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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2009
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    Hampstead, NC USA
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    341

    Default Frame filling "machine" update

    Several months ago I posted here about designing/building a system for filling frames of comb with sugar syrup.
    My specific goal was to replicate a system a Canadian beekeeper has videos of but in a much more affordable design.
    I am very pleased to be able to say that I've finished this build and I am thrilled with how it operates.
    PLEASE do not comment here with feedback consisting of things like, "why do you need to do this when what I do works so well" or "I've been using thus & such a method for years and it works for me"
    All to often beekeepers are so set in their ways and believe their way sis the best & only way and I am tired of hearing it so this post is simply for those that wish to know about what I did to make this frame filler.
    It took a lot of time on & off but I can tell you why I think this will be the way I am going to feed my bees from now on:
    It is super fast-20 deep frames in less than 10 minutes including filling the vat, filling 20 frames and flushing the system. This does not include mixing and/or warming the syrup. Warm syrup is required for the system I built.
    It is a nearly no mess system (although I did have a few extremely messy episodes during R & D)
    It allows me to put warm frames of syrup directly into the hive.
    It allows frames to be left in the hive so the bees can use it for storing honey they bring in or use at as brood comb.
    The following is a description of the parts & their use/placement:
    1-Utility tub/sink from the local Big box store or, even better, from a cheaper source. This is the "tank" and is used for filling the frames and as the supply source for the pump.
    1-#6 bronze gear pump. This is the largest size gear pump that is still considered, "Light Duty" according to the manufacturers I consulted with. Anything larger gets into a much more costly pump and requires much more power to run plus it would be physically larger & heavier. Cost for mine was $250.00 used. These pumps have 1" inlet/outlet ports.
    1-3/4 hp minimum 1725 RPM electric motor. I had mine laying around so it was free. I was concerned that motor would be too small but it works perfectly so long as I am using syrup that is at least 80*F.
    1-pair pillow block bearings for coupling shaft-$20-30.00
    1-flex coupling for coupling shaft $20.00
    1-pulley shaft. This is used to couple the pump to a pulley for RPM reduction. The pump will need to run about 7-900 RPM depending on the temperature of the syrup. Again I had mine laying around. I also have a fairly complete machine shop which helped tremendously but is certainly not required as everything is available from suppliers in a ready to use form (other than aligning the pump & pulley shaft which will take some creativity)
    1-3" pulley with bore size matching the motor $5.00
    1-6" pulley with bore matching the pump shaft/pulley shaft $6.00
    1-"V" belt $4.00
    1- heavy metal base with ribbing for rigidity. To be determined on an individual basis
    1-Bracket system to allow precise alignment of the shaft the couples the pulley with the pump. I made mine out of 3"X3"X1/4" aluminum angle material. I used one section bolted to the base plate so one leg is flat on the base and the other leg is vertical and a second section with a leg against the vertical leg of the first section and the other leg horizontal which has teh two pillow block shaft bearings sitting on it. Between the two angle brackets there is a "Z" shape. There needs to be a provision made where the top section can be pricisely adjusted up/down for horizontal alignment of the pump shaft & the pulley shaft AND another provision made so the pillow bearing blocks can be adjusted axially so the pulley shaft aligns with the pump
    axially as well. The flex couplings will allow a certain amount of misalignment but I did a ton of research on this and the better the alignment is the longer the pump seal will last. Poor alignment will mean a trashed pump in short order. This is likely the most challenging part of the build.
    I placed the pump/motor/shaft etc on a 1/8" steel plate and then added 2 pieces of 1/8" wall 2"X2" aluminum square tube bolted the length of the plate for rigidiity because the belt tension will pull the shaft bracket down if the plate is not rigid enough.
    This pump system sits directly under my tub/vat/tank. I plumbed the tub drain directly to the pump input using 1-1/2" pvc with 3 90* elbows, a detachable coupling and a drain valve.
    From the pump output I plumbed up to my two sprays bars using 1-1/4" PVC, another detachable coupling, another drain valve and 2 45* elbows leading up to a valve, a "T" connection and my two spray bars that go through a hole in the tub on both sides. The spray bars are 1" pvc with 70 3/32" holes drilled down the legth of each bar. The two spray bars point toward each other as the liquid is being pumped and I simply dip the frames between these bars and the comb fills up almost completely.
    I have empty frames in deep boxes on the left and I fill them and place them in plastic totes on the right side of the tub. With the totes places right next to the tub there is nowhere for drops to fall other than in the tub.
    I know this is not the clearest explanation of this system but hopefully anyone that is interested in building this type of system will get the idea.
    It is not a turn key set of components and will require some outside assistance is one is not well equipped and attention in the area of shaft alignment and mounting base is very important.

