 3, wherein a single clamp (1140A, 1140B) urges the at least one pair of spaced apart clamp openings (313A, 313C) of multiple tube holding portions (211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F) toward one another.
 
6. The plunger (30) of claim 3, wherein the at least one clamp (240, 241, 1140A, 1140B) comprises a pair of spaced apart clamp bars (242A, 242B, 943, 1142A, 1142B) urged toward one another by a connector (244, 245), a portion (247A, 247B, 944A, 944B) of each clamp bar (242A, 242B, 943, 1142A, 1142B) being held in a respective one of the clamp openings (313A, 313C).
 
7. The plunger (30) of claim 6, wherein the clamp bars (943) each comprise at least one bearing portion (944A, 944B) held in a respective clamp opening (313A, 313C), each of the bearing portions (944A, 944B) comprising a rounded notch (946).
 
8. The plunger (30) of claim 1, wherein each of the tube openings (1212A, 1212B) defines a tube opening diameter (TOD) and the tube (1231, 1232) comprises a plurality of increased diameter portions (1233, 1234) that are each placed in and compressed by a respective tube opening (1212A, 1212B), each increased diameter portion (1233, 1234) defining an increased diameter (DI) that is greater than the tube opening diameter (TOD) of the respective tube opening (1212A, 1212B) in which the increased diameter portion (1233, 1234) is placed when the increased diameter portion (1233, 1234) is uncompressed.
 
9. The plunger (30) of any of the preceding claims, further comprising a bushing (1350) bearing on the tube (231, 232, 731, 831, 1231, 1232) and the tube opening (212A, 212B, 212C, 212D, 212E, 212F, 712, 816, 1212A, 1212B).
 
10. The plunger (30) of any of the preceding claims, wherein each plunger section (210A, 210B, 210C) comprises at least one pair of spaced apart tube holding portions (211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F, 711, 811, 1211A, 1211B), the tube openings (212A, 212B, 212C, 212D, 212E, 212F, 712, 816, 1212A, 1212B) of each respective pair of tube holding portions (211A, 211B, 211C, 211D, 211E, 211F, 711, 811, 1211A, 1211B) being coaxially aligned with one another.
 
11. The plunger of any of the preceding claims, wherein each plunger section (210A, 210B, 210C) comprises a first tube holding portion (211A, 211C, 211E, 1211A) comprising the tube opening (212A, 212C, 212E, 1212A) and a second tube holding portion (211B, 211D, 211F, 1211B) comprising a second tube opening (212B, 212D, 212F, 1212B), the plunger (30) further comprising a second tube (232, 1232) placed within the second tube opening (212B, 212D, 212F, 1212B) of each second tube holding portion (211B, 211D, 211F, 1211B) such that an interference fit is formed between the second tube (232, 1232) and the second tube holding portion (211B, 211D, 211F, 1211B) of each plunger section (210A, 210B, 210C).
 
12. The plunger (30) of any of the preceding claims, wherein at least one of the plunger sections (210B) comprises a driver connection portion (611) connected to the tube holding portion (211C), the driver connection portion (611) comprising a rod opening (612) sized to hold a connecting rod (52) therein.
 
13. The plunger (30) of any of the preceding claims, further comprising a roller connecting portion (411) connected to the tube holding portion (211A, 211B, 211E, 211F) of each of the plunger end sections (210A, 210C) and to the at least one roller (220A, 220B).
 
14. An agricultural baler (10), comprising a main bale chamber (26) and the plunger (30) of any of the preceding claims disposed within the main bale chamber (26), the main bale chamber (26) comprising a pair of spaced apart plunger rails (221A, 221B), each of the plunger rails (221A, 221B) being in contact with the roller (220A, 220B) attached to a respective one of the plunger end sections (210A, 210C).
 
15. The agricultural baler (10) of claim 14, further comprising a connecting rod (52) coupled to the plunger (30) for reciprocatingly driving the plunger (30).
 




Drawing