The shoes are half the weight of traditional aluminium horse shoes and give a huge speed advantage as aluminium shoes can weigh up to one kilogram and slow a horse down. The new titanium shoes could reduce the weight by half, meaning that a horse could travel faster at new speeds. Researchers from CSIRO, Australia's National Science Agency have tested the horse footwear on a horse named 'Titanium Prints', who had his hooves analysed with a 3D scanner.
The scan was then used to create the perfect lightweight racing shoe, using expert 3D modeling software. This software means that any horse can have a shoe made to perfect scientific measure, which instantly gives a benefit. The process to create and design the new 3D printed horseshoes contains several steps and takes less than 24 hours to print four customized shoes.
The printing begins with the digital scan which takes only a few minutes. Containing enough fine detail to provide a perfect fit for each individual hoof, the data is then passed to a 3D modeling software which designs the horse shoe. The design is fed to an additive 3D printer, which spreads a fine layer of titanium powder that is fused by an electron beam into a cross section of the horseshoe in a continuous cycle until the horseshoe is complete and then polished. Titanium Prints’ trainer, John Moloney, said that the ultimate race shoe needs to weigh as little as possible and the technology behind the perfect fit of the shoes combined with the lightweight aluminium, could give horses a major advantage on the track.
Cost-wise, the shoes are six hundred dollars for the set which is a fair amount more than the usual aluminium pair, but according to researchers and those involved, “the weight reduction would be worth the added cost.” This innovative product is just the first in a range of useful applications that can be produced from 3D printing, and as a bi-product this idea has helped to increase the awareness and appreciation of the technology.
CSIRO titanium expert John Barnes has commended the way the research has shown the astounding range of uses for 3D printing: “We wanted to highlight an area of 3D printing that we feel isn't getting enough attention”. 3D printed horseshoes haven’t only been used for racehorses but also to help rehabilitate horses. Holly is the first horse to receive 3D printed horseshoes after suffering for three years from the debilitating disease Laminitis and has been able to make a successful recovery.
The 3D printed shoes helped redistribute the weight away from the painful areas of the laminitic foot, enabling Holly to walk without pain in just a few weeks after being fitted with the new shoes. John Barnes, said that “Holly’s new shoes demonstrate the range of applications the 3D printing technology can be used for” and that "many attempts have been made in the past to cure laminitis but it’s the 3D scanning and design part of this process that is so exciting.”