Saving bees with 3D printing

I'm not a beekeeper but I do love bees. Bee colonies are a small fraction of what they were perhaps seventy years ago. If honey bees go extinct then it's likely that we'll follow since they're responsible for pollenating most of our food crops. I personally would guess that the advent of cellphone technology is part of their undoing but other causes have been suggested.

The Varroa mite is one of those better-known threats. Once inside the brood chamber, the mites will devastate the colony.

To that end, I'm designing things for beekeepers so that they may be better armed against these mites.




I looked at your github, but all I found was a write-up in the Are you planning to release files for this?

Yes, I plan to release the STLs. If you have bees and want to play guinea pig, let me know.

The prototype is done except for the mica gates and the brush barriers. I have to get it into the hands of a beekeeper to verify if the tunnels are the correct size. I based them on 5.5mm diameter but they just seem small to me.

I could probably get away with doing some testing myself with wild bees, though.

I think it looks pretty interesting

All it really needs is the ultra violet light for the decon chamber, a couple of little tiny signs that say ENTER and EXIT, and maybe a place for their itty bitty card swipers

I don't imagine that the wild bees would have cards tho, only the domesticated ones, so I guess leave out the card swiper for the wild bee testing

Oh, I just had an idea, you know what would be really cool ?

A camera

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Yeah, I totally thought about the camera already since I need a video of this actually working for the beekeepers to want to make one themselves. Making a replacement lid which accepts the camera is the easiest method but of course it's not centered on the reason for all this.

I do need to know if the bees are okay, if they're healthy, if they're not stressed out about the new gateway, if they're not confused by all this, that none of the drones are blocked by this, etc. And yes, I need to make sure that the Varroa are swept off, that they cleanly fall through the mesh and that no bees were harmed in the making of this video.

That's funny :slight_smile:

The camera was the only serious thing I said

Believe it or not, I did consider putting unique symbols above every doorway. As humans, we tend to forget that animals are smart, too. Bees remember that the upper entrance to a beehive (although congested) still results in an easier path to the "supers" versus the alternate trip through the brood chamber). They're intelligent and they remember things like that.

I would guess that they could also recognize a symbol as well.

Their primary method of choosing paths is from their internal GPS system, though.

My friend was curious on a couple of things with this. He's part of the Bee Keeping group at Georgia Tech and was wondering if the bees would be put off by the "smell" of a plastic component in their hive. I assume you would have to print this out of a high temp material like ABS or PETG since it's going to be in the elements?

My initial thought was to use PLA since it seems to me to be the friendliest material (a polymer of corn starch). I know that PLA will warp in hotter climates so it's not ultimately the right fit. I haven't thought much past the prototype phase, to be honest. It might ultimately be suggested that this needs to be CNC'd out of wood for the final design. Bees prefer two building materials: wood and wax.

What I'm seeing is that everyone's crazy about the flow hive and they want to use 3D printers to print them at home. I don't think this is a good idea, to be honest. So what I'm doing is to introduce other ideas into the 3D-printer-plus-bees space to allow an outlet for that sort of creativity.

The next project is a pair of molds to pour-in-place foundation sheets into a Langstroth frame with standard beeswax. It's well on its way but the modeling is blowing out my Fusion 360 so far.

Would coating it with bees wax be a ridiculous idea ?

Also, would a specific color be something to consider ?

Maybe grey to match the color of their hives ?

I considered coating the outside with beeswax and using the jaggy surface feature of Cura for that.

My first version of this was the natural Shaxon PLA which is actually more transparent than the XT-Clear by ColorFabb, for what it's worth. The prototype was getting printed out during the whole my-nozzle-is-acting-up incident so I switched to black.

Ultimately, if this is to be a printed collection of parts, the beekeepers themselves will be printing them. To me, I see my job as innovator or someone to steer them into possibly fertile territory. The parts include some advanced modeling of embedded threads, for example. I wouldn't expect the average bee enthusiast to be at this level so I'm helping them.

Average Joe, like me ? Yer using Fusion 360 while I'm still using crayons

Not even Crayola. I got'em from the dollar store

My first introduction with Fusion 360 was a mere year ago. Very nearly everything I've done with CAD has been for this printer.

Like with anything, you have to just get in there and give it a try. I now have about 20 design projects under my belt and each one usually has a number of parts under it. One project alone has about a hundred parts, but they're all small.

Life's too short to let it pass you by. Carpe diem.

Just chiming in to second this to give it some emphasis. I started with Fusion 360 in summer 2016. Watched a ton of YouTube videos and then put what I'd learned to use on a first project. Since it's become my go-to tool for everything and after an initial learning curve I've gotten really really fast too.

Latest creation is a solder fume extractor/pocket fan - nothing as fancy as the bee gate but very functional nonetheless:

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I mean, seriously, that looks exactly like something that came from an injection-mold shop somewhere. :slight_smile: I love the support fin that runs from left/right here to give it more strength. There's an art to creating a lightweight part which functionally satisfies the requirements.

I wish I could show you the bowden extruder assembly that the 3D printer manufacturer is putting into production any day now. :laugh: It's far from art, let's say. The plastic which is the endstop for the compression spring is too thin and the wall there bulges by ten millimeters or more in such a way that the cover can no longer fit. But they've spent a month or more basing the extrusion amounts from this design instead of first fixing the plastic and only then setting the extrusion based upon the new spring parameters.

What about a Wax filament such as ?

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I like it, if it will actually print without modifications. At $50/k it's cheaper for me since beeswax is more expensive than it should be. (Buying on-sale beeswax candles and melting them down is probably the cheapest.) I can pretty much guess that it will gum up (or self-carve) in my feeder drive.

It's worth researching, though. I'd see if I could get them to source a natural color version.

I have used wax filament with varying degrees of success. To print with wax the temperature is a lower, recommended is 150 C, I was printing at 130 C. Bed temp was 50 C
In Marlin : #define EXTRUDE_MINTEMP 100
I have a direct drive extruder and I did not have any issues with feeding. I had a lot of lifting recently but i think this is being cause by my garage being cold and my printer does not have an enclosure. /sad

You definitely need to do some sort of minimum enclosure, it really helps with first-layer adhesion as I've found.

I might eventually print with wax. But my current tactic would be to create the molds and then just use them to create the Langstroth frame foundations.

I second that. The enclosure is the only reason I can still print in my basement in the winter. According to the thermister on my printer, it's 10C down there right now

I've got both my printers in styrofoam enclosures. It's like $30 for a 2inch thick 4X8 sheet. What I have to do is raise the extruder about 6 inches above the bed, then turn on the bed to about 70C for maybe half an hour til I see the temp on the extruder go up to about 25C, then I know it's nice and warm in there, then I can lower the temp to about 50C and start printing, otherwise all I end up with is a giant blob of goo stuck to the extruder (the cleaning of which is always a fun way to spend an afternoon)

You can always get fancy and add windows and things, and of course, with an enclosure you absolutely need a camera or two

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