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Awards For Excellence

Business Name: TOUGH-AS Products Pty Ltd

Project Title: HeaderTarp

Location: Mannum SA 

Name Of Fabric: Enduroflex Supplier: HVG

Project Description:

  • Design a cover for a grain harvester to provide a 100% weather tight seal for the grain harvester bin.
  • Provide easy access into the grain bin.
  • Make it strong enough to withstand the elements of the Australian weather conditions, long lasting and value for money.
  • Design it so that it is easy for farmers/dealers to install and to remove and refit from season to season if needed.
  • Make it light weight so that it doesn’t affect load capacity and fuel running costs.
  • Have a simple construction that is compact and easy to freight.
  • It must look great, it must fit in with the Harvesters colours and shape.

What is the purpose of this project? Grain Harvesters in Australia and around the world have always been manufactured with an open Grain Bin. Most people asked “why don’t they have lids?” It’s a great question but it seemed that no one could explain why not. Even now the manufactures are producing harvesters with lids that are nothing more than foldable extension sides for the grain bin which do not seal from the weather and cannot be closed when the grain bin is full of grain.

Why do they need lids/covers/tarps? Harvesting in Australia is conducted in the Spring/Summer months and as we know we have some pretty exciting weather with unexpected thunderstorms and rain. Some grain (like wheat) can get wet as long as the water is drained away, the water will simply run off the grain but other grains are instantly damaged by moisture like canola which will stick to the other grains. But if the grain is in a vessel where the water cannot escape what you are left with is a huge mess of soggy, sticky grain in a vessel with moving parts.

  • This is bad for many reasons.
  • Once the grain is wet and soggy it cannot be removed from the grain bin by using the machines augers so you need to remove it by hand and bucket – imagine the safety and cost implications of emptying 13 tonne of grain by hand and bucket?
  • The moisture that is trapped in the grain bin with the grain will ultimately cause corrosion (rust) of the metal parts in the grain bin. It only needs to get wet once for the rust to start. Remember that this is a machine worth around $750K. The rust has now started to damage and devalue the once brand new Harvester effecting its future resale ability critical for all farmers.
  • Lastly the wet and soggy grain stinks and stinks bad – it is just not a pleasant work place to be near. Any farmer will tell you that wet grain is one of the worst smells even worse than that of a rotting animal carcase.
  • So as a farmer you do not want to ever have to remove 13 tonne of grain by hand and bucket, de-value your prize asset and work within a horrible stinking workplace.
  • So the request from our original customer was simple.
  • Put a cover on my grain harvester to completely stop the moisture/rain from entering the grain bin.
  • Provide easy access into the grain bin.
  • Make it strong enough to withstand the elements of the Australian weather conditions, long lasting and value for money.
  • Design it so that it is easy for farmers/dealers to install and to remove and refit from season to season if needed.
  • Make it light weight so that it doesn’t affect my load capacity and fuel running costs.
  • Have a simple construction.
  • It must look great, it must fit in with the Harvesters colours and shape.

What is unique or complex about this project? The product seemed simple enough at the start but as with most jobs in this industry nothing is ever as it seems. Each area of the product had its complexities which needed to be overcome in order to have an easy product to use and to manufacture in large quantities. We did not employ anyone outside of our company to help us with the design, rather enjoyed the challenge of owning the entire design process.

Whilst designing a product using PVC to fit a dome shaped frame is not overly difficult, we (personally) were stepping into new territory with welding PVC around corners and curves as we had only previously been welding flat Tarps and the like before. Being a small sized business we also did not have the capital to spend on different types of welders for just one job. We could also see that the product must be predominantly if not completely welded and not stitched due to the elements that the product would be exposed to. The very first prototype we made was sewn to see if we could manufacture the product and to see if the product was going to work. We then started using wedge welders for certain parts of manufacture. After the product gained some momentum with the market we moved up to a HF welder which has allowed us to manufacture the product that we are producing today.

We also manufacture in house the aluminium domed frame that gives the product its shape. The frame uses curved aluminium tube and marine bimini fittings to give support to the cover which is strong enough to hold the weight of an adult person. When designing this part of the product we needed to be mindful that it had to be shippable and easy for the customer to assemble. After a lot of work we were able to design and manufacture a frame that would be completely assembled in our factory and would fold up for transport and allow the customer to simply unfold the frame and fix it to the top of the grain bin ready for the cover.

One of the greatest complexities of the cover was the access door. If we wanted to market this product as 100% waterproof the door was a potential weak spot. We tried many different designs and methods of installing the C shaped zipped door but waterproofing a door zip of this shape using flaps was difficult and costly to manufacture. Also using a zip in a curved application in a dusty environment was just asking for trouble. We knew that we needed a product that would allow us to use two basic vertical zips but needed a way of sealing the base of the door. We looked at a lot of different methods but none were simple for manufacture and easy for the customer to use.

After seeing a sample product of a magnetic zip at the STA trade expo on the Gold Coast we knew then this was exactly what was needed to close the base of the door. The problem was that it was a sample and not yet in production. We waited two years for this magnetic zip to go into production and then worked with the supplier and the manufacturer to help develop the product until they had it in a form that we could use. It now allows us to have a great looking door that is easy to use by the customer and gives us the waterproof qualities that we were looking for.

Was there anything different or special about this project? This product is the first of its kind to be designed and manufactured in Australia. Whilst there are different cover systems available in North America they are far more complicated and cumbersome and not suited to Australian conditions. There is still nothing like what we have designed using a domed aluminium frame and PVC cover with a draw string closing system. Even today our research shows there is not one company producing a product like ours anywhere in the world.

What were the results of the project? We have now given the farmers and contractors of Australia and the world a choice. The choice is to do nothing and bear the cost of ruined grain and a damaged harvester or to protect your harvest, protect your investment and forget about the rain. There is another great benefit that has come about by our product and is just as important as stopping the weather entering the grain bin. Our product also stops annoying grain spills when the grain bin is full. Its human nature to want to fill the grain bin to capacity before heading back to unload. Due to the design of the harvester, if the grain bin is too full it can easily spill when the harvester hits a bump or turns/stops too quickly resulting in a wave of grain spilling over the side. Our research shows that these spills in just one season can result in costly losses that would cover the purchase price of our product.

How did you contribute to the project: This innovative product has changed the grain harvesting industry forever, with one simple product – cutting wastes of rework, spill losses, fuel waste, damaged grain and maintenance on capital equipment.

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