Smart tires relieve the pressure


Smart tires relieve the pressure

Precision farming technologies are gradually  transforming the agricultural industry into a high-tech business. Trelleborg is contributing with an intelligent wheel design that automatically controls tire pressure according to load and ground conditions.

The Variable Inflation Pressure (VIP) system is a smart, autonomous, complete wheel capable of self-adjusting the pressure of a combine harvester’s tire during operation according to its precise load. The VIP™ system helps farmers optimize a tire’s footprint to reduce soil compaction, increasing efficiency and productivity. A VIP-equipped wheel can sense whether a combine is in the field or on the road. It can also detect differences between loads on each tire on the same axle. On a slope, for example, this means the VIP system can set two different pressures to enable maximum safety, high flotation and a constant footprint, resulting in good handing and low soil compaction.

In tests, measurements of the contact pressure and the footprint dimension of the tire, showed that on average there was 10 percent less contact pressure with the VIP
system. “From an economic point of view this generates two effects – a better crop yield for the next season and also less energy necessary for the future plowing operations of the terrain,” says Piero Mancinelli, R&D Director for agriculture and forest tires at Trelleborg Wheel Systems. Tests have shown up to a 5 percent higher crop yield than with a standard wheel.

Building an autonomous smart device integrated within a wheel rim was a challenge. “The system is made of a set of sensors, a compact compressor adapted to the reduced space inside the rim, an electro valve, some connectors and a central logic unit to make calculations and communicate data,” Mancinelli explains. One issue was how to power the system because of battery limitations. “The solution was found with rotational electric contacts on the back of the rim,” he says.

Trelleborg worked closely with the agricultural machinery manufacturer agco Fendt on the development of the VIP system. The collaboration gave insight into the challenges of designing the system to work with combines and the technical details that needed to be worked out. “Together we defined the electric power requirements, and agco is now designing a suitable upgrade of the electric system of the combine,” Mancinelli says. In the future the two companies will work on further integration of the VIP system with the combine control systems.

As it is forecast that in the near future around 20 percent of cultivated land will rely on precision farming technology, Trelleborg is committed to further development of the VIP concept alongside other intelligence systems.

“Agricultural machines are increasingly dependent on digital technology, and tires need to play their part in this process,” Mancinelli says. “Several manufacturers
have already started to supply tractors that are able to deliver data to a cloud, and such data is useful for many predictions and analysis, such as indicating optimized
working conditions or preventive maintenance. Crucial information is still missing in this process – the tire pressure and its optimization to actual conditions – so we want to close this gap.

Digital interfaces and a specific app allow the operator to have total control of machine setup, footprint area and tire pressure, all of which will help tires support improved machine efficiency in agricultural applications.

How VIP works
The heart of the VIP™ system is a central processor that gathers information from sensors that measure sidewall deflection, pressure and temperature. Based on these readings, the processor adjusts the tire pressure via a compressor and valve according to the prevailing ground conditions. Trelleborg has developed a control system that can interpolate and correlate the data to define the actual instantaneous load acting on a single tire, so that the tire pressure can adjust quickly. 

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