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Evolution of the DBS

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Service manager Ray Beecham (left) and sales and marketing manager Chris Blight have played pivotal roles in the development of the DBS module over the years.

Service manager Ray Beecham (left) and sales and marketing manager Chris Blight have played pivotal roles in the development of the DBS module over the years.

By JOHN RYAN AM
This year marks more than 25 years since I developed the DBS, or Deep Blade System.
Today, it’s an accepted and widely adopted precision seeding tool, with basically no change to the original idea of cultivation below the seed, a closing tool to establish a firm seedbed and following press wheel for that vital seed-soil contact (the three-slot system).
But it’s history of evolution has never been told until now.
As you can see from the photographs, there has been many changes from the prototype, which is testament to mainly farmer ideas and Ausplow’s research and development team.
The original DBS, which was designed around 1992, comprised a simple spring-operated C-shank, attached to which was a parallelogram ‘rib’ designed with a knife blade, fertiliser tube and closing plate, and a seed hose holder and press wheel, to ‘tamp’ or firm the soil, as well as controlling seeding depth.
It was a system that meant each seeding unit operated independently of the bar’s ground-following capabilities, ensuring an almost constant position for accurate seed placement.
I trialled this unit on several combine seeders and it soon became apparent changes were needed, including dispensing with the heavy-duty springs and adding hydraulics.
The springs produced too much ‘chatter’ which meant poor seed placement, particularly on breakout – a common complaint by all farmers in those days, who operated seeding bars with spring tines.
We also found the press wheel lacked suitable pressure for a range of soil types and in wet conditions “attracted” a lot of mud build-up, rendering it fairly useless to control seeding depth.
So from the prototype, we progressed to the commercial Version 1 of the DBS, with serial number 001 being sold to Esperance farmer, the late Ross Whittle.
Version 1 was fitted to a 9.1m (30ft) DBS bar with modules far beefier in design, with the addition of a solid seeding tube to better protect the seeding hose and prevent ‘blocking’, which also was a common complaint with all bars in those days.
Our selection of knife blade lengths went from 17.5cm (7in) to 22.5cm (9in).
The press wheel was changed to a larger rounded tyre (70mm diameter) and fitted with a mud scraper. The closing tool also was widened to 60mm to push more soil into the trench to alleviate seed falling in too deep.
But the biggest change was the addition of hydraulics, which provided the necessary down pressure to keep the knife blade in the soil – a feature early DBS owners said allowed them to confidently tackle compacted paddocks and duplex soil conditions, particularly gravelly outcrops.
It led South Australia farmer Brendon Smart to declare that DBS stood for, ‘Digs Big Stones’.
We fitted a 10-litre accumulator to the bar with one check line.
A total of 89 Version 1 bars were sold between 1995 and 1997, in a period marked by enormous competition from mainly Canadian manufacturers.
In 1998, we released Version 2, which saw an important change in designing a longer fertiliser boot to improve profiling and consistency of fertiliser placement – on Version 1 the fertiliser boot was too high and in some soil conditions, sand would flow back into the trench before the fertiliser.
We also improved the mud scraper and built-in check valves on every cylinder.
Also we added another 20L accumulator to accommodate the increased width of the bar (now double fold), and to better handle rocky conditions.
That became a very successful bar with an exponential increase in sales throughout Australia over an eight year period.
In 2002 we completed the prototype of the Multistream, which provided us with a unique seeding rig capable of liquid injection (See separate story).
The evolution of the DBS continued with Version 3 being introduced in 2007.
This saw a new jump cylinder with aluminium pistons, purposely designed to reduce the overall weight of the bar, along with the introduction of stainless steel seed and fertiliser tubes.
And we replaced the mild steel brackets with ‘Hardox’ steel, which is part of the Bissaloy family.
We also extended the parallel side arms attaching the press wheel by 50mm (2in) to provide a bigger gap between the press wheel and the knife blade to improve material flow. And we ‘flanged’ the side arms, again creating more space but also strengthening the side arms. The mud scraper arm also was lengthened to intercept mud earlier.
And we provided a choice of press wheel widths of 50mm, 70mm (2.8in) and 90mm (3.6in) while retaining the 300mm (12in) diameter. Additionally we released a Vee-shaped press wheel which was 370mm (14.8in) in diameter, with a 70mm width.
By 2014, more ideas by our research and development team saw our current Version 4 begin to crystalise.
This included a concept from our sales and marketing manager Chris Blight, we now call the Pro-D tool system.
The Pro-D effectively replaced nine blades with one because of the depth adjustments possible between 15cm (6in) and 22.5cm (9in). This vastly increased flexibility to handle a range of soil types.
And our South Australian representative Ashley Smart also weighed in on the Version 4 with a suggestion for vertical support arms holding the press wheel, to eliminate ‘catching’ and soil build-up caused by the horizontal support arms.
Ashley was a major influence in our design changes and the result provided more space between the press wheel and support attachments to virtually eliminate mud build-up in sticky clay soils, predominately in New South Wales but occurring in patches in South Australia and Victoria.
A simple change from horizontal support arms to the vertical position and placing the mud scraper lower on the wheel for a quicker “attack” at the mud”, essentially solved a problem that Ashley raised with Ausplow.
So by 2016 we had the Version 4, the most significant change to the DBS module since its inception.
Apart from the Pro D and press wheel changes, we made it liquid-ready with the addition of a Friction Flow hose kit providing the ability for three different placements of liquid product, while opening up the rate of delivery to between 30 litres a hectare to 100L/ha to cater for variable rate applications.
We believe the Version 4 now offers a lot more functionality in a range of soil conditions and, of course, represents a huge improvement from when I first started with the prototype.
Our latest addition to the Version 4 is a rounded 135mm (5.3in) diameter press wheel which provides better flotation is deep ripped country and softer soil conditions.
Interestingly, we are finding a lot of interest among existing DBS owners in retro-fitting our Version 4 modules to their old bars.
Current R&D involves on-going trialling with our pair row boot to ensure it meets the standard required by owners and on the drawing board is a sectional control delivery system for granular and liquid products.
Yes, there will be a Version 5 of the DBS, and it will be the result of our continued listening and talking with DBS owners.
I would be happy to hear from anybody who would like to communicate with me via email at john@ausplow.com.au
Good luck for the 2018 season and let’s hope it’s a bin buster.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018