When International Harvester Co. introduced the Model 1460 Axial-Flow Combine in 1977, it was not without some sense of fear and trepidation.

Different elements of the Axial-Flow Combine had been under development at what would become Case IH for more than 20 years. For a variety of reasons, most of those early attempts never made it into production.

As International Harvester approached the launch of the 1460 in 1977, the IH marketing team pointed out that its unconventional design — it had a side straw discharge for one thing — would make it a hard sell.

Got it done

The 1460 engineers had a difficult time moving the discharge to the rear, according to a commemorative publication put out by Case IH recently. But they did and helped set the stage for 30 years of production and continued improvements to what was then a “radical-looking machine.”

“Farmers took a chance with us,” said Gerry Salzman, senior director, Case IH global product marketing management, harvesting, who was in the group that helped launch the first Axial-Flow Combine. “The Axial-Flow Combine was programmed to remain in production a little more than 10 years. I'd say that goal was accomplished.”

Salzman moderated a media event, marking the 30th year of the beginning of production of the Axial-Flow Combine at the Case IH Rotary Combine Center of Excellence in Grand Island, Neb. The event, which was attended by producers and news media from North America and Europe, kicked off a worldwide celebration for the anniversary.

Case IH also took the opportunity to introduce its Axial-Flow Combine lineup for 2007.

Began in 1950s

Salzman said the Axial-Flow story actually began in the 1950s when International Harvester laboratory research on conventional combine performance indicated that the open concave and cylinder were more efficient for separating grain than the straw walkers in conventional combines of the time.

IH engineers worked for a number of years on the concept before beginning production on the 1460 in 1977. The company invited a small group of producers to purchase the first pre-production Axial-Flow Combines and provide feedback on the combines.

Customer input has continued to be a key ingredient in the success of the Axial-Flow Combine, according to Salzman.

“Farmers and custom harvesters have experienced many changes in the way they do business since 1977,” he said. “Global competition has increased. Grain quality is a priority. Efficient throughput is a necessity.

“Our engineers have continued to improve and upgrade Axial-Flow to keep pace with customers' productivity needs,” resulting in a total of six generations of Axial-Flow Combines being introduced by International Harvester and Case IH.

“As the Axial-Flow has been improved, the basic principles of the Axial-Flow design remain,” Salzman says. “These combines are still easier to operate, more reliable and less costly to maintain than conventional or more complex rotary designs.”

Case IH invited a group of producers from the United States and Canada to discuss their experiences with the Axial Flow Combine. One of those was Rick Farris, a custom harvester from Edson, Kan.

“We looked at everybody's combine and Axial Flow looked like the best machine,” he said. “It has been. It let us do a lot that we couldn't do with the old conventional models.

“We harvest specialty crops, including malt barley, pinto beans, and sunflowers, plus our wheat, corn and milo. All with the same machine.

“We have a lot less crop damage in the threshing process with the Axial Flow. And they've made a lot of design changes that have improved the machine over the years.”

The four Axial-Flow models Case IH plans to offer in 2007 are: The Case IH Axial Flow 7010; the Axial Flow 2577; Axial Flow 2588; and the Axial Flow 8010. “At 400 horsepower, the Case IH Axial Flow 8010 has more than twice the horsepower of the original 1460 from 1977,” Salzman says.