Microcombine/Research Development

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  • Microcombine Function is to harvest various field crops. Harvesting consists of reaping, threshing, and winnowing.
  • Reaping is to cut crops (ex. ears of grain) for gathering, which simplifies subsequent harvesting stages.
  • Threshing is to separate stalks from the accumulated crop
  • Winnowing is to separate inedible chaff from the edible part of the crop.


  • Header Width - should be around 6-8 feet.
  • Microcombine Weight - should be able to fit on a 10,000 lb deck-over trailer.
  • Pickup Reel Speed - should be slightly faster than its speed if it were to be rotating along the surface of the farm plot at the microcombine's drive speed.
  • Drive Speed - should be able to reach 2-3mph.

Relevant Links

Combine Full Process Internal Animation

Zurn 150 Real-time Performance Video

Conceptual Notes

  • Bottom - contains 4 wheels with hydraulic drive and take-off.
  • Front - contains the reaping system.
  • Middle - contains the threshing system.
  • Rear - contains the winnowing system.
  • Front Middle Rear - contains the chassis system.
  • Top Front - contains the operator system.
  • Top Middle - contains a part of the hydraulic system, electric system, and air system.
  • Top Rear - contains the collecting system.
  • Other Sections - contain the remainder of the microcombine.



  • Reaping System - pulls crops toward microcombine and cuts the crops near the ground as they are moved further in and eventually fed into the threshing system.
  • Threshing System - rolls crops through "concaves" during which threshing drums beat the crop so that the non-stalk part (ex. grain) falls through the concave's openings to the bottom. The stalk is moved further by "walkers" to the spreader while the non-stalk crop is moved further by an oscillating screen to the winnowing system.
  • Winnowing System - moves the non-stalk crop part into "sieves" that oscillate and are subjected to an air blower directed upwards and to the rear of the microcombine. Using the proper predetermined blower setting, the lighter inedible chaff is separated from the heavier edible part of the crop. The edible crop is moved by augurs to the storage system while the chaff is blown outside behind the combine.
  • Collecting System - stores the edible crop; when required, an augur directs the crop through the unloader tube to an external container outside the microcombine.
  • Air System - consists of the air pump and tubes that channel high speed air into the winnowing system.
  • Hydraulic System - provides controllable hydraulic power to various hydraulic actuators and motors used in the microcombine.
  • Electronic System - includes the electronics used for controlling and monitoring the microcombine.
  • Chassis System - includes rigid frames and durable covers on which the other systems are mounted and protected, respectively.
  • Operator System - includes the platform on which the operator sits and controls the microcombine.

Reaping System


- consists of the frame into which field crops are first directed by the microcombine.

Header Example
  • Header Side - the side plates of the header that provide a passageway for crops to enter the microcombine
  • Header Bottom - The bottom plate of the header that provides a surface on which crops on slide into microcombine
  • Header Rear - the rear plates of the header that contain the crop.
  • Header Angles - consist of the metal angles that hold together the other header components. The connections include between the header sides and header bottom, header rear and the header bottom, the header sides and the header rear, and the header rear to the header X
Pickup Reel

- rotates to move crops into header while the cutting bar cuts the crops

  • Pickup Reel - is the actual rotating component that is directly mounted to the pickup reel hydraulic motor on one side and to a ball bearing on the other side
  • Pickup Reel Mount - is the frame component that fastens onto the pickup reel arms and allows mounting of the hydraulic motor on one side and a ball bearing on the other.
  • Pickup Reel Arms - are the frame components that hold the fulcrum of the pickup reel in place and are mounted to the header and hydraulic cylinders as a rotary joints. This can be a pair of steel square tubes.
Cutting Bar

- cuts crops near the ground to allow the ground-separated crops to be easily moved further into microcombine; also known as "mowing fingers", and is mounted on the header. The OSE Hay Cutter can be used as the microcombine's cutting bar.

  • Cutting Bar Frame - consists of a horizontally mounted frame on which cutting blades are fastened. The cutting bar itself is mounted onto the header bottom plate.
  • Cutting Bar Blades - are the sharp metal cutting components, some of which are stationary and some which are reciprocated by the cutting bar actuator. The cutting blades are fastened to the cutting bar.
Side Knives

- are vertically mounted oscillating cutters that cut at the front sides of the header. These knives are necessary to prevent uprooting crops that get reeled into the microcombine from the sides, as well as facilitating the harvesting of oilseed rape and beans.

  • Side Knives Frame - consist of a vertically positioned frame fastened to the side knives and reciprocated by the side knives actuator. The side knife bar itself is mounted onto the header side plates.
  • Side Knives Blades - are the sharp metal components fastened to the side knife bar.
Header Augur

- moves reaped crops into feeder drum. This is mounted inside the header directly to the header augur hydraulic motor on one side and a ball bearing on the other side.

