HIIVE on helping bees through 3D printing

3D printing makes it possible to realize ambitious design projects in a cost-effective and sustainable way. For architects and industrial designers in particular, this technology offers unimaginable possibilities, with virtually no limits to creativity. And it doesn’t stop at fashion or architecture: 3D technologies are everywhere around us, even in nature, as can be seen with 3D printing startup HIIVE. This German company uses the power of 3D printing to provide a better habitat for bees, while respecting the environment and their needs. This is particularly important considering the prevalence of colony collapse syndrome, which has led to a global decline in bee populations. Given the importance of bees to our own ecosystems, it’s perhaps unsurprising that start-ups like HIIVE are dedicated to creating better hives that are more bee-friendly. We spoke to Philip Potthast, one of the co-founders of HIIVE, about the mission and ambitions of this young company and learned more about these 3D printed hives.

3DN: Could you briefly introduce yourself and your relationship with 3D printing?

My name is Philip Potthast, I am the co-founder of HIIVE. I have a background in industrial design. In my work, I focus on using sustainable materials and recycled raw materials. 3D printing is a love-hate relationship for me as an industrial designer: on the one hand, 3D printing opens up an incredible amount of possibilities in product development and helps to develop products iteratively. On the other hand, it can be time-consuming and nerve-wracking if you don’t pay attention to all the details from the start.

Left: Philip Potthast (photo credits: HIIVE)

3DN: What about HIIVE, what is it and how was it born?

HIIVE provides a better home for honey bees. HIIVE allows beekeepers to keep their bees in a more natural way by supporting the natural behavior of Apis Mellifera. Our bee house is made exclusively from recycled and natural materials. Throughout development, the focus has been on human- and animal-centered design. The result is an interplay between the demands that bees place on their habitat and usability and ergonomics for beekeepers. Our mission is to create a natural and species-appropriate habitat for honey bees.

3DN: Can you tell us a bit more about the 3D technology(ies) you use?

When it comes to 3D printing, we cooperate with the filament manufacturer 3dk.berlin. Currently, we use multiple FDM printers to create our components, which serve as the basic framework for our HIIVES. We use 3dk’s engineered PLA because it’s dimensionally stable up to 130 degrees. Normal PLA would not withstand the extreme weather conditions our product is exposed to.

3DN: What inspired the design of HIIVE hives? What is the advantage of using 3D printing in their production?

Bees originally live in the cavities of trees. They are the natural habitat of Apis mellifera (western honey bee). Unfortunately, for various reasons, there are hardly any colonies of wild bees left in our forests. Tree cavities have a special microclimate that is not only good for bees, but also for the beneficial symbionts that coexist with bees in tree cavities. HIIVE is the first industrially manufacturable tree cavity that replicates the conditions of a tree cavity. With the help of 3D printing, it was possible for us to develop the optimal structure iteratively in many trials in the first place.

Photo credits: HIVE

3DN: How do you see the future evolution of this project? What are the next steps ?

We are currently developing a sensor kit and companion app that can eventually be used as an extension of HIIVE. This opens up completely new possibilities. With our low-power sensor, important parameters can be tracked without disturbing the bees. We are also working on a swarm alarm that will notify HIIVE owners when to expect a swarm. Our next big step for 2022 is to move HIIVE into mass production.

3DN: Do you have a final word for our readers?

At the end of February, we will launch our crowdfunding campaign to mass-produce HIIVE. Anyone who wants to give bees a natural home or is interested in keeping bees can support us in this. More information about this and about HIIVE itself can be found HERE.

(Photo: HIVE)

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*Cover photo credits: HIIVE

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