USPTO publishes online CNH Canada's patent for 'apparatus for forming a unitary bale of agricultural or forestry biomass' with uniform density, level top

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia , January 22, 2014 () – According to news reporting originating from Alexandria, Virginia, by VerticalNews journalists, a patent by the inventors Roberge, Martin J. (Saskatoon, CA); Richman, Kevin S. (Plainfield, IL), filed on August 24, 2011, was published online on January 14, 2014.

The assignee for this patent, patent number 8627767, is CNH Canada, Ltd. (CA).

Reporters obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The disclosure of U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/402,123, filed Aug. 24, 2010, is hereby incorporated herein in its entirety by reference.

"It is difficult to chop and pack efficiently agricultural biomass material (like sugarcane billets, straw or grass silage) or forestry biomass (wood chips). If the biomass, as an example cane billets harvested with a sugarcane harvester, is harvested as chopped material (billets of approximately 10 cm), there is a need for many trucks or trailers to follow the forage harvester. However, this creates traffic and soil compaction and valuable juice can be lost on the ground.

"The objective of this large-scale chopped biomass harvesting (in bulk) is typically to chop the material, keep the juice (like for sugarcane harvesting), pack it only once in a rectangular bale and transport it with minimum disturbance and maximum density. One known option for packing is to compact the material repeatedly with a horizontal plunger from the top (like packing a cotton module). However, to bale a large bale, e.g., 8 foot by 8 foot, horizontally using such conventional vertical plunger would be difficult to obtain a high crop density. So packing in successive horizontal layers and using gravity force (like packing bunker silos) is believed to be more realistic.

"Apparatus configured and operable for packing crop material, and particularly hay, in successive horizontal layers are well known. One known device is disclosed in Luscombe U.S. Pat. No. 3,907,139, issued Sep. 23, 1975, entitled Stack Forming Device. This device utilizes a horizontal compaction roller supported on guide structure supported from cables. In operation, the roller moves end to end along the guide structure through a stack forming chamber, to compact the crop material into the stack. However, the device relies on the weight of the roller and guide structure alone to provide the compacting force. This can limit the density of packing that can be achieve using that device. Also, because the support structure is supported by flexible cables, it can easily tilt and result in an uneven stack. Also, the roller of the Luscombe device is relatively large in diameter, and the edges of the guide structure occupy the peripheral regions of the chamber, such that the periphery of the stack may not be well compacted.

"Another known stack forming device is disclosed in Kline et al. U.S. Pat. No. 3,922,838, issued Dec. 2, 1975, and entitled Machine For Forming A Compact Stack Of Crop Material. This device utilizes a shaped packing roll supported on a carriage frame within a stack forming chamber and movable along a curved path end to end within the chamber for forming a crowned stack. The packing roll is supported by walls of the chamber, and cylinders are provided for raising and lowering the walls and driving the packing roll against the stack for better compaction. The Kline et al. device also includes a baffle member in connection with the packing roll operable for deflecting an incoming flow of crop material downwardly onto the stack being formed, which is described as being and movable from time to time for distributing the crop material onto the stack. However, the Kline et al. device forms a crowned stack which is larger in the middle and no manner for distributing the crop material to form a level stack is disclosed.

"Therefore, what is sought is apparatus for forming a unitary bale of agricultural or forestry biomass, capable of forming a bale of substantially uniform density and having a level top, which overcomes one or more of the shortcomings and limitations set forth above."

In addition to obtaining background information on this patent, VerticalNews editors also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "What is disclosed is apparatus for forming a unitary bale of agricultural or forestry biomass, capable of forming a bale of substantially uniform density and having a level top, which overcomes one or more of the shortcomings and limitations set forth above. The invention also has utility for forming bales of crop material such as cotton, and thus the term 'biomass' should be interpreted broadly to include that and other balable plant materials.

"According to a preferred aspect of the invention, the apparatus includes a mobile structure having a floor and upstanding walls defining a compacting chamber, and an inlet in an upper region of one end of the structure configured for receiving a substantially continuous stream of the agricultural or forestry biomass for flow along a path through the chamber from the one end toward a second end opposite the one end. The apparatus also includes packer apparatus configured and supported in the chamber for reciprocating movement through the chamber between the one end to the second end and progressive movement upwardly within the chamber, for compacting the biomass against the floor for forming the bale. A crop deflector is supported in the chamber above the packer apparatus for deflecting the stream of the biomass downwardly, and is configured and operable so as to move continuously with the packer apparatus between the ends of the chamber and to substantially constantly reconfigure as a function of a position of the packer apparatus and a direction of the movement thereof so as to deflect the stream of the biomass directly in a path of the packer apparatus in the current direction of the movement thereof so as to be immediately compacted thereby onto the floor or the bale. As an attendant result, the incoming stream of biomass is continuously and immediately compacted into the bale, such that each layer of the bale will be flat and of uniform density. Additionally, there will be less tendency and occurrence of build up of the biomass behind the packer apparatus as it moves through the chamber, and accumulation at the ends of the chamber from movement up or down hills.

"According to another preferred aspect of the invention, the crop deflector has a crop deflecting surface positioned and configured to be impinged by the stream of the biomass, so as to deflect and guide the stream downwardly, and the reconfiguration of the deflector comprises changing a vertical extent of the crop deflecting surface. The position of the packer apparatus can be a vertical position and/or a horizontal position.

