3D printing in food production

3D Printed Honeycombs Help Optimize Honey Production

3D printed honeycombs

A team of scientists from the Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand, has come up with a great way to help bees and optimize honey production: 3D printed honeycombs!

The aim of these 3D printed honeycombs is to make honey production much faster and to reduce strain on bees, too. Why’s that? As beekeeping expert Richard Evatt told New Zealand reporters, to produce honeycombs bees consume much more honey than we use for our tea and toast! He said: “It takes a lot of energy for bees to make comb. They have to consume a lot of honey. It’s six to eight times the honey to one times the wax.”

How can 3D printed honeycombs help?

By using 3D printed honeycombs, the process for bees becomes a lot quicker. Evatt explains: “They would just have to come along, put nectar in it, fan off the moisture and then, bang, you’ve got honey.”

3D printed replica honeycombs would allow more honey to be created for beekeepers to harvest and would give bees more time and energy to produce delicious honey.

However, research teams have a challenge as getting the replicas right can be difficult – bees are very particular when it comes to having a homely, comfortable honeycomb.

Professor Peter Dearden said: “One of the key things about bees is that they have a thing called ‘bee space’. They like spaces of particular sizes. It has to be very precise and accurate, so 3D printing seems like a great way to build up those things, if you want to put in devices to cause bees to act in a particular way.”

In order to make sure these honeycombs are perfect, researchers have had to extensively analyze existing combs. Designer Gerbrand van Melle said: “We make software that analyses sound, the sound of the interior of a beehive and the software not only analyses the sound but it also creates 3D objects at the same time.”

The major benefit of this software is that it could take a colony of 60,000 bees up to a week to build a comb the same size as one which could be 3D printed in a single day! The the next step is to 3D print these combs in actual beeswax in order to really test out these benefits.

Image source: Pixabay