    Please feel free to ask questions but please don't throw stones. I know this setup is a good amount of work and costs more than a garden sprayer, can with holes etc. It is something I wanted to try and although I thought it would become just a pile of parts I am very happy with the outcome and the cost -vs- return,
    Thanks
    Howard



    http://

    http://

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Manitoba Canada
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    5,478

    Default Re: Frame filling "machine" update

    good deal challenger!
    that'll fill those frames quick!
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    Strafford, NH, USA
    Posts
    337

    Default Re: Frame filling "machine" update

    Looks like you had some fun thinking through and building this system!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Pinellass County, Florida
    Posts
    1,066

    Default Re: Frame filling "machine" update

    YouTube
    YouTube
    YouTube
    YouTube

    I'd like to see it up and runnin

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Hampstead, NC USA
    Posts
    341

    Default Re: Frame filling "machine" update

    Quote Originally Posted by Fishman43 View Post
    Looks like you had some fun thinking through and building this system!
    Yes some fun-some frustration. I enjoy tinkering. Thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by RayMarler View Post
    I think it's a great idea and job. The finished product looks and sounds like a very well working item, and feeding bees in that manner sounds like a very good idea to me, as I'm just a little beek with not many hives.
    As you can imagine I also think it is a great way to easily introduce feed to the bees. Often the syrup is warm after filling and opening a hive, removing empty comb & replacing with warm frames of syrup is quick & doesn't result in a cold hive. I did some hives and it was about 60 degrees out and starting to get late. I discovered many that were light and added 15 frames to a few hives.
    I would think something like this would be even better for a large apiary or even a commercial pollinator but I am not either of those and I imagine they have their ways. Thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by Flyer Jim View Post
    I like it! Do you heat your syrup, if so how?
    Quote Originally Posted by cerezha View Post
    Could you explain the principle,how it works? You fill up the sink with warm syrup and dip frames in it or what? How syrup is forced inside the cells? I would imagine that there were bunch of air bubbles in the comb.
    Quote Originally Posted by Wisnewbee View Post
    That is a fantastic setup. Ingenious design.

    Wisnewbee
    Thank you. For the record I didn't come up with the idea. I got it from a video on French Bee Farm site. I adapted it to my budget, needs & wants. I tried contacting them a while back but didn't get e return email. I wanted to ask what pump they used.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mbeck View Post
    Looks good.

    How thick is the syrup you use?
    Can you fill frames and transport? Do they leak a lot once full?
    The syrup is 2:1 but I get mine from a place in Charlotte, NC already mixed and it is a saturated solution with 66% sugar solids. They sell it in bulk to all sorts of industries and my son in at school there so I've hit him & his friends up for shuttling buckets. It is $7.00 for 5 gallons which is 1/3 the price I've been able to get the cheapest sugar for. Mixing the syrup is a huge hassle and is always messy. The 2:1 is especially so IMO because of the hot water required and the constant stirring. This ready made stuff is the ultimate. They also sell bulk HFCS but it is more $ and I'd rather feed sugar even if it was more $.
    I filled frames and transported 12 in a tote to a friends apiary. The frames drain off in the tote and the excess syrup at the bottom is poured into a container and reused. The tote gets a bit sticky so a wet rag is always handy. This goes for me anytime I mess with syrup because a tiny bit on my hand gets transmitted to anything I touch so I just try and keep this at zero.
    Thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr.Beeman View Post
    One similar.

    That is my prototype-see the black totes?

