Stan Roberts of Glan Conwy in North Wales has early prototypes of his ‘Stan Hitch’ or standardised hitch system in operation on his and local test farms for much of the past decade having begun plans 12 years ago.
Despite the Stan Hitch preceding news of the launch of an Austrian quick-hitch system both inventors share a common problem – the need to find a manufacturer to put the attachments into production.
The Stan Hitch was developed out of sheer necessity, explained Mr Roberts. “I have a heart condition and simply couldn’t cope with connecting implements in the normal way, particularly heaving about a PTO coupling.”
Starting with a simple box-section metal frame to line up with a subframe mounted on a given implement, the Stan Hitch has developed into fully automated attachment system.
Mounted on a tractor’s rear lift arms and utilising a hydraulically adjustable top link to alter the pitch of the Stan Hitch unit, the driver tilts the top of the unit away from the tractor to locate under a hook-like bracket secured on the top mounting point of a given implement.
“Then, by tilting the Stan Hitch to the upright position lower locating brackets bolted to the implement match up to the hitch itself and are locked into position by horizontal lower locking hydraulic rams. These are powered through a spool connection and lever on the tractor,” he explains.
Where the implement uses a PTO, a different shaped top mounting hook on the machine automatically opens a pair of butterfly wing guards that securely cover a patent-protected PTO drive coupling. “The covers were a demand made by HSE officials when shown earlier versions of the Stan Hitch.
“I was told any rotating part must be shielded with a cover extending around five-and-a-half inches forward. The Stan Hitch does this unlike other quick hitches I’ve heard about.”
Instead of a splined shaft protruding, Mr Roberts’ hitch uses a unique flat, circular drive flange that can simply be attached and detached from the implement’s PTO input shaft in a conventional manner.
“When designing it I wanted a drive coupling that could be removed off implements and either swapped between machines or simply removed to prevent theft,” explains the investor who first appeared in FW’s Power Farming with a fore-end loader mounted hydraulic post knocker in 2000.
The PTO drive flange utilises three cone-shaped pins which locate automatically with a similar flange having oval shaped recesses on the Stan Hitch drive unit itself. “If the pins do not immediately align, as soon as the PTO drive is engaged they will drop in place. The whole drive is protected having both a sprung face, shear bolt protection and internal clutch,” he explains.
Unlike the Austrian quick hitch unit implement hydraulic pipes have to be connected by hand. “There is a very good reason for this,” he adds. “During most farm operations the hydraulic coupling become caked in dirt and dust which if connected automatically can foul the hydraulic system. Manual attachment will allow and encourage operators to ensure the connectors are clean.
“The hydraulic connectors do release automatically when detaching an implement from the Stan Hitch. This is a chieved using a mechanism that contacts with the outer release ring of the hydraulic connector. Bungie straps fitted between the pipe and the implement withdraw them out of harm’s way,” he explains.
Mr Roberts has approached mainstream manufacturers with a view to getting the Stan Hitch into production. “One has admitted to me that it’s the way forward but said the company’s (attitude) still in the 1950s. Another reckons it has several calls each month from users looking for an automated coupling for a PTO drive.
“What’s annoying is the related injuries and deaths from (operators) putting machines on to tractors is a main concern of the Health & Safety Executive. And yet it seems manufacturers are reluctant to be the first to change.”
Estimates from independent engineering companies to manufacture the Stan Hitch suggest a price tag of around £4000 to include hydraulic top link, automatic PTO drive coupling and hydraulic pipe release functions – similar to the Austrian quick hitch. Adaptor kits containing hitch plates for implements would be around £150/machine where produced in volume, he suggests.
“I’ve also made a Stan Hitch version that fits on a fore-end loader. This allows an operator to pick up a machine that’s too wide to travel down a public road and load it onto a drawbar trailer to pull behind the tractor to the field.”
Trials on a select number of local farms have met with favourable reviews, he suggests. “A number of people have said they’d buy it and why haven’t I got it in production? I’ve put about £10,000 and a lot of man hours into developing the machine but I cannot manufacture it, market it and offer after-sales back-up. That’s why I need a manufacturer to come on board.”
Given the steps Mr Roberts has taken to meet current HSE requirements and the potential to ease operators’ lives and – importantly – safety, all interested manufacturers can contact him direct on 01492-572317.
“I’m not able with my health to struggle with connecting machines in the normal way but the Stan Hitch means I can do it all from the safety of the tractor seat. The convenience and safety must be worth something to someone, surely?”
Mr Roberts – who has been inventing all manner or machines small and large for over 50 years – has several other ideas in development. “I’ve built a mobile biomass burner that uses a miscanthus bale and produces hot air to power a kiln drier for firewood logs.
“I’m also working on a machine made from an old conventional baler to produce logs for wood-burners by compressing biomass chips into log-shaped rolls.”
His entry to inventing came despite an unpromising start to schooling. “I get travel sick very easily so couldn’t travel on the school bus and spent a lot of time at home. I just look at something and think I could do it differently,” he explains.