Title
Microelectronics in agriculture
PCB and Microcontroller technologies improve functionality of slurry tankers
Technologies used

PCB, Microcontroller

Industrial sector (PRODCOM code)
    1 Agriculture
    2932 Agricultural and forestry machinery
Abstract

Alfa Laval Agri BSA GmbH Marktschorgast is an established manufacturer of tanker trailers for liquid manure and other agricultural equipment. The company was founded in 1963 and has currently 165 employees. This business covers development, production and distribution of products. Typical customers are medium-sized agricultural companies or co-operatives, but also companies who are offering agricultural services. The market for slurry tankers in Germany and Europe is dominated by a lot of small manufacturers, about 40 companies are offering their products European wide. Alfa Laval exports slurry tankers for more than 25 years to the Netherlands, Belgium and other countries. In Germany, the company has a market share of about 25%. This corresponds to a turnover of about 8 million € per year.

As a system supplier the company delivers slurry tankers together with the corresponding control units for the manuring. Before the Application Experiment, this unit was based only on discrete analogue/ digital components as well as electromechanical parts. Only very simple control functions could be realised. The company had only little microelectronics expertise which was restricted to the application of these PCB based components which were bought from third parties. The implementation of additional functions to the system (e.g. a continous changeable manure flow) was not possible without the installation of a complete additional board computer. This made the product very expensive and over-dimensioned because an unflexible standard version from outside had to be implemented. In addition, the competing products offered partially additional features, such as control and monitoring of position switches or automatic motion control (however mostly realised on low technology levels) which were not implemented in the company's products so far. Other features, e.g. dosage functions were required by the customers.

The main objective of the Application Experiment was therefore the improvement of Alfa Laval's competitive situation in Germany and Europe by developing an own, microcontroller-based control device to be installed at the tractor with the main features improved functionality and a reduced selling price. Furthermore, a higher reliability of the system should reduce maintenance and warranty claim costs. Another advantage of the new solution is the replacement of the individual installation of the tankers by a standard version.

The only way to achieve this goal was the introduction of know-how in PCB/SMD and microcontroller technologies. This know-how will be also necessary for future product developments of Alfa Laval Agri.

Because Alfa Laval is a real newcomer in microelectronics, the main barrier which had to be overcome at the beginning was a psychological and management one. Of course there was also a knowledge barrier how to handle the tools and how to design and program microcontroller based products.

The project started in June 1999 and and ran for 9 months until February 2000 as planned before. The total costs up to the prototype stage were 48 k€. Addition industrialisation costs of 53 k€ will be necessary. Within the first 5 years of life time, a ROI of 700% will be reached, the payback period will be 12 months.

Company

Alfa Laval Agri BSA GmbH
Bernecker Straße 5
D-95509 Marktschorgast
Germany

Detailed information

You can also benefit from microelectronics

PCB and Microcontroller technology provided Alfa Laval Agri BSA GmbH with the means of improving its products and enhancing its market position. You can also achieve significant benefits by acquiring the right microelectronics technology and utilising it in your product or manufacturing process. You can get help from FUSE to realise this.

FUSE is a technology transfer programme, funded by the European Commission to stimulate the wider use of microelectronics technologies by European enterprises to increase their competitiveness and enhance their economic growth. The demonstrator described here is one of many examples in the public FUSE portfolio covering the whole spectrum of microelectronics technologies and spanning a wide range of applications and industry sectors.

FUSE provides you with:

  • Best practice in acquiring specific microelectronics technologies and conducting full development projects through the FUSE portfolio of real life demonstrator documents.
  • Local training and expert support to plan your innovation realistically and help you conduct your project successfully.

Further information and support relating to this and other demonstrators can be obtained from the addresses below.


Further information   Guiding Technology Transfer Node
For further information and support regarding this case study, please contact a Technology Transfer Node (TTN) in your region.
Homepage: http://www.fuse-network.com
GEMAC-GmbH
Matthesstrasse 53
D-09113 Chemnitz
Germany