As Equalizer puts it, designing a seeder or a planter unit for farming is a lot like designing a bridge. The weight to strength ratio needs to be in perfect balance.
“You cannot just add weight because you will end up with a very impractical machine that needs a lot of horsepower to simply get through the soil. You want the machine to do the work that it is built for, so you need to keep it as light as possible, but also as strong as possible,” explains Gideon Schreuder, Managing Director at Equalizer.
To combat the challenges presented by weight and strength, Equalizer has turned to high-strength structural steel for all of its large planting and seeding machines.
Founded in 2000, there are currently thousands of Equalizer products in operation. The company began using Strenx® back in 2004 and since then, there has been no turning back.
“We have used special steel from a very early point in time and we would be much worse off without it,” explains Schreuder. “Referring to one of our first units made with special steel, we were able to cut weight by about 40 percent from the original design where we used a S355 type of steel.”
Over the years, Strenx® has allowed Equalizer to obtain the performance customers are looking for in a product, like longevity and reliability. In addition to these two important factors is the ability to stay competitive on a global scale.
As Nicholas Davies, Production Director at Equalizer explains, the goal when designing a new product goes beyond just upgrading with special steel.
“We already know the benefits of high strength steel. So, we want to get it right from the very beginning. Therefore, we actually design high strength steel into the original concept and design of the machine.”
This progressive thinking when it comes to designing has led Equalizer to high strength tubing. Doing so has opened many doors and has allowed for the potential to create products with an expanded reach and even further versatility.
“From a component point of view, Equalizer is now looking to the possibilities of high strength tubing for the frameworks of their machines,” explains Ricardo de Villiers, Technical Development Manager – Sub Sahara SSAB Special Steels. “They see it as much more cost effective than before and have even started using Strenx® 700 tubes to replace a lower grade material they were using.”
To address potential issues like high frequency load cycles resulting from vibrations when working through the rough soil, Equalizer will work closely with SSAB to determine the right strategy in terms of steel tube grades and thicknesses for each future component.
The Equalizer SL Maximus 24 row planter is a good example of innovation through high strength steel. It has a span that is the largest of its kind in Africa and on par with the largest planters globally, and it is the only machine in the world that has a 10-tonne payload. The benefits for farmers are numerous.
“A farmer can plant 50 hectares more per hour with this machine, which is quite a lot,” explains Davies. “At the same time, one can save roughly 420 liters of diesel fuel in total for an entire planting season.”
Equalizer recently became a member of SSAB’s My Inner Strenx® program for manufacturers who possess the drive to make the best possible products using Strenx® performance steel. It allows for better access to support from SSAB and is a way for operators and end users to identify producers and products made with superior steel and quality-controlled production techniques.
Through the program, Equalizer will get advice and support from SSAB in future steps towards innovation.
“Over the years, special steel has given us the ability to compete – a drive to be better than we have been before and to create world class designs,” says Schreuder. “To do this you need to be on top of your game and Strenx® has put us there.”