  • Header Augur - is the metal component that rotates, contacts, and moves the crop.
  • Header Augur Mount - is the metal component that lies between the header augur and the header augur hydraulic motor
Feeder Drum

- consists of a metal drum that contacts and moves the crop from the rear or the header into the threshing system. The feeder drum is mounted directly to the feeder drum hydraulic motor on one side and to a ball bearing on the other side.

  • Feeder Drum - is the actual metal drum that rotates, contacts, and moves the crop.
  • Feeder Drum Mount - is the metal component that lies between the feeder drum and the feeder drum hydraulic motor.

Threshing System

  • Concave - concave-shaped frame on which the reaped crop is threshed; the non-stalk crop part drops to the screen on the lower level while the stalk is moved further to the walkers.
Universal Concave Example
  • Concave Mount - metal component that fastens to the universal concave and the threshing frame
Threshing Drum
  • Threshing Drum - rotates and threshes the reaped crop against the universal concave to separate the stalk and the non-stalk parts of the crop.
  • Threshing Drum Mount - metal component that fastens to the threshing frame and allows direct mounting of the threshing drum to the threshing drum hydraulic motor.
Walker Example
  • Walker - is a near-horizontally mounted oscillating panel that moves the stalk out of the microcombine and has openings for further stalk and non-stalk separation. These are fastened to the walker mounts
  • Walker Mounts - are a pair of metal components that attach and hold the sides of the walker. The walker mounts are then attached via oscillating bar to the walker hydraulic motor.
  • Walker Crankshaft - mounts to the walker mounts and allows rotary motion to oscillate the walkers.
Walker Crankshaft Example

Winnowing System

  • Sieve - are oscillating rectangular metal trays with holes; the non-stalk part of the crop is blown between sieves; the inedible chaff blows outside behind the microcombine while the edible crop falls through the holes of multiple sieves to be transferred to the collection tank. In general, only two sieves are necessary; a round hole sieve on the lower level, and a demello (spellcheck) sieve on the upper level.

Round Hole Sieve Example

  • Sieve Frame - consists of the frame components that hold the sieves in place; the sieve frame also allows easy removal of the sieves during microcombine cleaning and maintenance.
  • Sieve Oscillating Bar mounts to the frame holding the sieve and allows rotary motion to oscillate the sieves.

Collecting System

Collecting Tank

- stores the edible crop.

  • Collecting Tank Sides - make up the 4 sides of the collecting tank in the upright position. One collecting tank side has two holes for connections to the air system. Another collecting tank side has a hole for connection to the unloader tube.
  • Collecting Tank Bottom
  • Collecting Tank Lid
  • Collecting Tank Quick-locks
  • Collecting Tank Hinges
  • Collecting Tank Handle
  • Unloader Tube - consists of metal tube through which the edible crop can be transferred from the microcombine to an external container
  • Unloader Tube Cap - is a round component with a sizeable slit for crop to be ejected and a fulcrum for one end of the augur to be mounted. The unloader tube cap itself mounts to the unloader tube.
  • Unloader Augur - is the rotating component that moves crop through the unloader tube.
  • Unloader Plate Attachment - is a rectangular metal plate with a hole that mounts onto the collection tank and welds to the unloader tube attachment.
  • Unloader Tube Attachment - is a metal tube with an angled cut that welds onto the unloader plate attachment and connects to the unloader tube.
  • Unloader Hinge - is the hinge between the unloader tube and the unloader tube attachment that allows bending of the unloader into the microcombine when not required.
  • Unloader Quick-lock - is the connection mechanism between the unloader tube and the unloader tube attachment that allows rapid disconnection so that the unloader bending process takes less time.
  • Collector Plate Attachment - is a rectangular metal plate with a hole that mounts onto the collection tank and welds to the collector tube attachment.
  • Collector Tube Attachment - is a metal tube with an angled cut that welds onto the collector plate attachment and connects to two air tubes. One air tube connects to the end of the winnowing system (where the edible crop accumulates); the other air tube connects to the intake of the air turbine (so as to pull the edible crop into the collection tank by partial vacuum).

Air System

  • Air Pump - blows air for separation of the lighter inedible chaff from the heavier edible crop part.
  • Air Tubes - channels the flow of high-speed air into the winnowing system
  • Air Filter - prevents particulates from entering the air pump.

