Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 12, 2017 09:42AM
Hello,

what do you think? Would it be possible to print honeycombs like those shown on this site http://resistantbees.com/plastik.html? They have to be very precise, otherwise the bees won't accept them for breeding.
  • Is it possible to print thin walls only 0,5 to 0,6 mm thick? (if it is possible, witch RepRap-printer composition?)
  • How to get smooth wall surface? The printed objects shown on pictures sometimes look very smooth and sometimes very rough (printid layers well noticeable)
  • What kind of material should be used? Food-save!

Kind regards,
Stefan Lechner
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 12, 2017 10:07AM
If you want to spend a gazzillion on expensive food safe, bee safe filament, honeycomb infill no problem. Time too, wonder if the bees could make it faster. Make a mould and cast in wax? Bee trick to remove from mould.

Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 02/12/2017 10:54AM by MechaBits.
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 12, 2017 12:56PM
MechaBits thank you for your reply,

you are right. The bees can make it faster and in higher quality.

Maybe I should explain why I need plastic honeycombs. Today bees are nearby 20% bigger than there natural size. About 80 years ago the idea was borne that bigger bees would be more efficient in collecting honey and bee-keepers started to enlarge the diameter of the honeycomb cells to get bigger insects (in larger cells the bee-grub can grow bigger). The natural cell diameter was about 4,9 mm, the today world-standard is 5,4 mm. At the first sight it looks great to have a bigger bee that can collect more honey but there are many, many bad side-effects causing big problems. It is not well known yet that this problems are connected to the unnatural bee-size.

The problem is, that bees are using there own body-size to measure the cell-size they can build. They can't build small cell they don't fit in. So there is the difficulty that you need complete honeycombs with 4,9 mm cell-size temporary for about 8 weeks to become a first generation of naturally sized bee. Then they can build there honeycombs themself again.

The solution are the plastic honeycombs shown in the link above. There are only two known products worldwide fitting the needs. One from USA and one from Italy.

So what makes more sense? Buying a small set of plastic-honeycombs (not really fitting the dimensions of my beehive) or building a RepRap and designing and printing my own ones.
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 12, 2017 01:43PM
Would it be good enough to print a honeycomb corner and let the bees do the rest?
If not, how big would it have to be?

PLA is food friendly, it's made of corn.
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 12, 2017 01:54PM
Hey!

I like this. Its a real possibility to do good with a 3d printer.
It should be ok to test!
Don't buy a printer for just testing. Let us here help you!
0.6 mm walls should not be a a problem. 0.3 nozzle and to passes per wall.
If one print carefully, There is possible to print smooth walls. But its hard to tell how smooth it has to bee.. winking smiley
Also, how big sections of honeycomb you you need? This can be the real problem.
Normally a building plate is about 200x200mm But bigger is getting more common.

As o_lampe says. PLA should be very good for this.
Have a neighbor who lends a part of his yard to a bee farmer. Not big. and I usually never se that person.
But now, U got me intrested. smiling smiley

Best regards from Sweden
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 12, 2017 03:42PM
While PLA is made from corn, the other materials used in production is not, like the coloring. I would suggest caution with this.
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 12, 2017 03:57PM
Since you only need this for one generation of bees, you could probably drop the food safe requirement. ABS can be smoothed with acetone to get really smooth surfaces. Baking it (or PLA) for a few hours at a temperature near the glass transition state may remove most of the volatile substances in the plastic. You could also use shellac to seal the plastic which would give you a smooth surface and would also be food safe.
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 12, 2017 04:20PM
PLA may be a good contender, but not for its biodegradable status. In fact, the heat of a beehive can reach 45c or so and you may find PLA turns to mush. Does it actually biodegrade into safe material? Can the bees eat this? would they try? A lot of testing needs to be done as we have no idea the effect of introducing a plastic into a beehive, especially a coloured plastic. Any volatile compounds that the bees eat can be lethal once passed down the food chain a few times. I would suspect that the best bet is strong, and as inert as possible materials, especially if you need to clean the honeycomb and re-use. I would not be surprised if studies have been done on nearly all the questions I've asked though.
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 12, 2017 08:48PM
PETG is pretty inert, it's what I'd be investigating. It will handle the heat of a beehive with no issues. I'd look at "natural" PETG.
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 13, 2017 02:31AM
Printing such a honeycomb in PETG would be a nightmare. It would probably end up full of strings. Also think about the slow print speed compared to PLA.

The temp might be a problem with PLA, but the bees are there to keep it at a constant level and 45°C should be no problem. ( Wax does melt at ??°C )
Natural PLA almost looks like bee-wax.
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 13, 2017 05:10AM
I've created a parametric scad file to generate any size of honeycomb. Also attached a sample of a 5x5 honeycomb to play with.
The .jpg shows the dimensions like diameter and wall thickness.

The constants are in german, feel free to ask about their meaning.

I have a spool of yellow PLA and make a testprint now...

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/13/2017 05:11AM by o_lampe.
Attachments:
open | download - honeycomb.scad (615 bytes)
open | download - honeycomb52.stl (229.7 KB)
open | download - honeycomb-size.JPG (40.4 KB)
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 13, 2017 06:32AM
The print was pretty fast, it took about 20min. The walls are not perfect. A few gaps here and there, but this can be tweaked.

