3-D Printer?
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  1. #1
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    Default 3-D Printer?

    Has anybody made up a 3-D printer for making honeycomb yet? I'd like to get plans and programs. It is likely a lot cheaper than a small-cell foundation mill setup, and it prints fully drawn comb that bees readily accept.
    Last edited by kilocharlie; 07-09-2015 at 03:28 PM.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: 3-D Printer?

    I've found that honey bees are pretty good "3D Printers" for honeycomb =P.

    Were you thinking about printing completely in plastic and then dipping a full sheet of comb in beeswax or having a beeswax printer?

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    Default Re: 3-D Printer?

    What about Permacomb? That's fully drawn comb.
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    Default Re: 3-D Printer?

    No, I hear guys are printing fully-drawn comb from beeswax, not plastic. The bees are accepting it readily. This can really get over-wintered nuc's going fast, and in time to take advantage of the main nectar flow in the Spring time. Most honey will be stored, not eaten to build wax, so your yields are very high the first year. The bees can increase faster than the mites can keep up.

    I don't need wisecracks, just plans and a viable program for the hexagons, I hear that 2-D CAD systems work if you repeat them. I will likely use Lauri Miller's idea of small cells in the middle, let the bees draw out large (drone / honey storage) cells on the sides so that mite control is as simple as cutting it out with a knife, unless I can program both sizes and the transition cells on the same frame.

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    Default Re: 3-D Printer?

    Quote Originally Posted by kilocharlie View Post
    No, I hear guys are printing fully-drawn comb from beeswax, not plastic.
    Now, that's a new one on me.......... I'd like to see that in action.........
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    Default Re: 3-D Printer?

    Some kids in Santa Barbara were demonstrating some home-made 3-Dprinters last month. Wooden parts with servos and metal rods, bits and pieces from hardware stores all flying in formation making plastic doo-dads.

    Then, a few weeks later, I heard about beekeepers making drawn comb with them. I've got to try it. I used to work with CNC mills and lathes, and I can't believe I did not think of this first...OK, so just get me started.

    A thick rib in the middle should be able to print tight over wires for durability while extracting honey, just don't wire the outsides where you want to cut out the drone combs.

    Freshly-drawn worker cell combs printed over black plastic foundation just in time to isolate breeder queens for grafting.. I see lots of good coming from this.

    Unfortunately, I'm very busy to be starting a thread right now, and a long ways from an internet connection. I'll check back in with you in a day or two, but please keep the comments coming if you've heard anything or find a good link. Thank you!
    Last edited by kilocharlie; 07-09-2015 at 04:32 PM.

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    Default Re: 3-D Printer?

    That's gonna be cool when it becomes main stream.
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    Default Re: 3-D Printer?

    I have had several 3d printers, currently own a mendelmax 2. I also have a CNC milling machine for comparison.

    Some issues:
    -3d printing is very slow, think along the lines of 1 hour per sheet of foundation
    -3d printers are not big enough to print a whole sheet of foundation
    -3d printers have all sorts of constant issues such as material not sticking to the workbed, overheating, underheating, delamination, missed steps, etc. You cannot simply push a button and print
    -3d printing tolerances are absurd at best. Not anywhere near accurate enough to replicate foundation. Not even in the same ballpark as a mill. The material which gets layed down is round, will not make a straight wall.
    -3d printers are designed around the material being delivered as a continuous filament. You would need a heated hopper for beeswax, which is not a trivial issue, because the hopper has to be isolated from the carriage, and deliver melted wax through a flexible straw at a precise rate and temperature. Some people print with chocolate and that is likely the most similar material to beeswax if you decide to do this

    It's fun technology for artsy one off things but printing anything dimensionally accurate is very frustrating. Very popular with "makers", which by my definition are "people who don't know how to make things".

    It would be a lot easier to mill a mold on a cnc and simply pour hot beeswax into it, or cast a mold from some small cell plastic foundation.

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    Default Re: 3-D Printer?

    Just imagine a 10-frame 3-D comb printer cracking out a box every 30 minutes...

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    Default Re: 3-D Printer?

    Agree!
    Even if all technical issues are solved, it is still slow process. It's used for "prototyping" - to make one piece and thereafter use more traditional technology to multiply it. I know that some sort of "wax" is used in 3D printers in jewelry making (lost-wax).
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    Default Re: 3-D Printer?

    Hmmm. Sounds really interesting.

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    Default Re: 3-D Printer?

