TTA PackPlanter

June 12, 2003 - 10:54

Everything you want to know about this equipment, and how others feel about it.

The TTA PackPlanter, recently brought to market by Bouldin
& Lawson, is a small, economical and versatile transplanter. The machine
design combines the features of a high-speed production transplanter with an
entry-level price point. On-the-fly adjustments for planting depth and plant
shift for overly developed top growth, as well as gripper design with pusher
pins to assist extraction of plugs, make the TTA PackPlanter a great primary
transplanter for the small grower or a supplemental transplanter for the large
grower.

Design and Performance

"When we came up with the concept for this machine, we
looked at entry-level transplanters and attempted to incorporate both
innovations and improvements to what was currently available," said Steven
Biles, international trade director and TTA product manager at Bouldin &
Lawson.

The TTA PackPlanter is a lightweight, narrow (83 x 34 x 71
inches), 16-gripper machine that works with a variety of plug trays, from
72-512 and flats from 1204-606. It has a production speed in excess of 19,000
plugs per hour and offers growers an entry-level price point in the
$50,000-60,000 range, as well as a fast production speed.

"Price was the first thing that attracted me to the
transplanter," said Bart Olson owner of Olson's Greenhouse Gardens in
Santaquin and Salem, Utah. "When I went to a demonstration that Bouldin
& Lawson offered, I discovered that the machine was half the price of my
32-gripper, and it plants probably 75 percent of what the 32-gripper would
do." Olson purchased the PackPlanter immediately after the demonstration
to use at his smaller location in Salem.

TTA's use of a combined drive system for the pick and place
unit, which uses two Servo Motors tied together with a common drive, allows for
smooth, precise and fast movement and drastically increases the cycle time or
production rate of planting. "There is no other transplanter that moves
vertically and horizontally like this machine does," Biles said.
"This is the first transplanter that utilizes a combined drive system, or
what we call a Gantry System. The advantage is that we are able to get fast
movements with a smooth, fluid transition."

The design also features on-the-fly adjustments, such as
variable speed planting, planting depth, plant shift, travel height and tray
ejecting. "Planting depth adjustments are very easy," Olson reported.
"Our machine operator has never worked in production before and has
immediately picked up on it."

Adjustable side plant shifts help in the extraction of
problem plugs by shifting the grippers so they move horizontally across the
tray and get under the foliage before moving down to extract the plug. The maximum
gripper spread for container to container transplanting is from a single 512
plug into a pot up to 41/2 inches, a 288 plug into a pot up to 6 inches and a
72 or 84 plug into hanging baskets of up to 10 inches.

Maintenance

According to Olson, the TTA PackPlanter outperforms other
transplanters in speed as well as easy changeover for the plug tray and
finished containers. The transplanter does not require any reprogramming. Plug
tray and flat settings are stored in memory for easy access, along with a self-diagnostic
to insure minimal downtime.

"A technician rarely has to come in to make
adjustments," Biles said. "The operator can program any size
container. Your plug trays and your finished flats are stored in the
memory."

The gripper adjustments and replacement with no tools make
the TTA PackPlanter easy to maintain. "At this point," explained
Olson, "the only thing we do is just clean the machine at the end of the
day and lube it at certain areas. We have to replace a gripper finger every
once in a while," Olson added, but "the grippers are very easy to
change; it's just a matter of undoing a screw with your hands."

In addition, the lightly designed pick and place unit
minimizes the wearing of the machine's bearings, as well as the wearing of the
transplanter moving parts.

Final Words

On-the-fly adjustment, which the operator can do while the
machine is running, easy changeover and simplicity of operation confirm that
the TTA PackPlanter is a great entry-level transplanter, as well as
supplemental transplanter for larger growers who need multiple automated
transplanting lines for different products and container sizes. "It is
critical to have a good transplant machine," Olson said. "I've been
really happy that we've purchased this one, and I have already recommended the
product to others."

About The Author

Neda Simeonova is associate editor of GPN. She can be reached by phone at (847) 391-1013 or E-mail at nsimeonova@sgcmail.com.

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