    Quote Originally Posted by jmgi View Post
    I'm just wondering if the syrup pressure may be a bit too high, seems like it would fill the combs alright, but then wash it back out somewhat leading to many partially filled cells. John
    When I did the first wet test I used water and I was really disappointed because the spraying water was sending droplets outside the tub. I thought I'd just spent a great deal of time creating another messy way to feed. The water was also doing as you mentioned to a small degree. I honestly was going to bag the idea but a friend wanted to see it and I decided to run syrup which was the ticket. It is heavier and flows slower & this combination makes for literally no mess coming out of the spray bars plus it goes in the cells and doesn't come out except for excess. Thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by Acebird View Post
    Good job Howard. It appears to work fairly well.
    The goal is to remove the air from the cells and replace it with syrup.
    Did you try or anyone else during your R&D putting the sprayers closer together (just about a frame width) and submerged like a whirl pool bath? The jets should drive out the air and replace it with syrup without splashing more air back into the cells. This is just a hunch. I could be wrong.
    I didn't consider this method of underwater jetting but I would think that a much higher pressure would be required to create streams with enough velocity to bridge a gap of syrup & still displace the air in the cells. This ability of the cells to hold on to what is in them, weather it be honey or air, is a huge stumbling block in any comb filling method. I am not an engineer but I spoke with more than a few while building this. I thought I could find a way to calculate the required flow, pressure, velocity etc. by crunching some numbers using formulas popular in the pumping industry but that was not the case-far from it in fact. One thing that several engineers told me is that figuring this and that for a specific application gets you in the ball park. From there it is trial & error. I am sure there are other ways to pump streams into comb but I chose this one and I am glad I didn't go another route after the initial water test failure. Thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by gmcharlie View Post
    Sweet! I was just at Rons place this weekend and looked at his system, and was figuring out how to make one of my own. I was going to use vacuum, but this thing makes it look so sweet!. How are you heating the syrup???
    A vacuum! I played with that idea 2 years ago and I am still convinced it would work perfectly. My vacuum chamber was inadequate and leaked vacuum. I was able to get the frames that I placed in it 1/2 full but no more. I made a crappy chamber out of a 10- frame deep wrapped in rubber membrane then another mayer of 3/4" wood and wrapped again with plastic. I used a clear plexiglass lid with a grate under it for support. I had fittings, gauges, a really good HVAC vacuum etc and after several attempts to stop the thing from leaking I took it outside and threw it as far as I could. I was steaming mad and it went maybe 20 yards smashed on the ground and didn't suffer a single ding. It was stout but not air tight. I put it in the dumpster. After using this system I am not looking back at the vacuum. I think filling & emptying a vacuum chamber would make more of a mess than this thing. I am using a basic propane burner with a large pot to heat up the syrup. Thanks

    Yup-this was my inspiration. Check out the gasoline engine? I don't know what pump they used but the "light duty" gear pump I run has a maximum of 1725 RPM. With the thick syrup it needs to run between 6-900 depending on temperature. If I had to guess I would say they are using an entirely different pump & are pumping 1:1 syrup which a lot of pumps can handle. I chose a gear pump because they handle super thick material. Thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by dixiebooks View Post
    Just wondering...How do you keep from making a big mess with syrup dripping everywhere? -js
    It doesn't drip everywhere. If it did I would put it in the round file with many of my other "projects" The spray bars are inside the tub and are pointing slightly downward in the manner that the cells are tilted 15*. Take a dry frame from the left side, dip in between the spray bars a couple of times, lift it out, do a couple of up & down motions to get rid of most of the run off and end with a down motion moving to the right where the tote is. A little timing of the movement and zero drips. If I get a few drips it lands on the stretch wrap that is covering the spray bar inlet plumbing. Thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by JRG13 View Post
    ideally, I would envision bigger sink so u could hang the frames for a few minutes to drip dry.
    Maybe but for me having a drain rack is a good place for me to bump a frame of syrup and have it tumble on to the floor=mess & bad words. It is just so easy to move a filled frame to the tote on the right side. I like the simplicity because.........well.........I AM simple. Sure you can make all kinds of "extras" but I ant to take it down & store it when I am done. More stuff=more space & my shop looks like a crazy person works in it as it is. Thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by beeware10 View Post
    walter kelly had this system back in the 70's. never was very popular because of robbing problems that it caused.
    Great point! Robbing would be a very large problem. So far I've filled during cold or rainy weather. I can roll down my shop door to keep the bees from getting a taste if need be. I can imagine the number of bees that would be around if it took a long time to do this or one was careless. being able to get the frames filled quickly and placed into a tote with a lid plus cleaning up right away is a must. When I am done filling I drain the excess syrup into a bucket using the drain valve I put on the supply side, fill the tub with warm water, watch the drain hose to see water coming out instead of syrup and when this happens I just take the drain house from outside and bring it to the tub and rinse the whole system out. I'll just run & recycle the warm water to rinse the inside of the tub & spray bars off so no bees come calling. Then I take off the shrink wrap & throw it away. Final thing is emptying the rinse water-done. Thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by FlowerPlanter View Post
    This looks like a good idea.

