Two new test-benches costing 6.5 million euros have been installed at the CLAAS Testing and Validation Centre in Trangé, France, making it one of the most modern and capable facilities in the European agricultural machinery sector. CLAAS Tractor gave the international trade press a unique look behind the scenes at its Research & Development department to mark the commissioning of the new facilities.
The new test-benches consist of a driveline test-bench for performance testing and optimisation of the entire drive system from the engine, transmission and hydraulics through to the software, and a 4-posts test-bench for assessing and improving the durability, reliability, comfort and design of CLAAS machines.
With the new test-benches, the company is now able to carry out performance and reliability testing on both complete vehicles and vehicle parts with high precision and reproducibility. They will also allow CLAAS to master the challenges presented by increasingly complex agricultural machinery and systems. The company’s prototype validation capacity has been significantly increased with this investment.
Working around the clock, seven days a week, the test-benches will also help to reduce the time required for endurance testing and, in turn, also reduce product development costs. Naturally, field testing remains an essential part of the process and will still be carried out on our partner farms throughout the world.
The new driveline test-bench allows testing up to a total power load of 2500 kW (up to 500 kW per wheel and one power take-off shaft) to be carried out on CLAAS tractors from the AXOS through to the XERION. The latest technology also allows the reproduction of an extremely wide variety of usage cycles from agricultural practice around the world. Frédéric Cavoleau, Head of the Testing and Validation Centre, explains how it works: “We carry out field testing on our customers’ farms: torque, vehicle speed, temperature, hydraulic output. We record between 20 and 100 different values. Based on this data, we can reproduce these usage conditions on our new driveline test-bench as often as we want on one and the same tractor. We can record French, Ukrainian, North American, Australian and other countries’ usage cycles and thus cater to worldwide requirements from our facility in Trangé.”
The new 4-posts test-bench with its four hydraulic rams which each provide a lift capacity of 25 tons, a maximum frequency of 25 Hz and a maximum height difference of 40 cm is extremely powerful and also versatile because, alongside CLAAS tractors from the AXOS through to the XERION, the facility can also test CLAAS combine harvesters, forage harvesters and balers. This test-bench is able to subject the machines to a complete endurance test under heavy vibration – for example, to optimise the chassis and suspension. The new bench allows the testing of machines under vibration even though the engine and gear are not actually in operation. “We can simulate ten years of tractor life in just four weeks”, explains Frédéric Cavoleau. More than 20 different suspension settings can be tested in less than two days for the complete adjustment of the front axle. This allows to omitt some of the more complicated field testings.
“The challenge for manufacturers is to test the main functions of a tractor at the earliest possible stage of product development”, summarises Christophe Perge, Head of Product Development at CLAAS Tractor. “Computer simulation helps us in this context. It allows us to assess the performance and reliability of our developments as early as possible”, explains Frédéric Cavoleau. This is followed by testing on the test-benches, on test tracks and then in the field. At CLAAS, a project can involve more than 40,000 hours of field testing, with up to 7000 hours allocated to a single prototype. “Thanks to our worldwide experience of machine usage in the field, we are able to develop testing programs for the test-benches which are adapted to the different conditions that the machines are subjected to throughout the world. Our insights from field testing are used to further develop our computer simulations on an ongoing basis”, explains Frédéric Cavoleau.
Both test-benches have been installed in a new 12m-high building and are each mounted on an earthquake-proof floor pad that resists impacts and vibrations. 950 t of concrete and 60 t of steel were used to build the floor pads. The 4-posts test-bench is also mounted on air cushions. At peak load, up to 2.9 megawatts are needed to operate the facility. This roughly corresponds to the energy requirements of a small town of 1000 residents. When it is in operation, the driveline test-bench also acts as a power generator. This energy is reused directly on site, especially for the 4-posts test-bench.
The CLAAS Testing and Validation Centre was built from scratch in 2012 as part of the strategic international development plan for CLAAS Tractor at the Trangé site, not far from the tractor factory in Le Mans. Today it operates with a team of 60 staff who work on up to six projects at any one time. Up to 100 tractors can be tested simultaneously in the testing area of the centre. The facility also has large workshops used for the preparation of prototypes.
With its two existing test-benches at the CLAAS Research Centre in Vélizy Villacoublay, near Paris, and the two new test-benches in Trangé, CLAAS has significantly increased its testing capacity for product development and is thus aiming to further strengthen its position of technological leadership for all of its products.