Product history

The straw baler.

It all started with the famed CLAAS knotter. That same device, with a few modifications and enhancements, is still used in CLAAS straw balers today. More than 400,000 balers have been made since the device went into production.

Product history

The straw baler.

It all started with the famed CLAAS knotter. That same device, with a few modifications and enhancements, is still used in CLAAS straw balers today. More than 400,000 balers have been made since the device went into production.

A knot makes history.

In 1921, August Claas filed for his first patent for the knotter he had invented, which became the foundation of the future success of his business. The principle of this first key CLAAS invention remains in use today, essentially unchanged, apart from ongoing enhancements in the operation of the device. The knotter is synonymous with quality and reliability. This concept continues to define baler development at CLAAS to this day.


The straw binder of Franz Claas Senior, father of the Claas brothers. In his father’s blacksmith’s workshop, the young August Claas (left) had plenty of opportunity to become familiar with the technology and operation of a straw binder, and it was for just such a machine that he invented the knotter, patented in 1921/23.

The straw binder was the first product made by the company founded by August Claas in 1913. His father, Franz Claas Senior, had already put his own straw binder model on the market in 1907. His company letterhead promoted the firm as “Germany’s oldest straw binder manufacturer”. In their father’s blacksmith’s workshop, the four brothers learned the trade, and in particular everything there was to know about the operation of a straw binder. They specialised in making straw binders, and drew on this experience to establish and build up their own firm from 1913 on.


In 1921, the company founder, August Claas, filed for his first patent for a knotter device of his own invention, under No. 372140. This was followed in 1923 by the crucial patent No. 414212, for the knotter bill hook with floating jaw. The new binding device significantly increased the reliability of the straw binder, which by this time was in widespread use. The new CLAAS device was also fitted to the straw binders of other manufacturers. On the basis of its success, the CLAAS knotter was adopted as the company’s trademark.

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In September 1931, the very first CLAAS patented straw baler, a “Press-Bu-Bi”, left the plant in Harsewinkel. Its advantage over the existing binder technology lay in the fact that straw could now be pressed in dense, uniform bales, providing a far more compact product for storage purposes. These balers were set up behind stationary threshing machines, from where they picked up the straw. Via a chute, the baled straw was then pushed up to the straw loft, to a height of up to 6 m and over a width of 20 m. As in the straw binder, in the straw baler, too, it was again the CLAAS patented knotter that ensured a reliable and effective tying process.

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Gathering, baling and loading – in 1934, with this simple principle, CLAAS revolutionised harvesting methods in Europe. Where, previously, straw or hay had to be picked up from the field and then loaded into the wagon, as a labour-intensive manual task, the CLAAS PICK UP machine now did the whole job in a single mechanical operation. A tined drum accurately picked the harvested crop up from the swath, pressed it into compact bales and either deposited them in groups of 10 to 12 bales on the field, or pushed them through a bale chute directly into a wagon hitched on at the rear.

In combination with the combine harvester introduced by CLAAS in 1936, the process for grain, chaff and straw gathering was then further significantly enhanced. The so-called “combine harvester PICK UP” process saved one-third to one-half of the worker and horse-and-cart hours normally required compared with conventional stationary threshing methods.

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In 1953, CLAAS started making the HD high-density pick-up baler. In the HD baler, the straw or hay was fed into the bale chamber directly by the pick-up, without the involvement of a conveyor canvas, through the feeder. Integrated knives were used to ensure well-defined separations. The bales were produced in a 36 x 50-cm format, with lengths of between 50 cm and 1 m as desired. The high-density baler could be driven either from the tractor via a PTO, or with an engine fitted in the baler itself. This meant that even small tractors could be used to pull the high-density baler. The hourly work rate was around 4 t to 6 t of straw or hay.


As the successor model to the PICK UP I and PICK UP II, for the 1958 season CLAAS introduced the PICK UP LD baler, later known simply as the LD (for “low density”), with a chamber width of 100 cm. The PICK UP LD was renamed the LD 100 in 1963, and a smaller version, the LD 80, with a chamber width of 80 cm, was added to the range.

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In 1963, the recently introduced LD 80 was joined by the MAXIMUM, as the replacement for the HD high-density baler. It could transform up to 10 t of straw or hay an hour into tightly packed bales. It could also be operated as a medium-density baler, by setting the adjusting screws to a lower bale density.