Hydraulic System

  • Pickup Reel Cylinder - adjusts the height of the pickup reel
  • Pickup Reel Hydraulic Motor - rotates pickup reel
  • Header Hydraulic Cylinder - adjusts the height of the header
  • Header Augur Hydraulic Motor - rotates header augur
  • Feeder Drum Hydraulic Motor - rotates feeder drum
  • Threshing Drum Hydraulic Motor - rotates threshing drum
  • Walker Hydraulic Motor - rotates walker oscillating bar
  • Sieve Hydraulic Motor - rotates sieve oscillating bar
  • Unloader Augur Hydraulic Motor - rotates unloader augur
  • Drive Hydraulic Motors - move the wheels of the microcombine with a tank-style steering circuit.

Electronic System

  • Cutting Bar Actuator - is an electrically powered driver arm that reciprocates the cutting bar.
  • Side Knives Actuator is an electrically powered driver arm that reciprocates the side knife bar.

Chassis System

Chassis Angles
  • Front Vertical Angles - consist of long metal angles positioned vertically that are fastened to the header near the front of the microcombine
  • Front Horizontal Angles
  • Rear Vertical Angles - consist of long metal angles positioned vertically that are connected to the walker mounts and the sieve mounts
  • Rear Horizontal Angles
  • Top Side Horizontal Angles
  • Bottom Side Horizontal Angles

Operator System

  • Operator Platform is simply the surface upon which the operator is located while controlling the microcombine. The operator platform can be a simple metal plate with holes cutouts as necessary for special mounting purposes.
  • Seat - simply is the seat in which the operator can sit. The seat is mounted to the operator platform.


Industry Standards

Industry Standard GVCSTool


Wanted: List of expenses for prototyping and documenting GVCSTool

Peer Reviews

Wanted: Peer reviews from the scientific community regarding the R&D of GVCSTool

Experiments and Prototypes

Wanted: Empirical data on performance

Experimental Results

Prototype Notes, Observations, etc.

Failure Mode Analysis

Testing Results

Recommendations for Improvement


Combine - Current Work -- Desired Features of the Microcombine

This category is for grain and bean farmers to comment on the features they would find useful in this machine.


  • When raising small grains on a small scale, threshing is the chief bottleneck. I'm willing and able to cut enough wheat with a scythe to feed my extended family, but threshing is another question. It is very laborious and time consuming.
  • What I'd like best would be a modular design where I could buy or build the thresher first, then the cleaner, then the cutter bar and pickup wheel in a trailer configuration, then a self-propulsion unit and bolt each one on as it is ready. In my case I'd probably use it towed and never make that last step.
  • Bear in mind that agriculture is similar in boot-strapping to this whole project and it is important to be able to get some functionality early (the thresher in this case) and then build on it as resources come on line.
  • I'm not as familiar with the all crop as I'd like to be, but I believe it needs a special head to pick corn (maize). I'd call corn picking a "nice to have" which if it could be integrated easily would be fine but otherwise, since it can be managed in so many other ways, should be a very low priorty.
  • Since old grain and dirt is very damaging to the device, easy cleaning should be an important consideration.
  • A design which leaves the straw windrowed for easy loading or baling is highly desirable.

Combine - Current Work -- Survey of Existing Commercial Models

Small Scale Grain Production Today -- this link is to an article at the website of a commercial dealer in imported European machinery. He has some pictures of stationary threshers that run $5K - $26K. There is a survey of commercial small combines presently being manufactured in Europe and Japan. These small combines retail for $40K - $77k. http://www.ferrari-tractors.com/smallscale.htm

Here is a bean thresher retailing for $9500 without an engine, $11000 with an engine -- http://www.ferrari-tractors.com/PDF%20Articles/Bean%20Threshers%20with%20pictures%20oct%202003.pdf

Article on lower cost small grain harvesting. http://www.ferrari-tractors.com/PDF%20Articles/Grain%20Harvesting%20Options.pdf

Small scale bean harvesting http://www.ferrari-tractors.com/PDF%20Articles/Small%20Scale%20Bean%20Harvesting.pdf

Small scale threshing equipment. http://www.ferrari-tractors.com/PDF%20Articles/Small%20Scale%20Threshing%20Equipment.pdf

Grain harvesting alternative technology http://www.ferrari-tractors.com/PDF%20Articles/Grain%20Harvesting%20Alternative%20Technology.pdf


Small grain harvester http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJBcwNMWvRE&feature=grec_index http://www.croplandbiodiesel.com/images/clb-brochure-English-2010.pdf (GO TO PAGE 5 FOR COMBINE SPECS)

ZURN Rocket: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVuBEO-863Q

Massey Ferguson 31: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLkh8qoIrHo&feature=related

Combine - Developments Needed

Combine - General

Wikipedia article on combines -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combine_harvester

1949 Popular Mechanics magazine with cutaway picture of a self-propelled combine of its era, plus pictures of two small miniature reapers at work on extension experimental farms. http://tinyurl.com/3k3func