I'd like to test it in my garden for wild bees etc. Is there a chance to build a bee hive for wild bees?
Attachments:
open | download - honeycomb_PLA.jpg (280.6 KB)
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 13, 2017 01:55PM
Bees make their own honey comb?
Bees wax the product?
Just the right size for growing new bees and storing honey

Bees must consume over eight pounds of honey to create one pound of wax for their honeycomb

so if the bees didn't make wax honeycomb -- what would they do -- more honey?

I don't think any self respecting bee would move into provided housing?

Does anyone know if bees move into and use provided honeycomb?

confused smiley
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 13, 2017 02:09PM
Note that you can always use the honeycomb infill pattern to create honeycombs automatically. Just print a rectangular prism with no top layers and no bottom layers and then select the infill density to give you the size honeycomb you need. This will print up much faster than an explicitly modeled and sliced honeycomb.

As for material, I'd go with unpigmented ("natural") PLA. It may not technically be food grade, but it is probably pretty safe. I chew on the ends of ballpoint pens, though, so I tend not to get too worked up over the possible nasty chemicals found in common plastics.
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 13, 2017 03:00PM
Take care with materials, last thing you need is to kill a whole colony, there's enough of that without your help.
Maybe the Bees need a quick tutorial on Tolerances, put them on a diet before breading, or buy the smaller ones?
Pity you couldnt add an entrance hole that only the smaller ones get through?
Whats the size of the honeycombs on that stuff laser cutters use?
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 13, 2017 03:45PM
Quote
o_lampe
I'd like to test it in my garden for wild bees etc. Is there a chance to build a bee hive for wild bees?

My neighbor did exactly that. He found a wild bee hive in the woods behind his house. He built them a box, and sure enough they moved it. A great side affect was my fruit trees in the backyard blew up with fruit the following years since it was so close to the hive. I think he also managed to get some honey from the bees, although I think he had only build the wood box. The bees built the honeycomb.
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 13, 2017 06:17PM
Check out the "flow hive".

From memory their prototypes were 3D printed.

[www.honeyflow.com.au]#

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/13/2017 06:21PM by nebbian.
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 14, 2017 02:58AM
There are many DIY bee hive pages out there.
I just read, that the hex shape has to be oriented in a certain way: With a corner pointing downwards.

Beekeepers also use wax-backplates with a honeycomb pattern as a template for the bees. To make such a plate we'd need the inversed honeycomb as a stamp. Maybe in a cylindrical shape. Then roll it across the softened wax.
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 14, 2017 03:04AM
Quote

Whats the size of the honeycombs on that stuff laser cutters use?

There's also honeycomb fill used in lightweight epoxy-sandwich plates. I wonder what this is made off?
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 14, 2017 03:39AM
I'm talking about the aluminum stuff, cant find a good pic but looks like honeycomb(duh mis-read your post olamp)


Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 02/14/2017 04:12AM by MechaBits.
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 14, 2017 08:05AM
Thanks a lot for your replies!

Quote
o_lampe
Would it be good enough to print a honeycomb corner and let the bees do the rest? If not, how big would it have to be?

Unfortunately it is not enough to print just a corner. The bees don't like plastic and they only use a plastic honeycomb if there is absolutely no change for them to build something there own. So it is necessary to fill the whole beehive with plastic honeycombs. And the problem I have to deal with, is that the bees are to big to build the smaller cell-size. The bees bred in small cells are then able to build the honeycomb with small cells again at there own. So I have to use the plastic-honeycomb only for 8 weeks, then all the big bees should be died.

The honeycombs are bigger in size than 20x20 cm (the honeycomb shape I prefer at the moment is formed trapezoidal with ~44cm at the long side, ~18cm at the short side and ~32cm high). But printing in 4 different parts designed to clip them together afterwords could be a solution. Or is something wrong with this idea?

The question about the right material looks like to be the most difficult if I follow the replies. The plastic-honeycombs shown on the linked page in my first posting are made of "Virgin Food Grade Polypropylene", I don't know if this info is helpful.

The bees need a nearby constant temperature of 35°C in the beehive, it is the temperature they need for breading. At 38°C they stop there activities and at 45 - 50°C it becomes dangerous for them. So the used plastic should perform good and safe fore temperatures up to ~40°C. Is it really that difficult and/or that expensive to get food grade filament?!

Quote
o_lampe
The temp might be a problem with PLA, but the bees are there to keep it at a constant level and 45°C should be no problem. ( Wax does melt at ??°C )
Natural PLA almost looks like bee-wax.

As I mentioned above normally the temperature is 35°C. Wax does melt between 62°C and 65°C.

Quote
o_lampe
I've created a parametric scad file to generate any size of honeycomb. Also attached a sample of a 5x5 honeycomb to play with.
The .jpg shows the dimensions like diameter and wall thickness.

The constants are in german, feel free to ask about their meaning.

Thank you for the files to play with! The honeycomb I need is a little bit more complex. I hope it is ok, if I try to modify your scad-file fore posting it here again.