The MEDIUM model, a medium-density baler, was introduced on the market one year later. As the name suggests, its performance rating placed it in the slot between the LD and MAXIMUM balers, with chamber widths of 80 and 100 cm. The MEDIUM design was largely based on the PICK UP LD. New features included the longer bale chamber, the stronger and faster moving baling ram, and baling pressure setting with adjustment spindles. The use of special bearings also resulted in a much shorter lubrication time than in previous balers – by up to 80 percent.



The market demand for higher bale densities, precisely formed bales and wider pick-led to the development of the MARKANT, the first CLAAS baler based on the baling ram principle. This baler, with a 36 x 46-cm chamber, was produced in increasing numbers as from 1967. The wide pick-up was arranged at the side of the bale chamber. Behind the pick-up, a controlled feeder conveyed the crop material for baling into the bale chamber from the side, transverse to the direction of travel. The rams ran on roller bearings and a vertical knife on their side, cutting each portion as it entered the chamber, to produce precisely formed bales. To make baling into a one-person operation, from 1973, CLAAS also supplied a hydraulically driven bale thrower. A complete family of balers then progressively emerged, comprising the smaller TRABANT, and, at the other end of the spectrum, the powerful DOMINANT machine, delivering work rates of up to 18 t/hr.



With the new ROLLANT round baler, CLAAS introduced the concept of a bale chamber surrounded not by belts, as in the past, but by steel rollers. Over the next few years, this roller-based system became the dominant design for fixed chamber balers, and made the ROLLANT the market leader in western Europe. The first model in the range was the ROLLANT 85, with a bale diameter of 1.80 m and bale width of 1.50 m. It formed 400-kg straw bales, the equivalent of around 20 small high-density bales. The round bales could be loaded with a front loader, and were more weather-resistant than high-density bales. Then came the ROLLANT 34, 44 and 62, with bale chamber diameters of 0.9 m, 1.20 m and 1.60 m, respectively, and a bale width of 1.20 m.

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A further innovation in baler development came in 1983, when CLAAS introduced the ROLLATEX net wrapping system. The concept of wrapping bales in net with a hook-and-loop type fastening was a totally new idea, and set a new standard in baler construction. Formerly, the compacted bale had to be wound around with twine up to 20 times in the baler. The patented net wrapping system required just two windings, significantly reducing the wrapping time compared with the conventional twine tying process, and therefore boosting productivity by up to 50 percent. The round bales with ROLLATEX net wrapping were also firmly secured, resulting in excellent storage stability. Net wrapping also provides an initial layer of protection against the elements, and is easily removed when required.

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Agritechnica in 1985 marked a milestone achievement for CLAAS, when it unveiled the world’s first non-stop round baler, the ROLLANT RAPID 56. The new machine picked up the crop, formed it into precisely formed round bales, wrapped them in net and set them down, with no need to slow down or stop the machine, as a fully automated process. What had long been a dream for contractors, large farming operations and machine pools had finally become a reality with the ROLLANT RAPID. And with its new ROLLANT RAPID 56, CLAAS came up with a round baler with no down time at all. The round bales, securely wrapped in net, simply rolled out of the bale chamber, with no need for the driver to stop. This added up to more throughput, less dependence on the weather, high utilisation of machine capacity, reduced tractor load and less stress on the driver. However, because of the high manufacturing cost, particularly for the expensive electronic components, the ROLLANT RAPID remained in production for only a short time. It was particularly popular with professional users in the USA. It was eventually replaced in the high-performance segment by the new QUADRANT large square baler.

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In 1988, CLAAS introduced its first large square baler, the QUADRANT 1200, designed specifically for larger farms and contractors. It had a capacity of 30 tonnes of straw per hour, and produced straw bales of up to 360 kg in weight. With bale dimensions of 0.70 m high, 1.20 m wide and 1.00 to 2.50 m long, it corresponded exactly to the usual transport measurements in the European market, and was therefore ideal for loading bales onto trucks. Other benefits included fewer bales per hectare, less storage space requirement, and faster clearance of the field for a second crop. The superior economic efficiency of the QUADRANT very soon made this the preferred baler for professional contractors and multi-farm use.

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With the introduction of the ROTO CUT system in 1993, it became possible for the first time to cut the forage crop immediately before baling, and to produce quality silage in bale form with ROLLANT and QUADRANT balers. Straw, too, could now be precisely cut right in the field, with high-density bales reliably secured with net wrapping.

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Along with the ROLLANT as a fixed chamber machine, since 1996, CLAAS has also supplied the VARIANT, as a belt press with variable wrapping chamber for bale diameters from 0.90 m to 1.80 m. Its points of difference from other balers on the market include the baling process with counter-directional rotation and the rotor location immediately adjacent to the bale chamber, for reliable bale starting under all conditions. The VARIANT 180 makes high-density bales at a high production rate. This makes the machine ideal for multi-farm baling operations.


