The USDA Agricultural Research Station in Alabama bought a BCS 853 tractor from us, and developed a “Mechanical Crimper/Roller” to fit it. (PDF fact sheet) We tested this implement, and while the actual crimping performance was very good, we were NOT satisfied with several aspects of this machine. Disadvantages we observed were:
High vibration levels, which will negatively affect the tractor and PTO coupling
Contrary to the claim on the USDA document we link to above, this unit is VERY HEAVY, and hard to maneuver (it may be light compared to a full-size-tractor mounted crimper, but it is still over 200 lbs!), and since it is “rigid-mounted” to the tractor, the operator has to lift it off the ground to turn the machine around (our manual crimper-roller is HINGED where it attaches to the tractor, so it can be “steered” more easily).
Reliability of this machine is questionable, with all the exposed moving parts subject to dust (particularly the “vertical bearings” that the crimper bar relies on to travel up & down)
Estimated production cost would make this machine sell for approximately TWICE (or more) the cost of our manual crimper/roller.
For the scale of agriculture walk-behind tractors are typically used for, we opted for the less-expensive, and completely reliable, “manual” design. The only advantage we saw for the mechanical crimper was the “adjustability” of the crimp-per-foot frequency based on the different gear ratios/throttle speeds available by having a PTO-driven unit. But as the fellow from the Rodale Institute said about their manual crimpers: “if you’re not satisfied with the crimp you got on one pass, RUN OVER IT AGAIN! It just takes a few minutes!”