Hagie Manufacturing Company, a leader in developing innovative agricultural sprayers and other high clearance agricultural equipment, has been known for the slogan “Hagie UpFront,” which combines both the company’s product concepts and its approach to business through pride, honesty, and an old-fashioned work ethic. Continuing its tradition, Hagie is using the expertise of three senior agricultural engineering students from Iowa State to produce a new sprayer design.
For years, the company has been credited as a top manufacturer for its UpFront innovative designs that place the sprayer’s boom – the pipe with attached nozzles for distributing spray from a tank – in front of the self-propelled machine, rather than in the rear as most competitors do.
Recently, however, agriculturists have noticed the UpFront sprayer boom creates a sticky residue on the machine’s windshield when particles from late season crops get caught up in cross spray and hit the windshield. To eliminate residue build up and solve visibility issues, Hagie created a rear boom sprayer to accommodate the center section of boom.
But the design integration still needed some work to meet the company’s high standards, so Hagie turned to former intern Curtis Sporrer and his capstone design project team members Darin Goza and Chris Hoffman for help.
During the first semester of the capstone course, the students decided to explore an option that would stay true to Hagie’s tradition of using front boom sprayers.
“We stepped back and looked at the problem from a wider scope to see if we could approach it differently,” explains Sporrer. “This led us to spending a considerable amount of our time testing an idea for an air curtain.”
The students’ air curtain would fit above the windshield and blow pressurized air down the windshield to keep the spray from reaching the glass surface. The students, excited about their innovation, began making early prototypes and testing their theory.
When the team presented their concept to Hagie, the company was intrigued and impressed by the team’s creativity, but saw flaws in the plan. Based on the complexity of the concept and the time constraints the capstone course presented, Hagie suggested the students look at redesigning the rear boom with added features instead.
As the spring semester started, the team returned to the drawing board to formulate ideas to improve the current design of the rear boom while also making it look more aesthetically pleasing. The students considered it top priority to make the boom seem less out of place and to have it complement the machine it will be used with. Their solution involves creating a sleeker design and using a paint to match Hagie machinery.
They also wanted to add a couple features to the boom’s design to make it easier to use in the field. These features include an adjustable height mechanism that would move the boom from its lowest to its maximum height to accommodate corn growth, as well as a folding mechanism that would allow the boom to be put away for storage, ultimately utilizing shed space more efficiently.
These complex features could complicate the installation of the boom since there will be more moving parts to maneuver while installing the boom on the rear of the sprayer.
“One thing we have to consider is the service that will be done on these machines,” says Hoffman. “When someone has to work on the equipment, the boom needs to be easily removed by one service technician.”
The team is also tackling the boom’s structure to update spraying features. The first thing on the group’s list is creating a system that is more effective and durable.
“Protection for the nozzles and engine cooling fan will be crucial to our redesign so we can prevent drift from going into the engine and clogging the radiator,” Goza explains.
The students will also address a double spraying issue that occurs with a rear boom design. Today, most sprayers have a technology outfitted on them guided by GPS that will shut off each section of the boom as a farmer comes to a place that has already been sprayed.
Another challenge is that, while the design includes booms in both the front and rear, the GPS software can detect only one boom location. This will result in either over applying or under applying chemicals every time the automatic shut off system is used. “We are looking at using electronics to put in a time delay or possibly a distance delay to help bridge that gap,” Hoffman says.
Although the group has come up with several creative solutions to the initial problem, having a more defined direction has not been easy. As most capstone students find out, the project was very open-ended and the students have to create an effective and logical solution from start to finish. The team also found that keeping customers in mind was important when it came to formulating solutions.
“Trying to determine what’s most important to the customer is always a challenge, especially with a project where we didn’t actually have any market research to guide our decisions,” explains Sporrer. “Its kind of up to your own opinions, but luckily we’ve all had farming experience in some respect during our lives, so we had a little bit of useful insight.”
The team is now creating the product and testing its effectiveness. To keep progress moving, the group is working hard to stay motivated and accomplish a little more day by day.
“For the course, we are required to deliver a final design proposal to Hagie and our instructor, Jay Harmon, by the end of the semester. Personally, we want to have a prototype built and tested so we know the design is going to do what we want it to,” says Goza.
The group hopes that once it hands off the product and its design to Hagie, the company can quickly produce and sell it. The likelihood of Hagie implementing their work is pretty good—Sporrer will be working at the company full-time following graduation, so he can see the design to the finish and pick up where the group left off, if needed.