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,