McHale Fusion 2 baler wrapper review
Jaiden Drought spent some time last summer testing the McHale Fusion 2 baler wrapper combination.
With all the crappy weather we've experienced lately, most of us haven't even thought about silage yet. However, as you will be aware, in this issue we're running a hay and silage feature ,so luckily I had a baler test up my sleeve from last summer and some sunny pictures from 'Taradise', which might help you forget about the rain and mud and look forward to the summer months ahead.
This test machine is the McHale Fusion 2, owned by Andy Davy Contracting. Davy has been contracting since 1966 so he knows a good machine when he sees one, and there's no doubt he likes the Fusion 2 as he now owns two of them, so he can keep up with the 12,000 bales he makes and wraps each season.
There are two main reasons Davy switched to the McHale Fusion 2: the first being the wrapping system and the second being the high but short overall length, which makes it easy to get in and out of the often tight Taranaki gateways. Since the switch, Davy and his team have never looked back, with the McHale continuously exceeding expectations.
So you get a clear understanding of the unique features of the Fusion 2 and why it's dominating the market, I will run through each feature, starting with the pickup and taking you right through to the wrapper.
One thing you notice with these new rotor balers on the market is their ability to eat huge swaths of grass at speed. The Fusion 2 is no exception, with a 2m pickup and a large high-capacity rotor, giving it the ability to chew up the rows even in conditions that are less than ideal. These wet patches and heavy uneven swaths will inevitably lead to blockages from time to time. Initially, the slip clutch will go off to protect the main drive chain but to clear the blockage you can hydraulically lower the drop floor from the tractor cab, which widens the feed channel. You then re-engage the PTO to feed through the blockage, reset the drop floor and you are away baling again.
The pickup is fitted with galvanised strippers, tine bars and tines, which help resist corrosion and increase working life. As more farmers are using balage as a pasture-quality tool, often the baler/wrappers are subjected to the short green grass that is very fluffy and hard to pick up. This presents very few issues for the McHale, as the large feed roller that comes down quite far in front of the pickup means the grass can't bounce back off the tines or let the wind blow it from the pickup.
Once the grass is in the pickup, lateral feed augers on both sides guide the crop into the spiral rotor, which spreads the crop across the width of the chamber to produce nice square bales with hard edges, making them much easier to handle with soft hands. The double fingers on the rotor teeth allow the knives to be slotted in between. This means the baler's high output is unaffected, while still offering chopped bales for those customers who like bales that fall apart so they can feed them in standard silage wagons or feed rings.
The only issue with the pickup is the guide wheels should swivel so it reduces the sideways turning pressure on the machine.
This is the business end of any combination unit. You can have the best pickup and wrapper on the market but if the bales resemble golf balls, it is unlikely to be a best seller. What's great about the McHale is that its designers perfected the baler first before even attempting to build a combination. This fixed chamber version consists of 18 rollers, which can produce up to size 12 bales. The rollers have heavy-duty 50mm forged shafts and bearings on the drive and non-drive side. Drive-side bearings that experience the most load are double-raced. The roller ends are fitted with self- cleaning seals to protect the grease around the bearings from the crop.
The machine is fitted with heavy-duty 1-1/4" drive chains and sprockets, the rotor chain is 1" and the pickup chains are 3/4'" to help prevent any downtime.
The bearings and chains are kept running by an adjustable greasing and oiling system. Each time a bale is ejected from the machine, oil and grease pass through progressive blocks. The blocks measure and regulate the amount of grease and oil going to the bearings and chains, ensuring only the correct amount of oil or grease is delivered. However, the pickup bearings are hard to get at as they are behind covers on both sides and are not part of the machine's central greasing system.
The net wrap process is very simple, although lugging the heavy roll of wrap up to the cradle is no walk in the park. The beauty of this system is that it is mounted at the front, which I like because you can physically see the wrap attaching to the bale. Second, it is not hidden under panels that need opening, nor does it have to be slid onto a shaft. The entire roll sits in a little cradle with a heavy spring-loaded clamp, which also works as a brake to keep the net tight to ensure even coverage.
Like most balers, the threading process is on a diagram, which is easy to follow when starting a new roll.
