BeeHero 3D printed monitoring system for bee hives

While bees are integral to the survival of the human race, we are sadly and ironically responsible for killing them off by the millions. And although their plight is well-publicized today, all the headlines in the world mean nothing without real answers for protecting bee habitats, such as warding off the use of dangerous pesticides, and streamlining methods for promoting better pollination.    

Bees are responsible for pollinating most of our fruits and vegetables—meaning if they die out, we do too. The team at BeeHero understands there is no time to waste in finding better ways to nurture bees for the survival of our planet, but they have had to work from the ground up to find a better way for everyone involved. For co-founder and Chief Operations Officer Itai Kanot, this meant streamlining technological solutions for monitoring bees—even if in the beginning he was building the hives from spare wood and experimenting with first-generation 3D printed hardware taped together during the prototyping process. Fast forward to today, and BeeHero is offering a streamlined monitoring system to beekeepers and farmers, complete with sensors encased in high-quality 3D printed hardware by Shapeways.

BeeHero 3D printed monitoring system for beehives
BeeHero’s 3D printed sensor case placed inside a beehive. Photo credit: BeeHero

As the son of one of the largest beekeepers in Israel, Itai has been around bees—and the pollination industry—his whole life. Much to his concern, however, he realized that as other farming processes were benefiting from automation, beekeepers were being left behind, forgotten. They also continued to face challenges due to blights such as colony collapse disorder (with bees abandoning hives and their queens), and a variety of other unfortunate stressors afflicting the bee population.

Shapeways has had the privilege to partner with BeeHero in their journey to save bees, entering the picture as BeeHero began 3D printing their third-generation sensor encased in hardware and placed within the hive. Although their main headquarters and research and design efforts still take place in Israel, BeeHero has opened an office in California to focus on helping almond farmers.

California growers are responsible for 80 percent of the almonds produced for the world, and they require enormous amounts of bees for success (the general rule is two hives per almond acre). The point is very simple: no bees? No almonds. Still, as Itai pointed out in a recent interview with our team, there has been “nothing for this industry” in terms of improving pollination.

BeeHero 3D printed monitoring system for bee hives
Installation for BeeHero’s 3D printed monitoring sensor. Photo credit: BeeHero

“Beekeeping has become an area where you work a lot harder for a lot less,” said Itai.

The BeeHero team realized the need for efficiency and technology in the hives, motivating their journey to create a smart hive that allows farmers to collect data—measuring sound, weight, and temperature. This allows them to predict, prevent, and treat potential problems that could be devastating to a hive (and consequently, crops). The technology centers around a dashboard offering real-time access to bee activity and the pollination process.

Because almond growers may spend up to a third of their bottom line on pollination efforts, BeeHero realizes that any new technology they invest in must be extremely effective.

“It’s a major expense,” said Itai. “They need to know they are getting what they are paying for.”

In turning to Shapeways for help in 3D printing functional parts for the smart hive, the BeeHero team decided to use Nylon 12 and SLS technology. BeeHero was very happy with the parts from Shapeways, and especially in comparison with other parts they experimented with that came across as milky and transparent. Itai and his team chose SLS technology due to their need for flexibility in assembling the hardware—and noted that they also ended up greatly appreciating the look and feel of the sugarcube texture.

Overall, the smart hives have allowed BeeHero to simplify the beekeeping and pollination process. Bees are surviving and pollinating at higher rates, and related businesses are allowed to thrive too.

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