Where is the panther?
10/30/2013 | Words: Katrin Beck | Pictures: Robert Hack
Beet harvester, Series 1300
It is early October in Lower Bavaria. The sky is blue and the sugar beet field is lush green – or at least part of it still is. The rest is now brown earth and running along the line between bright green and dull brown are two sparkling yellow beet harvesters. Slightly offset from one another but at matching constant speeds, the two machines steadily work their way up and down the field. It looks like a well-practiced drill as the two Euro Panthers work up the slope, perform a synchronized turn at the top and work their way back down. You would not know by looking at these two harvesters that they are only pre-series models. And what makes them special are the Series 1300 engines from MTU that power them.
The Panther four-wheeler is the latest model to be launched by the Bavarian agricultural equipment manufacturer Ropa. Like its bigger brother, the Euro-Tiger, it is a beet harvester. The Ropa family of big cats has thus gained a new member. On close inspection you can easily tell the two harvesters are related, since the Panther has the same header as the Tiger. Ahead of the 6-row lifting unit, leaf-toppers remove the leaves, followed by micro-toppers, which shave off the heads. Lifting shares plow through the ground and lift the beets without damaging them. They are conveyed and cleaned via three sifters below the storage hold. From there, the beets pass intothe storage hold. The four-wheeled Panther can hold over 20 tonnes. Its big brother, the Tiger, can hold six tonnes more.
An economical engine for the future
“We are now producing 2,300 newton-meters of torque at 1,700 rpm,” reports Michael Gruber, development manager at Ropa, as the Panther works its way up the slope in the beet field without any apparent effort. Coming downhill it is only 1,600 newton-meters. The setup is right. Gruber looks at his engine-management monitor with satisfaction, checking the exhaust recirculation figures, fuel consumption and other key data from the 380 kW MTU engine that is based on Mercedes-Benz technology. The inline-6 engine with exhaust gas recirculation and SCR catalytic converter already meets the EU IV and US Tier 4 final emissions requirements that do not come into force until 2014. That is just one of the features that places the Panther ahead of its big brother, the Tiger. The Tiger still uses an OM 502 power unit rated to the EU IIIB emissions standard. Having reached the lower end of the beet field, the two Panthers drive over to a long pile of beets, called the storage clamp. There, they extend their conveyor belts (they are longer than the ones on the Tiger) and discharge their beet cargo in less than a minute. The conveyors foldback to the next pass along the rows of beets at a constant 8-9 kph, with the one Panther always a couple of meters ahead of the other. Working in that way, the two prototypes have finished harvesting the entire field in no time at all.
Modular system for beet harvesters
Michael Gruber proudly lists the new features on the Panther: extra large tires reduce the impact on the soil; a new chassis concept decreases roll and makes the vehicle more stable, especially on slopes. And to control all that, the Panther’s command center has been given a new, modern design and new software. ”Of course, we will carry over all the innovations to the next generation of the Tiger,“ said Gruber. The engine compartment at the back of the vehicle has been designed specifically to be able to accommodate the larger engine of the Tiger. The Panther 4-wheeler beet harvester extends the range of products offered by the agricultural machinery producer Ropa and offers farmers with smaller fields in particular an alternative to the six-wheeled Tiger model. Ropa has built twelve Panthers for the 2013 harvesting season and is showing them in action at trade fairs, harvesting days and demonstrations in Germany, France, Austria and Switzerland. Michael Gruber is confident that the Panther, like its big brother the Tiger, will soon be digging the beet all over the world.
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