In 1999, CLAAS launched the new QUADRANT 2200 in the market. With a completely new powertrain, new baler frame construction and the ultra-convenient CLAAS Control Terminal, this machine provided greater throughput and higher bale densities, translating into even higher worker/hour profitability ratios for contracting operations.

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Also introduced in 1999 was the new CLAAS compaction system for round balers. The ROLLANT 250 MPS baler (MPS standing for “maximum pressure system”) has three steel baling rollers on an articulated pivoting segment. This articulated component penetrates into the inside of the roller chamber, resulting in a faster start of bale rotation and the formation of more uniform layers during the compaction process. The “folded centre” typical of bales made with fixed chamber round balers is much smaller in MPS balers, clearly illustrating the superior compaction performance of the ROLLANT 250. This new compaction process has reduced the energy requirement for the baling operation, and results in precisely formed bales, thanks to the compaction of smaller layers.

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For the 2001 sales year, CLAAS introduced the ROLLANT with attached UNIWRAP film wrapper. With the ROLLANT 250 UNIWRAP, tying and wrapping can take place following baling, in a single work step. The CLAAS high-performance wrapper wraps the bale in six layers of stretch film in just 35 seconds. After this incredibly short wrapping process, the wrapping table is lowered to gently deposit the bales on the field with the machine still under way.

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With FINE CUT, CLAAS launched a 49-knife cutterbar for short straw on the market. The technology made it possible to utilise short straw produced in the field for animal feed and bedding directly.

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The new QUADRANT 3400 introduced by CLAAS in 2006 is a large baler offering a raft of truly amazing revolutionary performance features. It also had the highest throughput capacity of any machine on the market, for both hay and straw. It was also suitable for silage, making it the largest silage baler available. No other baler could match its tonnes per hour rates. Accordingly, the QUADRANT 3400 defined a completely new performance class. All components were designed for fast work rates and maximum throughput. As a result, the QUADRANT 3400 could process up to 60 t of straw per hour. The straw was deposited in 1.20-m x 1-m bales, for maximum efficiency for subsequent uplifting and removal.

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With the ROLLANT 400 family, CLAAS introduced a whole new dimension of fixed chamber balers. The new baler with hydraulic MPS PLUS and 25-knife cutterbar set new standards for power and reliability, with a throughput of up to 51 t per hour. Along with its speed and throughput, this family of ROLLANT machines also offered minimum maintenance and maximum reliability.

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At Agritechnica 2013, CLAAS unveiled its new Implement Controls Tractor (ICT) concept. ICT is a new software package that uses the operating parameters of a hitched machine to control the tractor pulling it, via an ISOBUS interface. ICT has been available since 2015, initially in a square baler-tractor combination. The baler has a CRUISE PILOT, which controls the tractor ground speed automatically via ICT. According to the operational requirement, the driver has an infinitely variable control for selection between the operating targets of “throughput” and “bale quality”. If a component of the system does become overloaded, the AUTO STOP function of the baler automatically switches off the PTO, via ICT. ICT significantly boosts the efficiency of the tractor-machine combination. The safety margins that have to be built in for manual control by the driver are no longer required. That allows full utilisation of capacity, without leading to breakdowns and downtime. ICT also significantly reduces the level of stress on the driver, by reducing to a minimum the number of interactions that have to be monitored by the operator.

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Up until now, CLAAS had been producing bales with dimensions of 120 cm x 70 cm with the QUADRANT 3200 and 2200. Both of these square balers have been completely reworked. This even required CLAAS to revisit its oldest patent, so that the QUADRANT 5200 and 4200 came with an all-new CLAAS high-power knotter. The new automatic pressure control system (APC) makes it even easier to operate these new balers at maximum power. The new QUADRANT also has a hydraulic feeder system and higher ram frequency.

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CLAAS introduced a total of eight new models in 2017, across the entire baler product range.

In the large square baler range, the new entrant was the QUADRANT 5300, with bale dimensions of 1.20 x 0.90 m. In the round baler segment, a completely new variable chamber design was introduced in six models of the VARIANT 400 model series, to make the machines even more operator-friendly and reliable. The major innovation in the fixed chamber baler range was the ROLLANT 620 with its 1.50-m bale diameter, while stronger rollers in the ROLLANT 400 enabled the machine to handle highly compressed silage bales.

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