GKN Structures and TATA Steel have joined forces with JCB Landpower to create the next generation version of JCB’s Fastrac tractor unit which will use an engine from Agco/Sisu.
Two British firms have helped JCB Landpower develop a new vehicle the aim of which is to create an even more productive machine by reducing its weight.
Using innovative design and engineering methods, engineers at Tata Steel’s Skinningrove site in Cleveland, UK have been able to reduce the weight of the next generation of JCB Fastrac machines.
The aim of the work is to make the machines leaner on fuel consumption, be better able to handle bigger loads and generally be safer than previous models. At the same time engineers have worked to retain the strength required by farmers around the world.
A three-way partnership involving Tata Steel, JCB Landpower, and GKN – the current manufacturer of the Fastrac 4000 tractor chassis – was formed to develop the vehicle, recently previewed at the Agritechnica show in Hanover, Germany, where it proved to be one of the principal attractions.
But using computer-aided engineering tools, and optimising product design, engineers from Tata Steel designed a chassis that combined strength with lightness.
The steel is provided by Tata in Scunthorpe, but it will be worked by the firm's Skinningrove team.
It is understood this is the first time that Tata Steel has worked with JCB Landpower and GKN Structures and the steel company hopes the project will lead to further collaboration.
The Fastrac 4000 replaces the ageing 2000 model and has few similarities with the previous model.
Interestingly, power for the Fastrac 4000 is derived from a 6.6-litre AGCO/Sisu engine that delivers more power and torque than the Cummins engine it replaces. This engine will deliver 160bhp in the smaller models and 220bhp in larger versions.
Torque has also shot up to 1,000Nm and for emission control the engines rely on AGCO/Sisu’s SCR SisTronic system to enable it to satisfy Tier 4 final limits.
AGCO was formed in 1990 following the management buyout of Deutz Allis Corporation from KHD AG in Germany. AGCO engines claim to offer “clean power without compromise”. The company makes engines in Beauvais, France, and Jackson, Minnesota, USA.
Gone too is JCB’s previous semi-powershift transmission and in its place is a two-range Fendt CVT gearbox. Fendt in Germany was purchased by AGCO Corporation in 1997 and Fendt’s CVT/IVT is highly rated by some. This transmission, in combination with the engine, provides a top vehicle speed of 60km/h and is operated using JCB’s armrest-mounted joystick.
To accommodate the powertrain engineers developed the new chassis that is slightly longer than the previous design, but narrower. Turning circle is now considerably tighter.
There is also a new suspension with a single hydro-pneumatic system available as standard; this can be upgraded to double-acting.
Four-wheel-steering remains on the options list. It has been given a simpler control switch borrowed from JCB’s Loadall. There is an automatic mode too that can be flicked from four-wheel steer to two at higher speeds.
And there is a completely new cab with a one-piece windscreen for improved visibility and opening rear-quarter windows.
According to JCB, the changes make the 4000 much more capable in the field than the old model. The official launch of the 4000 takes place next year though some machines may find their way onto farms this year.
It will be recalled that in December 2011, JCB announced plans for a new £31million engine development project in the UK aimed to create some 350 jobs across its Midlands and Wales’ plants.
For this the company was awarded £4.5million from the UK Government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF).
Design and research into the new engine project took place at JCB Power Systems in Foston, Derbyshire, where JCB Dieselmax engine are manufactured.
The development of the new engine – to be installed in JCB’s own products and sold to third parties – created 50 new advanced engineering jobs at JCB Power Systems.
It was said at the time that when the engine entered production, over 300 more jobs would be created across JCB’s Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Wrexham factories between 2016 and 2021.
JCB chief executive Alan Blake said at the time: “Since we began production in 2004, JCB has led the way in off-highway engine development, with a range of fuel saving, clean and highly efficient engines.”
“The new JCB engine will give our products a huge competitive edge across global markets which we anticipate will lead to substantially increased sales between 2016 and 2021.”
JCB began manufacturing its Dieselmax engine range at its Derbyshire plant in 2004. In 2011, the company also opened a new engine production facility in India for the production of engines for its Indian-built products.
Last year in June, JCB announced a new, six-cylinder engine – the JCB Dieselmax 672 – to add to its diesel engine portfolio. The company remains, as ever, secretive about its engine production, saying only that in total so far it has built more than 300,000 diesel engines, including those made in India. However, according to sources inside the company, last year the company built over 200,000 diesel engines, including those made in India. This is, effectively, business lost by other engne makers.
It was then reported that the Staffordshire-headquartered maker of construction equipment had invested £45 million in developing the new engine to be built in Foston.
Although JCB has moved from being a new entrant in making diesel engines to a global producer in decade, it will be recalled, that in its early and secretive stages of engine development, JCB vehemently denied it had any plans to manufacture diesel engines.
The first engine was built in the UK in November 2004 and since then production has extended to JCB India’s headquarters at Ballabgarh, where the first engine was manufactured in 2011.
JCB chairman Sir Anthony Bamford last year noted: “In a relatively short space of time we have become a major producer of engines and today more than 70% of JCB’s machines are powered by the engines we manufacture.
“The move into six cylinder engine production is a historic moment for our business and a natural step to take and we look forward to setting new standards in performance and fuel efficiency.”
The 7.2-litre Dieselmax 672 is based on the company’s four-cylinder Dieselmax engine, offer a high degree of parts commonality across the two engine platforms. The four cylinder engine, in production for over eight years, features electronic control, a Delphi common rail fuel injection system and fixed geometry turbocharging.
The Dieselmax 672 is made to meet Stage II emissions standards, for growing markets including Russia, Brazil and China. The engine is used in JCB’s JS360 crawler excavator for those territories, but will appear in additional machines as time progresses.
The six-cylinder engine is offered with ratings of 140kW (188hp), 165kW (221hp), 190kW (255hp) and with a maximum output of 225kW (302hp). Maximum torque is 1,200Nm.
Four-cylinder engines in Stage 1V EPA Tier 4 Final trim range from a power output of 55kW (74bhp) to 129kW (173bhp) with torques ranging from 400Nm (295lbft) to 690Nm (509lbft).
The new engines are built on a dedicated line at JCB Power Systems’ purpose-built facility in Foston.
JCB has worked work closely with Ricardo in diesel engine development. ∎
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