1937 picture of a self-propelled cutting header, Australia http://museumvictoria.com.au/sunshine/displayimage.asp?iid=13350

More early designed, 1885 to 1930s, from Australia http://museumvictoria.com.au/sunshine/displaysubtheme.asp?stid=4&tid=2

Pictures of threshers, northern Great Plains of the US, 1890s through 1940s. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/award97/ndfahtml/ngpSubjects21.html

Article about the development of the McCormick reaper. http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/wmh/pdf/wmh_spring01_grady.pdf

The Rodale thresher (stationary) http://www.cd3wd.com/cd3wd_40/JF/JF_OTHER/SMALL/Rodale%20grain%20thresher%20-%201977.pdf

Collection of third world implements, document #37 is a pedal powered thresher http://www.cd3wd.com/cd3wd_40/JF/JF_VE/BIG/06-232.pdf

1979 book on the design and building of a pedal thresher. Includes 21 drawings. http://www.cd3wd.com/cd3wd_40/CD3WD/APPRTECH/THRESHER/EN/INDEX.HTM


Combine - Specific

Combine - Background Debriefing

Combine - Information Work

Combine - Hardware Work

Combine - Articles

Micro Combines

For small scale agriculture, harvesting can be done with micro combines. Micro combines can be broken down into two categories: towed and self propelled. Towed combines are hard to find due to them being out of production since the ‘60s in the U.S. However, demand for them is growing with small scale farmers. The old Allis Chalmers model 60 combines were widely used in America as one of the main combines used for grain harvesting. They can be pulled behind a tractor, and are PTO driven. Some companies have started buying these combines, refurbishing them, and reselling them to farmers. Self propelled combines are the types currently being developed. Operators of these machines either ride them or must walk behind them as they harvest. These self propelled units are beginning to see more use in rice harvesting in Asian countries. The combines in the following list are all self propelled with the exception of the Shenmao Harvester, which is hand held.

Briggs & Stratton Model Picture taken from: http://www.hcmuaf.edu.vn/ctt/softs/pkh/tailieu/tapchi_khkt/2004/TC%20-%204%20-%2004/PHHien.pdf Working width: 1.2 m Working Speed: 1.5 – 2.1 km/hr Idle travel speed: 2.0 – 5.0 km/hr Field capacity: 1 ha/day Cutting height: 0.1 – 0.4 m Combined losses: <2.0 % Engine power: 16 Hp Fuel consumption: 15 L/ha Labor requirement: 5 workers Overall dimensions: 3.5m X 1.5m X 1.5m Net weight: 600 kg

Mitsubishi 502 Rice Harvester Pictures taken from: http://www.ferrari-tractors.com/PDF%20Articles/Micro%20Grain%20Combine%20August%202009.pdf

Head width: 25” Field capacity: 1 acre/9 hrs Unit cost: $25,000 Wheel type: Crawler tracks

Cicoria Combine Picture taken from: http://www.ferrari-tractors.com/pictures/ss11.htm

Head width: 78” Overall dimensions: 192” X 92” Unit weight: 5,390 lbs Head type: General crop header with axial threshing drum Engine power: 38 Hp

Shenmao Harvester Picture taken from: http://shenmao.en.alibaba.com/product/250305412-209425313/43cc_small_Grain_Harvester.html

Engine size: 43cc 2-stroke Unit weight: 7.5 kg No other information could be found, so it is unclear how well it actually works

Agriculture in developing countries is largely done on many small scale plots, and there is a need for small scale harvesters to help increase crop production. There are already several companies producing micro combines and harvesters, but there is still a need for cheaper and more efficient machines. Continued development of micro combines will help make small scale farmers better able to make a living, and make their lives easier.

Works Cited

Canales, E. 1999. Small Scale Grain Production Today. Gridley, CA.: Ferrari Tractors. Available at: http://www.ferrari-tractors.com/smallscale.htm. Accessed 23 January 2010.

Hien, P. H., and L. Van Ban. 2004, The Mini Combine-Harvester: Research Results and a Related Automation Concept. Journal of Agricultural Sciences and Technology. 4: 95-100.

Micro Grain Combine. Gridley, CA.: Ferrari Tractors. Available at: http://www.ferrari-tractors.com/PDF%20Articles/Micro%20Grain%20Combine%20August%202009.pdf . Accessed 25 March 2010.

Zhejiang Shenmao Appliance Co., Ltd. Available at: http://shenmao.en.alibaba.com/product/250305412-209425313/43cc_small_Grain_Harvester.html . Accessed 25 March 2010.

Combine - Sign-in

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Key Design Planning Prototype Almost done Full Release