|Hardin Iv, Robert
|SEARCY, STEPHEN - Texas A&M University
Submitted to: National Cotton Council Beltwide Cotton Conference
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/15/2010
Publication Date: 4/30/2010
Citation: Hardin Iv, R.G., Searcy, S.W. 2010. Autonomous Module Builder. National Cotton Council Beltwide Cotton Conference. CD ROM p. 558-569.
Interpretive Summary: Seed cotton is compressed into modules after harvest for storage and transport. Because this operation is labor-intensive, manufacturers have recently introduced cotton pickers with on-board module builders. However, the on-board module builders are expensive and not available on cotton stripper-harvesters, which are used to harvest a significant amount of cotton in the southwest. Conventional module builders offer automatic tramping systems, but a module builder operator is still required to distribute the cotton. Another concern with conventional module builders is that inexperienced operators often construct modules with shapes that allow water to collect on the cover. This collected water will penetrate through the cover, causing reduced fiber and seed quality. The goal of this research was to develop an autonomous module builder that can construct properly shaped modules without additional labor. Sensors were installed on a conventional module builder and software was developed to control the actions of the module builder. Compared to a human operator, the autonomous system built modules with more desirable shapes. The autonomous system could build modules quickly enough to keep pace with harvesting operations. Producers using the system indicated that the autonomous system worked well and would reduce labor requirements. The autonomous module builder may also be useful for packaging bioenergy crops for storage and transport.
Technical Abstract: Conventional cotton harvesting requires many seasonal laborers. To reduce labor requirements, equipment manufacturers have recently introduced harvesters with on-board module building capabilities; however, this feature is only available on pickers and these machines are expensive. Conventional module builders offer automatic tramping systems as an option, but these systems do not distribute cotton in the builder or prevent cotton from being pushed out of the builder by the tramper. Module builder operators are often inexperienced and may build poorly shaped modules. The goal of this research was to develop an autonomous module forming system by retrofitting a conventional module builder. Sensors were installed on a module builder to determine the position of the carriage, tramper, and location of cotton in the module builder. Software was developed to control electrohydraulic valves so cotton was properly distributed and compressed in the module builder. The boll buggy operator remotely controlled the system using a wireless display. Modules were constructed by the autonomous system with a 64% smaller water collection area in an average time of 37.4 min. Cotton producers indicated that the system was simple to use and significantly reduced labor requirements. The autonomous system can construct quality modules and reduce labor requirements with only a small additional investment in equipment.