LifeTrac, our open source tractor, features extreme flexibility by design. We just used LifeTrac as a honey extractor. We mounted our universal rotor on the front-end loader, and used it to extract honey from comb. The process starts with a hot knife to open up the comb. We made the hot knife from a heat shrink heat gun coupled to a tube with a sharpened blade of 1/8″ steel welded to the tube, and the hole of the tube was reduced by welding on a bolt washer. The blade gets hot and cuts the comb relatively well, though this is not as user-friendly as a standard electric knife because your hands get too messy with honey all over, so the heat gun risks getting flooded with honey. We request help with the open-sourcing of a hot knife if anyone has explicit ideas on how to make one. While a fed dollars in parts, hot knives run for $90 at the store.
The honey extraction process involves centrifuging combs of honey, which are opened with a hot knife as above. See our operation in action:
Here’s an operational performance review.
We built this first honey extractor prototype to handle 2 frames at one time. This sounds like inefficiency, but in practice, it works as well as an extractor of, say, 12 or more frame capacity. Why? Because we can start and stop the extractor literally immediately – as the 20 horsepower motor has no problem spinning up and slowing down with a small load – almost instantly. This means that each set of 2 combs takes a total of about 20-30 seconds of extraction time. We could have built a 4 frame extractor, or more, but the 2-frame is faster in extracting than a single person can feed the extractor with uncapped comb.
We produced about 8-9 gallons of honey in a 2 hour run, with 2 people. We extracted directly into a 55 gallon storage drum.
Thus, the 2-frame version suffices, and it would probably suffice to extract honey as fast as 2 people with hot knives can uncap the comb. Thus, we are confident that the caliber of our $25 extractor setup rivals the capacity of honey extractors in the $1000 range. This is another major score for cost reduction via integrated, open source design.
Our design for the extractor rotor assembly involves a 1/4″ wall, 2″ tube with metal grate welded to it, plus sides and bottom made of 1/4″x2″ steel. The rotor is connected to our Universal Rotor with a coupler. Both of these are already part of our LifeTrac infrastructure, and we just demonstrated the heavy duty drill press powered with the same interchangeable rotor.