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CNC Printable hives from ply... Messing around with Autodesk Inventor

 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Turns out that the school I work in has a really well equipped engineering department. I kind of knew this but never put two and two together.

A while back there were some posts made to Opne Source Bee Hives who are making both Warre and Topbar hives using CNC routers and plywood. I didn't think much of the designs - to my mind the top bar hive looked too wide and not long enough. But, they did have some neat features which I did like (and stole unashamedly!), such as their locking assembly method. What they were lacking was the range of different bodies that would make their designs viable on a larger scale.

Personally I'm after a range of compatible hives that can be assembled quickly. I need -

  • swarm traps
  • nuc boxes
  • full size top bar hives
  • boxes for doing Hogan Style trapouts.


  • All bar the full sized hives need to be portable so the bar need to stay put while in transport.

    I spent today learning how to use Autodesk Inventor and I have ( I think!) a working plan for 10 bar nuc box/swarm trap. It assembles with no glue, locked tight with pegs tapped into precut mortice and tenons. It has a lockable lid to hold bars securely while in transport, which also acts as a handle of sorts to lift it. It should be assembled in 5 minutes or less from flat.

    The floor is a hybrid mesh/solid floor. One of the drawbacks of open mesh floor designs seems to be that the mesh can sag, leaving bees access beneath the follower boards. In this design a fixed floor has tabs cut out of it. Mesh is stapled/tacked over the floor. Approximately 50% of the floor area is mesh.

    The beauty of using a borrowed CNC machine is that I can get insane accuracy on the cuts (supposedly accurate to 0.1mm) - far beyond what I can do at home - and can use far fancier shapes, like the locking tabs, which would be simply impossible to do at home.

    I'm not sure if the guys in the workshop will charge me for the machine time, but the materials come in at around £30 all up for a hive body and top bars of which ever style. Also, now I know what I'm doing I can knock up alterations to designs in a few hours.

    Quite fun - I'll update this as and when I make some progress. Given that I need to setup a trapout this week I'll be keen to get it done.
     
    Luke Whiteside
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    Not sure you really want any sort of response to this other than FREAKING COOL!!! Can't wait to see your work.
     
    Michael Cox
    Posts: 1570
    Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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    Spoke to the guys at school today - they are keen to help but their machine is a bit smaller than I need (can't handle really big sheets). They want to help me laser cut a smaller scale prototype and have suggested a local company that does larger scale work that love to add new products to their line.
     
    Cj Sloane
    pollinator
    Posts: 3646
    Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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    Based on the box my NUC came in, you could slap one together pretty darn quickly, no hi-tech equipment required.
     
    Michael Cox
    Posts: 1570
    Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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    I know - slapping something together isn't a problem. But to do any kind of project where we are is a PITA - we don't have any kind of dedicated workshop area and have to haul everything out of storage to get setup. Once I've got tools together and the materials I need I can knock together a mediocre construction fairly quickly.

    But if I'm going to all the trouble of getting tools out I don't really want to knock something mediocre up. Design work I can do in odd bits of time at my desk and - with a CNC machine - I don't just have to duplicate the work I can do with my basic tool set, I can build something much better for the same materials cost. Not just making the cuts and pieces more precisely, but also removing the need for glue and fixings and designing out some of the little niggles that annoy, like little cracks where free hand cuts are not quite straight, or difficulties getting sloping sides to align perfectly.

    When I'm done with the design and initial test I should just be able to call the guy round the corner and say "run me off 10 nuc boxes" - materials will come to about £10 each and they will be ready the next day.

    Where I am in my life at the moment I have more money than time so I'd rather spend money getting hive manufactured for me which frees up my time for family, gardening and actually working with bees. Paul talks about permaculture velocity - this is a similar idea for me personally, working on a project like this will speed up and streamline the velocity of my other projects.

    (edited - plus, this kind of design work is just plain fun)
     
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