When the netting process is complete, the bale chamber splits horizontally like a clam shell, as the top section of the bale chamber moves up. Simultaneously, the lower section of the bale chamber moves up and out. This allows the lower section to double as a transfer mechanism for the bale into the wrapping table, significantly reducing bale transfer time and machine length, compared to its competitors, as the bale does not have to be double handled by a transfer table.
Although this technology is great, the big question on the lips of many potential combination buyers is will the machine transfer bales safely on hills and rough terrain? As you well know, New Zealand is no bowling green.
When the McHale is facing downhill, the five drive rollers in the lower section of the bale chamber, plus an additional roller outside, aid the bale transfer. Because the bale is supported in position by the side walls of the bale chamber during the transfer process, it is guaranteed to end up on the wrapper.
Unlike most of its competitors, which started as baler manufacturers and then developed the wrapper, McHale started producing wrappers 30 years ago, giving the company the knowledge and insight to run a vertical twin wrapping ring, rather than the twin satellite wrapper.
The vertical wrapping ring is fitted with two 750mm dispensers, which take approximately 30 seconds to apply six layers of film. On the last rotation of the wrapping cycle, the cut and holds extend out and the film is gently supported in the rail. Once supported, the cut and holds gather the film to one point where it is cut and held.
This system makes the machine's performance much more reliable, particularly in hot or wet conditions and, more importantly, in Taranaki's windy conditions. Furthermore the walls of the baler shelter the wrapper from the wind, meaning the plastic doesn't rip and get blown off the knife system - a big advantage Davy has noticed over previous machines he's used.
There are two downsides to the wrapper. The first is the fact that the machine can only store eight rolls of wrap at a time, but this only poses a problem because of the high output of this machine. On big days, with an output of 60-plus bales an hour, Davy can go through twice as many rolls as the baler can hold in one day. The second downside is to do with the vertical wrapping ring. The ring itself works brilliantly, but loading the rolls onto the heads is awkward compared to the satellite versions, as you are pushing the weight of the roll sideways to slide on while having to hold the weight of the roll at the same time.
It is made somewhat easier by a button at the rear of the machine. Once the first wrap dispenser has been loaded, pushing the button will automatically stop at the loading position for the second dispenser.
The machine is fitted with two film break sensors which monitor the wrap tension as it goes onto the bale. If one of the rolls of film breaks or runs out, the operator is alerted via a buzzer on the monitor and the wrapper automatically switches to single dispenser mode.
In single dispenser mode, the bale rotation is slowed and the ring does additional rotations to ensure the bale is wrapped with the remaining roll of film. If you are having an exceptionally good day and both rolls run out at the same time, you only have to get out once the machine automatically stops in the loading position.
The wrapping table drops at the rear to lower the discharge height of the bale, so the wrap isn't damaged on the way down. Both Davy's Fusion 2s are equipped with the bale tipper, which lays bales on their end to stop the film being damaged or distorting for stacking later on. This isn't outstanding but it does the job, although some strategic taping near the transport wheel has been needed to ensure the occasional bale doesn't get damaged if it falls awkwardly.
I found the controller to be well laid out and easy to use, with the screen displaying exactly what's going on in picture format. To be honest, because the machine is fully automatic you really just look at the monitor to check that something is happening, but you can adjust key functions like knives in and out and bale-only function if you were baling hay. There's also various bale transfer options if, for example, you are in a precarious paddock where the bale could end up rolling down a hill.
As I mentioned earlier, the film sensors are a good feature. In addition to this, the controller monitors the lube usage and reminds the operator to check the grease and oil reserves every 300 bales.
The Fusion 2 not only has a massive appetite for grass, it also has the sophisticated design behind it, with its ability to pick up, handle and transfer bales with ease. Due to the unique bale transfer design where the chamber splits in two, it takes a similar amount of time to transfer the bale to the wrapper as a traditional baler would take to eject a bale. As soon as the chamber is closed, wrapping starts automatically, resulting in 60-plus bales per hour as a direct result. There's also no double handling of bales, with the transfer table reducing moving parts and electrical components. With the additional benefit of a more compact design, this machine has proven to be a big plus for contractors and farmers alike.
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