Tata Steel, one of Europe’s largest steel suppliers, has supported JCB Landpower to create their most productive tractor yet, the Fastrac 4000, through its early vendor involvement (EVI) programme.
A three-way partnership involving Tata Steel, JCB Landpower, and GKN Structures, the current manufacturer of the Fastrac tractor chassis, supported JCB to develop an optimally-designed next-generation tractor, previewed recently at the Agritechnica show in Hanover.
JCB is always seeking to improve its products, and as for all vehicle manufacturers, offering its customers a vehicle with increased efficiency and flexibility is important. The specifications for the next generation Fastrac included an increase in the existing load-carrying capacity, combined with a reduced turning circle. These enhancements, alongside the move to a Tier-4-compliant engine, to meet strict new EU and US emissions standards, called for a complete redesign of the existing chassis structure.
Historically, vehicle design has frequently focused on developing the load structure, building up strength with structural material until it is fit for purpose. Using computer-aided engineering tools, engineers from Tata Steel worked closely with JCB Landpower and GKN Structures to meet the product specifications, while using the material in the most efficient manner, leading to a chassis structure that was as light as possible. This not only helps ensure the new Fastrac remains competitive on price, but also assists with efficiency by not unduly increasing the mass and physical size of the component.
By working as a team with design and manufacturing engineers from JCB Landpower and GKN Structures from the concept phase of the design process, Tata Steel was able to create a more efficient chassis structure, including changes to the chassis rails and assessing the overall stiffness and strength of the chassis, to meet basic structural requirements.
This smarter approach to vehicle design has helped create a Fastrac tractor with a significant increase in front- and rear-load carrying capacity, with no increase in the overall weight of the chassis structure.
Phil Clements, Head of Lifting & Excavating at Tata Steel said: “Optimising product design from the outset is fundamental to achieving the best result, and this is why we support our customers through our early vendor involvement programme. This is the first time we have worked with JCB Landpower and GKN Structures in this way, and we hope this successful outcome paves the way for many more collaborations.”
Charles Nicklin, Engineering Manager, JCB Landpower said: “Working closely with our suppliers has allowed us to design a very efficient chassis structure for our new tractor program, which we hope will be very successful for all those involved. This clean sheet design and collaborative approach has allowed us to examine every detail and implement and refine new ideas to achieve our objectives.”
Darren Dobson, Commercial & Projects Manager from GKN commented: “Being involved at the concept phase and therefore being part of the decision process in terms of material selection is key to manufacturing feasibility. The collaborative approach of the programme has meant that we have been able to input valuable process knowledge using design for manufacture (DFM) principles thus eliminating unnecessary process operations.”
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About Tata Steel in Europe
The European operations of Tata Steel, whose main steelmaking sites are in the UK and the Netherlands, comprise Europe's second largest steel producer. They supply steel and related services to construction, automotive, packaging, rail, lifting & excavating, energy & power, aerospace and other demanding markets worldwide. The combined Tata Steel group is one of the world’s largest steel producers, with an aggregate crude steel capacity of more than 29 million tonnes and approximately 80,000 employees across four continents.