Nozzle know how for competition winners
On an exclusive visit to the Lechler factory in Metzingen, in Germany winners of the Ei Operator and Altek International competition not only saw its precision engineering in action, but also learned how nozzle design influences the application.
The three winning operators, who won a place in on the trip after taking on-line training with Ei Operator, were accompanied by Andrew Woolley, Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year 2019.
While the operators have a wide range of experience and farming operations, they all agreed that the on-line training with Ei Operator, offers a useful new dimension to gaining NRoSO points. A particular benefit, they added, is being able to learn at their own speed, when and where they want.
As well as touring the factory to see how nozzles are designed and made, the winning operators also saw a number of fascinating presentations. These included details on a novel continuous washing system to speed-up rinse outs, a chance to learn more about nozzle angling and how the firm’s IDTA and IDKT nozzles are designed to enhance applications.
Lechler, founded in 1879, has since grown to €71.5 million turnover specialist making nozzles for a wide range of industries, not just farming. It received its first patent in 1893 for a hollow cone atomising jet, and ever since has followed its founder, Paul Lechler’s, ethos that ‘to control liquids you have to understand droplets’.
It now uses precision manufacturing equipment to make nozzles from a range of materials including steel and injection moulded plastics as well as ceramic tips, which account for 20% of sales and this is growing every year.
Lechler also uses a novel injection moulding technique that mixes stainless steel with plastic, which is then dissolved by acid. The operators on the tour were fascinated to see how this technique helps to create intricate parts, which cannot be made by simply machining alone.
Throughout the quiet and spotlessly clean factory rows of precision injection moulding machines work tirelessly to produce nozzles of all shapes and sizes.
In a mesmerising display of precision and control, robotic arms collect partly finished parts, check dimensions and then move them to the next process until they are discharged into boxes.
Some air induction nozzles are made in four parts. In this case the machines not only make the requisite parts, but using robotic arms also assemble them, discharging the complete unit. Previously assembly was done manually as a separate operation.
To ensure accuracy of the precision-made parts, such as the orifice, the company makes many of the machine tools and moulds in house. Tools are regularly changed to maintain precision and samples from batches of nozzles are taken for testing.
Sample nozzles are tested on a patternator in the factory. This runs non-stop, spraying at 12 different points across the pressure range and at various boom heights. Liquid is collected in an array of tubes to measure the output and distribution pattern. The coefficient of variation (CoV) is calculated by a computer and, while most regulators state they should be within 7% CoV, Lechler sets its own 6% standard.
Ei Operator and Altek International competition winners:
Left to right
Stuart Smart, Steven Houlston and Adam Foord with Andrew Woolley, Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year 2018.
Stuart Smart, is contracts manager for Agrii, based at Methlick, north of Aberdeen. He is responsible for spraying up to 12,000ha/yr and runs a fleet of Bateman sprayers. Stuart, who has also run his own contracting business, has been spraying for many years, but says it’s important to keep on top of the latest technology and embrace new ideas.
Steven Houlston is a contractor near Whitby in N. Yorks. He recently passed his PA1 and PA2 qualifications prior to taking on the spraying for the family firm. He says it makes sense to add spraying to the list of services, because he already does most of his customers’ arable operations and knows the fields and crops well. He currently operates a 24m/1,900-litre Lemken Sirius 10 sprayer.
Adam Foord works on his family’s Fairview Farm, near Stockbridge in Hampshire where he farms 250ha of their own land plus 120ha of rented grassland. He operates a 15 year old 24m Sands 3,000 litre capacity self-propelled, which they also use for contract spraying a further 1,200ha for a neighbour.
Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year 2018, Andrew Woolley, accompanied the operators. Andrew manages the arable cropping at Puckshipton Farms, Marden in Wiltshire, where he operates a 24m/1,900-litre, Lemken Sirius 10 with a 1,100-litre front-mounted tank. Andrew’s methodical approach and attention to detail to every aspect of the operation earned him the top spot in the FSOOTY competition.
Competition winner, Adam Foord
Our thanks to Altek International for supporting the competition and to all the staff at both Lechler in Germany and Altek in the UK, for providing the EiO winners with such an interesting and informative day.
To find out more about Lechler nozzles from Altek International, go to https://www.altekinternational.com/lechler-products/