    You might add some kind of frame holder/hangers in the sink or even above the sink on the opposite side you will be working from. Fill your frame let it hang and drip to dry while you fill the next one. That way you don’t spend time/energy shaking off the excess drops. Also will leave more sugar water in the sink instead of the floor.
    No syrup on the floor. Well maybe 5 drops with 20 frames. I don't shake off the frames-that would get messy. Just up & down & into the tote. Honestly if this was a messy operation I wouldn't have posted it. There is a guy in the youtube video who brought the frames I was filling. He also brought another friend who is starting this year keeping bees (sucker-I tried to talk him out of it) and both will attest to how this sytem is nearly drip free. It is by far the least messy method of filling frames that I've tried and it fills them super fast and nearly full if the comb is in good shape.

    I am not trying to sell this system or idea. Just thought I would show anyone that might find it interesting. I have no plans to sell or dreams of marketing this thing.

    Another thing that I found as a side benefit was using my home made HBH with this system. The HBH formula, home made or store bought, uses essential oils & I've found them difficult to keep emulsified in the syrup. If it separates out any bees that come into contact with some of these oils are going to die. Mixing it with the spraying action guarantees there won't be a concentration in the syrup that would harm the bees.
    Another thing is medication. It would be super easy to include any water soluble medication in the syrup and give the bees the medication in a frame(s) of syrup. I've never used these so I don't know if it is a great way to administer medication such as Terramycin but I've heard there are some meds that are difficult to mix?

    Thanks all,
    Howard
    Hampstead, NC

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
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    FRASER VALLEY, BRITISH COLUMBIA
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    1,276

    Default Re: Frame filling "machine" update

    I have such a frame filler. As pointed out earlier W. Kelley had such a unit for sale in the 70's. Beemaid (Canadian beekeeping co-operative) also sold those for awhile. I believe I have one of those models. They are ok on an emergency feeding system. The nice thing about Howardès is he is using an electric motor vrsus the gas powered one I have on my machine. The noise from that machine is irritating. Warm syrup is way better. I do not have a system where I can warm a large quantity of syrup. I find this type of system requires a lot of cleaning to keep the manifold clean. A lot of wax particles tend to accumulate and partially block the holes then next thing you know the syrup is spraying you or is ending up on the floor.

    For commercial guys it is just easier to fill a frame feeder. This system is ok for hives that are not especially strong and would have trouble taking syrup because they are sorta weak and temperatures are cool yet they need feed.

    Jean-Marc

  7. #7
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    May 2009
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    Hampstead, NC USA
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    341

    Default Re: Frame filling "machine" update

    Good point about the particles. Filling frames of comb dislodges debry in/on the frame. I spent a whole day trying to figure out how to prevent the holes from clogging. Then I just took a kitchen screen style strainer and placed it over the drain of the tub and no problem. Almost all the debry floats anyway so it is not a problem for my system except for the particles that can & will sink.
    I put caps on the end of my spray bars so it will be easy to uncap them & run a bottle brush through.
    I noticed today that some holes were spraying odd so when I was done filling I boiled 3 gallons of water and let that cycle through the machine as I used the drain hose to clean the tub. It cleared out the few spray holes that started acting up but I think I'll clean the bars out before using it again.
    A bad spray pattern could easily lead to syrup leaving the tub.
    What type of pump is on that machine? I wonder if an electrical conversion is an easy switch. Normally you can trade an electric motor at 2/3 the size of a gas motor. Just need to get the 3450 RPM electric motor.
    Thanks
    Howard

