Innovations in agricultural machinery design

By DavidChadwick

Often it is the simplest of innovations that have the biggest, long-term impact and a great example can be seen in a farmyard near you. Today, it is estimated that 85% of agricultural tractors use the “3 point linkage” to attach the many different implements that are required to prepare soil and to plant, nurture and harvest crops. This simple mechanism was invented and patented by Harry Ferguson in 1926, with Henry Ford taking the design into mass production. Up until this time plows and other agricultural implements were simply dragged along behind a tractor, based on the long established working practice of livestock, or even people, dragging an agricultural implement across the ground.

Plows were simply dragged behind a horse or tractor before the invention of the 3 point linkage in 1926
Plows were simply dragged behind a horse or tractor before the invention of the 3 point linkage in 1926

By mounting implements directly on the tractor, and using the 3 point linkage together with hydraulics to raise and lower the device, the efficiency and safety of agricultural work was improved immensely.One beneficial effect of mounting a plow directly to the tractor is that the lifting of the earth by the plow is transferred to a down force on the back of the tractor, increasing traction and reducing the weight needed in the tractor itself. And by lifting and raising implements directly from the cab, less operator interaction with moving parts is required, increasing both safety and efficiency. The next time you walk past a tractor give it a second look and you will probably see a 3 point linkage ready for use. And check out this tractor model and animation of the 3 point linkage created by 2 students from the Beszedes Jozsef Agricultural School in Serbia, Krisztian Porzsolt & Akos Molnar. Krisztian and Akos used Solid Edge together with its built-in animation capabilities to create this model and the movie.

Today agricultural machinery manufacturers are responding to new technologies, for example by incorporating GPS technology into their equipment for more accurate planting, cultivation and harvesting; and by designing robust, interchangeable implements that enable farmers to react quickly to changes in weather patterns, crop prices and government policy. Using 3D CAD software that is powerful and flexible, and that has excellent assembly modeling capabilities enables agricultural equipment firms to rapidly design robust, interchangeable implements that help farmers successfully cultivate the right crops at the right time. One example of a smaller agricultural machinery manufacturer who is using the latest 3D CAD software to design faster and get new products to market quickly to meet seasonal demand is Theebo-Tech in South Africa. As you can see in the video below they are using our design management software Solid Edge SP to help understand the impact of proposed design changes, and to support their modular approach to designing their range of planters.

Future trends in agricultural practices including the increased use of vision systems and GPS units will see a move to a more “robotic” approach for certain work, and with a powerful and flexible CAD tool at their fingertips, designers will be able to rapidly incorporate these new techniques into their equipment designs. You can read 8 more case studies from diverse agricultural equipment manufacturers and find out how these firms are increasing their market share and profitability by using professional 3D CAD software on our Agricultural Machinery Design web page.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at