Constants in german are great fore me. I am from Austria.

Quote
o_lampe
I'd like to test it in my garden for wild bees etc. Is there a chance to build a bee hive for wild bees?

This is a difficult topic. There are many different kinds of bees and only the honey-bees build honeycomb. Wild honey-bees arn't existing any more in Europe (maybe a small rest in Russia).

Quote
PDBeal
My neighbor did exactly that. He found a wild bee hive in the woods behind his house. He built them a box, and sure enough they moved it. A great side affect was my fruit trees in the backyard blew up with fruit the following years since it was so close to the hive. I think he also managed to get some honey from the bees, although I think he had only build the wood box. The bees built the honeycomb.

In Europe that is possible if a bee swarm escaped from a beekeeper. They are than looking fore an new place fore there colony and if you offer them the most attractive housing in the area, you have a chance that they move in (but a wild bee is something deferent)
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 14, 2017 05:50PM
While trying to solve this problem, take some time out with some music for pondering, the Secrets of the Beehive album.

Best Tracks September, The Boy With The Gun, Orpheus, The Devil's Own,When Poets Dreamed Of Angels, Let The Happiness In,
Waterfront, Forbidden Colours.
Released in October 1987. A predominantly acoustic recording it features Danny Thompson, Phil Palmer, Mark Isham, David Torn and Steve Jansen, together with orchestral arrangements by Ryuichi Sakamoto. Recorded at Studio Miraval in the south of France, and produced by Steve Nye,
[www.youtube.com]
[www.davidsylvian.com]
or maybe Dead Bees on a Cake

Best tracks, I Surrender, Midnight Sun, Wanderlust

[www.davidsylvian.com]

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 02/14/2017 05:57PM by MechaBits.
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 17, 2017 12:57PM
It was the first time I used Scad but with spending some time on learning I was able to build a small example of what I need:

honeycomb.scad
honeycomb.stl

Quote
SatorCodex
If one print carefully, There is possible to print smooth walls. But its hard to tell how smooth it has to bee.. winking smiley

Quote
etfrench
ABS can be smoothed with acetone to get really smooth surfaces. Baking it (or PLA) for a few hours at a temperature near the glass transition state may remove most of the volatile substances in the plastic. You could also use shellac to seal the plastic which would give you a smooth surface and would also be food safe.

I don't know how smooth it has to be. If the bees accept the provided honeycomb everything is ok. It is known that the bees are accepting the plastic honeycomb linked in my first posting (with the help of some tricks). So maybe the question is: How big is the difference between printed and cast plastic in surface quality.

Printing a little bit larger and coating with shellac sounds interesting but I think shellac isn't watertight and swells if it gets wet. Bee-grubs are laying in wet food sad smiley.
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 17, 2017 03:52PM
The back_to_back positioning is clever, that way the bees have access from both sides. Are the other plastic-honeycombs build the same?
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 17, 2017 05:50PM
Yes they are build the same. It is the same as the bees are building there honeycomb. There are rhombic dodecahedrons at the bottom. The whole shape is optimized fore minimum material use, maximum strength and best use of space.
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 22, 2017 10:41AM
The question about the material could be solved. I think this filament seems to be great: Multec-PLA-HT
It is a food grade PLA, heat-resistant up to 90 °C.

I am not yet sure about the smoothness. Printing with a 0,25 mm filament nozzle and a layer hight of 0,05 mm looks nearby smooth. But I read that printing in such high quality is only for small objects. Is it likely to damage the printer if it has to work continuously for many hours?
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 22, 2017 01:48PM
A well tuned printer can work until the filament runs out, but longer prints means higher risk of failure. Some people even use filament sensors to know when to load new spools and print on for days.
Is it necessary to have smooth walls like the commercial honeycombs you've linked us? Do they have to be watertight?
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 26, 2017 08:20PM
I hope it isn't necessary to get as smooth walls as the commercial honeycombs I linked. I don't know how smooth they have to be, maybe nobody knows. The wax honeycombs built by bees are smooth, the plastic honeycombs known to be accepted by bees for breading are smooth too. So trying to get the print as smooth as possible seems to be a good idea for me.

As long as the majority of the cells are watertight, I am not worried about some holes in the print. If they can reach the holes, the bees will fill them up with wax (big bees and holes near the bottom of a cell may be difficult).
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 26, 2017 09:23PM
I'm wondering if you could find drinking straws the diam you need, I now they are round but would be interesting to see if they could adapt it....knowing grubs aint hexagonal shape, or maybe they're all dying because they are now into goin out with the lads for some amber nectar and a game of football.
[www.scientificamerican.com]

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/26/2017 09:23PM by MechaBits.
VDX
Re: Is it possible to print honeycombs for bees
February 27, 2017 12:45PM
... the straws give me another idea -- cut straws with the right diameter in the wished length of a chamber, the put them side-by-side in a four-sided frame with two of the sides movable ... then compress all the straws with the two free sides, until they will morph into hexagons and then fix the frame winking smiley


Viktor
--------
Aufruf zum Projekt "Müll-freie Meere" - [reprap.org]
Call for the project "garbage-free seas" - [reprap.org]
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