  8. #8
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    Mar 2011
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    Utica, NY
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    8,417

    Default Re: Frame filling "machine" update

    Quote Originally Posted by challenger View Post
    I didn't consider this method of underwater jetting but I would think that a much higher pressure would be required to create streams with enough velocity to bridge a gap of syrup & still displace the air in the cells.
    Think about a light bulb where the light on a surface is the square of the distance. If you move the two nozzles to where you can just fit the frame between you will not need as much pressure as you think. Secondly you will control the distance so it is more symmetrical and then you can skip flipping the frame around like was shown in the video. Thirdly, there should be no splash so the tank can be hugely smaller. What do they call that a oxymoron?

    It might seem silly but the shorter you can make the repetitive motion the better unless you are only going to do ten frames.

    You can hirer an operator for less then 10 bucks an hour but a workman's comp case bumps that up to about 50. I built a lot of machinery based on those numbers.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
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    Sacramento,California,USA
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    3,271

    Default Re: Frame filling "machine" update

    I think it's a great idea and job. The finished product looks and sounds like a very well working item, and feeding bees in that manner sounds like a very good idea to me, as I'm just a little beek with not many hives.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
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    Central CA.
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    437

    Default Re: Frame filling "machine" update

    I like it! Do you heat your syrup, if so how?

  11. #11
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    Oct 2011
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    Santa Monica, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Frame filling "machine" update

    Could you explain the principle,how it works? You fill up the sink with warm syrup and dip frames in it or what? How syrup is forced inside the cells? I would imagine that there were bunch of air bubbles in the comb.
    Серёжа, Sergey

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
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    Midland, MI
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    502

    Default Re: Frame filling "machine" update

    it looks like the syrup is pumped up through the two horizontal tubes. I suspect a number of drilled holes that squirt the fluid out thus filling both sides of the frame at the same time.

  13. #13
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    Apr 2011
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    Wausau, WI, USA
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    Default Re: Frame filling "machine" update

    That is a fantastic setup. Ingenious design.

    Wisnewbee

  14. #14
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    Jun 2009
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    Stockton, CA
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    Default Re: Frame filling "machine" update

    I'm with tommy- YOUTUBE PLEASE

  15. #15
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    Mar 2011
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    Utica, NY
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    Default Re: Frame filling "machine" update

    Good job Howard. It appears to work fairly well.
    The goal is to remove the air from the cells and replace it with syrup.
    Did you try or anyone else during your R&D putting the sprayers closer together (just about a frame width) and submerged like a whirl pool bath? The jets should drive out the air and replace it with syrup without splashing more air back into the cells. This is just a hunch. I could be wrong.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  16. #16
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    May 2009
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    Flora,IL
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    2,674

    Default Re: Frame filling "machine" update

    Sweet! I was just at Rons place this weekend and looked at his system, and was figuring out how to make one of my own. I was going to use vacuum, but this thing makes it look so sweet!. How are you heating the syrup???

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
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    Fairfield County, Connecticut, USA
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    3,592

    Default Re: Frame filling "machine" update

    BeeCurious
    Trying to think inside the box...

  18. #18
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    Jun 2010
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    Kingsport, Sullivan, Tennessee
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    Default Re: Frame filling "machine" update

    Just wondering...How do you keep from making a big mess with syrup dripping everywhere? -js

  19. #19
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    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Frame filling "machine" update

    ideally, I would envision bigger sink so u could hang the frames for a few minutes to drip dry.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Frame filling "machine" update

    Quote Originally Posted by gmcharlie View Post
    Sweet! I was just at Rons place this weekend and looked at his system, and was figuring out how to make one of my own. I was going to use vacuum, but this thing makes it look so sweet!. How are you heating the syrup???
    My experience with vacuum and fluids is you get foam. Think about how pressure is keeping a bubble a bubble. I have also seen that pressure is a better way to reduce air or bubbles in fluid. Some say it is only squeezing the bubbles so small you no longer see them. I am not so sure. But if so it would not work so well for getting bubbles out of cells.

    Nice job on the design by the way. looks like it was a lot of work. I am impressed by the perseverance alone.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

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