"As another preferred aspect of the invention, the crop deflecting surface is configured and operable to be extendable and retractable for varying the vertical extent thereof, with vertical and horizontal movement of the packer apparatus. As a preferred example, the crop deflector can comprise a flexible roll up tarp or sheet, e.g., of a durable rubbery or canvas material, which can be biased toward the retracted or raised position, as a non-limiting example, such as using a spring or springs. Additionally, a bottom portion of the crop deflector can be attached to the packer apparatus, such as, but not limited to, using chains, cables, or linkages, so as to automatically roll out when the packer apparatus is farther from the upper end of the deflector, e.g., lower in the chamber, and retracted when closer to the upper end, e.g., higher in the chamber. Linkages provided can also be configured to advantageously automatically position the lower end of the deflector above or in other desired relation to the packer apparatus during the movements thereof, for directing the biomass stream in the path of movement of the packer apparatus.

"According to another preferred aspect of the invention, the crop deflector will have a crop deflecting surface positioned and configured to be impinged by the stream of the biomass and to deflect and guide the stream downwardly, and the reconfiguration can include changing a shape of that surface. As a non-limiting example, a biasing element or elements can be provided in connection with the crop deflector so as to change the shape, position, and/or orientation of all or a portion thereof with respect to the incoming stream, for deflecting and guiding the stream in a desired manner downwardly toward the floor or bale immediately in advance of the packer apparatus. Exemplary biasing elements are springs such as coil springs attached to fixed structure and extendable in tension with movement of the deflector toward one end or the other of the chamber, to exert a force against a portion or portions of the deflector for altering a shape and/or orientation of the deflector for directing the stream of biomass in the desired manner.

"As further explanation, the incoming stream of biomass will have greater propulsion force closer to the inlet into the chamber, and less force farther from that point. The deflector will be closer to the inlet when at one end of the chamber, and farther away when at the opposite end. When at the closer end, the deflector will be required to deflect the more forceful stream downwardly, and will be configured in one manner for that purpose, and in another manner at the farthest point from the inlet, and will be configured in a range of manners between those for the closest and farthest positions, respectively.

"As a non-limiting example, a radius of curvature or angle for the deflector can be varied as a function of the horizontal position between the ends of the chamber, and/or the vertical position of the packer apparatus within the chamber.

"As an exemplary embodiment, the deflector can comprise an upper portion of a hard or rigid material such as sheet metal. The upper portion can have a concave, curved, or angled shape when viewed from the side, so as to be capable of deflecting the biomass stream from a generally horizontal or slightly upward or downward trajectory, to a substantially vertical downward trajectory, including to redirect the stream somewhat opposite the incoming direction when close to the end of the chamber closest to the inlet. The upper portion of the deflector positioned to be directly impinged by the incoming biomass stream will also preferably have a convex curved or V-shape when viewed from above, so as to deflect portions of the impinging biomass in opposite sideward directions and spread the stream largely evenly from side to side. As a result of the combination of the concave side profile and V-shaped or convex upper profile, the incoming flow will be deflected downwardly and to the sides, in a manner so as to be distributed largely evenly from side to side on the floor or previously compacted biomass. Additionally, the biasing element or elements in connection with the upper portion of the deflector will exert a biasing force against the deflector, that can cooperate with the force exerted against the deflector by the impinging stream, to displace and/or deform the deflector, for a desired effect, particularly, to better direct the stream to the desired location in advance of the moving rollers.

"The lower, flexible portion of the deflector comprising the flexible tarp or sheet, is configured to guide the stream of biomass downwardly during the end to end movement in a manner to deliver the biomass evenly across the path of the packer apparatus. Because of the flexibility, the tarp or sheet will absorb some of the energy of the biomass, to slow it and reduce the impact forces against the floor or already compacted biomass.

"According to another preferred aspect of the invention, the packer apparatus comprises a set of rollers extending across the chamber having vertically coextensive bottom portions configured for rolling over an upper surface of the bale for imparting a substantially flat shape thereto. Opposite end ones of the rollers have a diametrical extent substantially smaller than a diametrical extent of a middle one of the rollers, so as to be capable of imparting the flat shape to portions of the upper surface of the bale adjacent to the ends of the chamber. As an optional feature, the packer apparatus can comprise a frame in connection with and supporting the rollers that is tiltable when the underlying compacted biomass is not parallel with the floor, and the tilt can be sensed to signal the condition to the controller or operator for corrective or other action. A level sensor or sensors can also be provided, to enable determining a direction and extent of tilt of the harvester and/or packer frame, and the packer responsively operated, for instance, to take steps to avoid and correct any resulting unevenness in the compacted biomass.

"As an additional, optional aspect of the invention, the biomass can be carried on a conveyor extending through or above an upper region of the compacting chamber and of variable length, operable to extend and retract so as to follow the end to end movements of the packer apparatus and deflector. As a result, the distance that the biomass will be airborne before impinging the deflector will be substantially constant, which may be advantageous for some applications. The conveyor may also require less power than a blower."

For more information, see this patent: Roberge, Martin J.; Richman, Kevin S.. Apparatus for Forming a Unitary Bale of Agricultural Or Forestry Biomass with Successive Horizontally Compacted Layers. U.S. Patent Number 8627767, filed August 24, 2011, and published online on January 14, 2014. Patent URL: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=83&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=4148&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PTXT&s1=20140114.PD.&OS=ISD/20140114&RS=ISD/20140114

Keywords for this news article include: Agricultural, CNH Canada Ltd.

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