Transmission technology key to tractor design

Transmission efficiency and usability are two of the most important factors in new tractor design, says Massey Ferguson.

During a presentation at the Gima transmission plant in Beauvais, near Paris last week, MF’s general marketing manager Laurent Pernin talked about the importance of recent advances in transmission technology and gave an insight into gearbox developments for the future.

The most significant progress in recent years will undoubtedly be seen as the continuously variable transmission (CVT).

After initial development by Agco-owned sister-company Fendt, this CVT technology is now available on MF’s 7400 and 8400 series tractors.

But MF believes the stepless gearboxes will not make a huge impact on the lower power segments of the tractor market.

“Demand for CVT technology will remain small in the coming three to four years, with little pressure for such systems in smaller tractors such as our four-cylinder models,” says Mr Pernin.

He believes that where machines have to work in varying conditions there is a need for greater power and transmission sophistication.

It is in this higher horsepower sector that productivity benefits outweigh the inefficiency problems associated with stepless gearboxes.

This trend ensures that CVT technology is confined to the larger power segment of the tractor market and MF says its range will continue to reflect this.

“Massey Ferguson is a volume brand and the vast majority of customers demand a simple four-speed transmission.

This is what helps us to capture a significant share of the mid-sized market,” adds Mr Pernin.

MF is also keen to adapt to the market for low specification tractors, which is primarily driven by growth in the African, Asian and eastern European markets.

As agriculture continues to grow in these areas the demand for mid-spec – not low spec – machines grows in conjunction.

According to Mr Pernin, the South African market, a market that has traditionally demanded low specification, simple mechanically operated machines, was the first sector to see the recently launched four-step powershift Dyna-4 transmission.

With the increase in transmission sophistication the key development in the short term moves to transmission efficiency.

MF says the six-step Dyna-6 transmission is about 10% more efficient that its CVT box, but in the future the efficiency of the CVT box, and indeed the machine as a whole, will have to be improved.

“Efficiency is talked about a lot with engines and transmissions, but the entire tractor must be efficient, if something is not quite right in the cab, this can have an effect on driver efficiency and ultimately machine efficiency,” says Mr Permin.


Massey Ferguson is using virtual reality – a technology more associated with computer gaming – to aid product design and development.

The system involves a user wearing a special headset fitted with two small screens fitted in front of each eye.

A computer projects a three dimensional image – in this case a new tractor design – via the screens, allowing the wearer of the headset to visualise the imaginary object.

Coupled with a set of gloves – fitted with sensors and trackers – the user can drive a virtual tractor or touch and feel a virtual cab that is still in the design process.

MF says the system allows user evaluation to be carried out without the need to build expensive prototypes.

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