Staying in control of harvesting

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Sensor-Technik UK has developed the control system for Big Bale Co South’s Transtacker bale harvester. Here the company looks into the requirements and the solutions which ensured that every part of the system worked to the required specification

Sensor-Technik UK is a leading integrator for control, measurement and instrumentation systems and has years of experience across multiple industries such as agriculture, construction, automotive and marine. What makes it different is its ability to offer the complete engineering lifecycle from concept and design, through prototyping and beyond to series production.

Agricultural machinery has always set the pace with adoption of innovations and technological advances. As the needs of the end-user develop in both complexity and quantity, the machine must meet all requirements, day-in and day-out. The new breed of agricultural hardware is no longer a tool – it is a vital part of the commercial success or failure of today’s agricultural enterprises.

CAN-bus has long been adopted by agriculture as the primary communications back-bone for a machines-distributed control system. Sensor-Technik UK is a CAN-bus expert, specialising in the design, development and implementation of advanced control solutions using CAN and utilising leading hardware and software to realise the ideas of leading OEMs.

Sensor-Technik UK was contracted by Big Bale Co South – manufacturer of the innovative Transtacker bale harvester – to design and develop a new control system for the machine. As with any system development process, sales engineers from Sensor-Technik UK start with the concept, sitting down with Big Bale and selecting the required hardware and software functionality. As a result of this design process, Sensor-Technik UK defined the required system components as follows:

  1. Main ECU
  2. Operator Interface
  3. Cable Harness System


As with all systems, the main ECU is selected based on a number of key parameters – number of inputs and outputs (I/O), number of required CAN connections and programming language. In the case of Big Bale Co South, the required I/O determined the ESX-3XM as the primary ECU for the system. The ESX-3XM is the latest in the long-line of powerful electronic control units manufactured by Sensor-Technik Wiedemann. The controller comprises four CAN ports as standard, expandable I/O using up to 3 expansion boards and a 32-bit 150MHz Tricore processor. Big Bale, as part of their program of improvements, had elected to implement Sauer-Danfoss PVG solenoids for their hydraulic manifold, which the ESX-3XM supports using one of the many available expansion cards – in this instance providing 12 PVG outputs.

To provide the necessary total I/O, an additional 2 expansion boards were also selected. The ESX range of controllers is designed for mobile and off-highway machines and certified to industrial, agricultural and construction standards, with certain models qualified to SIL2 status. The ESX-3XM is freely programmed in either ‘C’ (using the STW higher-level API) or with CoDeSys V3 (IEC61131-3).

Operator Interface

A vital part of a powerful and sophisticated control system is the operator interface. Without the right display or control platform, the system becomes difficult to control or service and generally does not gain favour with the end-user. Big Bale clearly defined the need for an icon-based, intuitive and detailed interface, which is not so big that it obscured the operator view in the cab. The display also had to be big enough so that the required icon layout and data displays can fit on the screen in an easy to read and use way. Another requirement was that the operator interaction with the screen should be via a set of physical soft keys as opposed to touchscreen.

Sensor-Technik UK selected the Enovation Controls Powerview 780 unit. The PV780 display is a full-featured, configurable display that integrates vital engine, transmission and diagnostic information into an easy to read operator interface. Greater functionality can be integrated into the display by way of the five available digital inputs. Additional switches can be wired into the display through the digital inputs and broadcast on the CAN-bus. The PV780 features a full colour, 7-inch bonded LCD for brighter, smoother graphics and best in class sunlight readability. The bonded LCD and rugged design of the display make it a great solution for all types of environments and applications. In addition, the PV780 display is compatible with the PowerVision Configuration Studio, so custom software configurations can be quickly developed. With the software tool, it’s easy to customize the user-interface – defining custom parameters, adding custom graphics, on-screen text, OEM branding and more.

Cable Harness System

In addition to the control electronics, Sensor-Technik UK was asked by Big Bale to provide the cable harness system to interconnect all parts of the system. A key requirement was that the harness be easy to fit by Big Bale during production and to be modular in design, to reduce downtime for harness repairs. Sensor-Technik UK has considerable expertise in the design, development and series production of cable harness systems and used those skills to good effect in this application. The harness had to be built so that it could withstand the harsh environments that the Transtacker would be working in.

With all parts of the system designed and developed, Sensor-Technik UK installed the system on a prototype machine. This machine was then used to thoroughly test every aspect of the system and field-trial the software developed by Sensor-Technik engineers. The engineers spent time on site with Big Bale and its end-users, ensuring that every part of the system worked to the required specification. Upon successful sign-off of the prototype, Sensor-Technik UK entered series production, all done in-house by its dedicated production team.

Sensor-Technik UK applies this methodology to all applications.

To find out more, contact the team of sales engineers to discuss your application and the solution.

Sensor-Technik UK

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