    I'll go see if Gene Haas will talk to me about it. His company makes some awesome CNC's, 4th & 5th axis devices, and the most human-friendly controller / interface in the business.

    He'll probably suggest some kind of add-on to a toolroom CNC.

    Tank - Thank you for the tips. I doubt many 3-D printers have high-speed features like read-ahead, <6 nanosecond memory bank for a virtual drive, etc. I'll build one that has extra room for hopping up. Did you ever think of having 3 printer heads, one mounted 0-90, the other 2 mounted on +/-60 degree bars? That could make up for a lot of accuracy if actual distance along the rod has closed-loop actuation control.

    Computer plotters are a different story - some hold .015" except the ink doesn't hold that much accuracy when it bonds to the paper. Building a dedicated honeycomb making machine will be a bit different - accuracy must be buildt in during the design phase. Reliability of a newish system usually occurs after some refinement.

    I reckon that the foundation will be installed on a base fixture or mold, and the honeycomb walls will be buildt upon the foundation, though the entire comb is also possible. Even if slow, I bet it can be done faster than a swarm box full of bees, and off-season, too.

    The same technology that was suggested in the sticky about incubators might apply to the heated hopper / hot runner delivery system. That should keep the wax temperature pretty steady. It's the heated, flexible hoses that I wonder about...

    If this works, I'll probably stop using the black beeswax leftovers from the solar wax melter for smoker fuel additive. I'm putting a Fresnel lens over my new wax melter and running the black stuff through again to get more wax yield.

    One thing you could try with yours is to design your own branding iron design for your hives, then make a plaster mold and have a foundry company or the local community college pour the bronze. Get that working, and the beeks will beat a path to your doorstep.
    Last edited by kilocharlie; 07-11-2015 at 12:44 AM.

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    Default Re: 3-D Printer?

    The 3d printers are actually extremely fast, my mendelmax will hit 200 mm/sec.

    You can't print at that speed though. Only used for rapids. You need time for the plastic to bond to the previous layer and cool. For high resolution you need a tiny nozzle and that means many, many, many passes.

    Now, here's a thought - maybe high resolution and precise shape isn't needed. If you goop the wax on in roughly a honeycomb patter, the bees might simply rework it.

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    Default Re: 3-D Printer?

    Funny you should mention that...

    I put my calipers on the honeycomb and took a bunch of measurements like cell size across the parallel walls in the brood chamber and in the honey cells , point-to-point in the brood chamber and in the honey cells, wall thickness, capping thicknesses, new comb vs. old combs. The bees are not that precise, and with all the various 3-D printing (a.k.a. "additive manufacturing") methods, I feel pretty sure that something existing will produce the required precision with bees wax. The questions are, "At what price range?", "With what modifications for wax use?", and "Can it be modified or scaled up for production?"

    I'm pretty sure that I'll be building something myself, unless one of the really cheap units happens to work well, and one just buys several of them to expand production.

    Glad to hear that your unit has rapid traverse. That would certainly help, although with good programming, it should not help intense, repetitive things like honeycomb so much. Haas Automation has controlled acceleration up to very high rapid traverse, then controlled decelleration to target, which does require read-ahead for the distance and interpretation of acceleration distances and rates. The farther you are traversing, the faster it can go, but faster requires more acceleration / decelleration. The time savings really shows up on multiple setups on a large milll with lots of tool changes - that's a lot of long rapid traversing - and quite possibly a valid application for production in this application if an add-on device for printing with beeswax is made for a mill. A large mill with a pallet changer keeps cycle times long enough that a CNC can run almost continuously. I've even seen setups that were best run with 2 machinists loading one machine. The machine only ever stopped cutting except during lunch break, shift break, and routine maintenance.
    Last edited by kilocharlie; 07-12-2015 at 10:23 AM.

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    Default Re: 3-D Printer?

    I don't want to knock HAAS, but modern CNCs are PC driven, and from a software standpoint are leaps and bounds above even the highest end dedicated controllers from 15 years ago, and probably comparable to what is being delivered today in some of the high end machines, and often much more intuitive to use.

    The feature you mentioned is pretty much industry standard at this point.
    LinuxCNC is what I use on my CNC mill, it allows me to have an extremely custom workflow. Mach 3 is an inexpensive commercial product which is even more feature filled. The features that these programs have would amaze you.

    All the reprap type printers are using open source software, running on Atmel hardware, this software has progressed to the point that it blows away most commercial offerings within that niche.

    Software is not the weak point with any of these machines.

    If you want to 3d print honeycomb at a fast rate, mount up 100 printheads and print in parallel, since the pattern is repeating. The issue is that plastic has a particular speed it needs to be deposited at. You cannot just extrude it at any speed you want. You can't just spin the tool faster, cut faster, and pour coolant to keep things cool like you can do with subtractive processes. You can't even remove the part right away when it is finished, it takes quite a while to cool, even with a fan.

    You will quickly find all this out when you buy a 3d printer.

    I would highly recommend a 3d printer with "real" linear rails at a minimum, and not the wonky 3d printed kind.

    If I were to design another machine, it would use linear rail, ballscrews, and the head would move in X and Y and the table in Z. At higher speeds the weight of the table (it is usually glass) creates hellish vibrations and the part turns into wobbly Jello.

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    Default Re: 3-D Printer?

    Thank you, Tank!

    It turns out there is a 3-D printer and a maker lab at one of the local libraries nearby. I'll go get so time in before I talk to Mr. Haas.

    I may find viable comb can be made out of a bed of wax beads and a laser moving more quickly over it, fusing them together. That is similar to the technology that caused the big scare with the downloadable handgun that anyone could "print" at home, only it fused powdered metal into a hard, strong receiver and frame. Wikipedia mentioned over 20 different technologies in 3-D printing. We'll see.

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    Default Re: 3-D Printer?

    Quote Originally Posted by kilocharlie View Post
    and it prints fully drawn comb that bees readily accept.
    I would validate that assumption before spending a lot of time / effort / money to make the stuff. The first part, it prints fully drawn comb is true, but the second half, bees readily accept, may well surprise you.

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    Default Re: 3-D Printer?

    Grozzie - excellent advise, thank you. I will first try to get some current software programmed for making up 4.9 or 5.0 size small cell, 5.4 "standard" sized cell in plastic or whatever is working well, then try to work out problems with printing in beeswax. I'll isolate a breeder queen on a printed, wax comb and see if she lays in it, and if queens can be successfully raised from them, and watch how pollen and honey are stored in them. If it works, I'll start building a production machine.

    Tank - Big thank you for all the tips on software and hardware - I've been out of CNC since back when SurfCAM, MasterCAM, GibbsCAM, and ProE were the happening things. I have several buddies who still work at Haas, and a few who may still work for Fadal, any of whom can probably supply me with public domain software and some home-cooked features, but I'll definitely look into LinuxCNC, Mach3, and any other goodies suggested. Again, Thanks!

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    Default Re: 3-D Printer?

    Having built/rebuilt 5 CNC machines, the thought of printing foundation intrigues me. BTW, I use Mach 3 (soon to be 4) software to run all my CNC machines. Even at 1 per hour, you could print a lot of foundation over the winter.

    Vince

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    Default Re: 3-D Printer?

    I just got my Lulzbot mini 3D printer (plastic filament) and spend 24 hrs to play with it. First impression is that it is really cool toy for adults especially for those who love challenges Printing of simple shapes is really easy and straightforward. The limitation is that the part can not have substantial overhung. Essentially, the base should be the same or bigger than top. This can be mitigated using additional support, but it makes project challenging and result is less predictable. My daughter submitted the ring (jewelry) with honeycomb design to print - it fails pathetically: too fine details, soft plastic collapsed. Also, preciseness in Z is great, but X-Y is not (6% error in my case). Interestingly, exactly the same object printed in different color (same type of plastic) has a different size in X-Y. As far as I do understand, plastic-extrusion 3D printing is all about uniformity of filament, speed and temperature - too warm, plastic collapsed, too cold - next layer did not stick ... Software, which controls my printer (Cura) has simple-mode and expert. In simple mode you may need to control may be 10 parameters (default is good starting point), but in expert mode - hundreds parameters related to each other = thousand combinations! Once you change something, you need to print to see what happened - addictive, time, money. Plastic is relatively inexpensive, $20/kg.
    I saw discussion on Inet regarding printing honeycomb pattern by plastic-extrusion 3D printer - developer of Cura (software to control printer) said that hexagonal pattern is not "printer-friendly." Printer do better job drawing lines. Connections between lines in honeycomb pattern apparently are weak because of the nature of the printing process.
    Good luck with your project!
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    Last edited by cerezha; 07-17-2015 at 06:27 PM.
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