A racehorse has been fitted with 3D-printed titanium horseshoes to demonstrate the possibilities of additive manufacturing.
Scientists at research organisation CSIRO produced the custom-made shoes for the horse from the Moloney Racing stables in Melbourne, Australia, in a first for the sport.
They began by scanning the animal’s hooves with a handheld 3D scanner. Using 3D modelling software, the scan was used to design the perfect fitting, lightweight racing shoe and four customised shoes were printed, layer by layer, within a matter of hours.
Commonly made from aluminium, a horseshoe can weigh up to a kilogram but the horse’s trainer, John Moloney, says that the ultimate race shoe should be as lightweight as possible.
“Any extra weight will slow the horse down. These titanium shoes could take up to half of the weight off a traditional aluminium shoe, which means a horse could travel at new speeds,” Moloney explained. “Naturally, we’re very excited at the prospect of improved performance from these shoes.”
CSIRO’s titanium technologies theme leader, John Barnes, said that 3D-printing a race horseshoe from titanium is a first for scientists and demonstrates the range of applications the technology can be used for.
“There are so many ways we can use 3D titanium printing. At CSIRO we are helping companies create new applications such as biomedical implants and even things like automotive and aerospace parts. The possibilities really are endless.”
The precision scanning process takes just a few minutes and for a horse, shoes can be made to measure for each hoof and printed the same day at a cost of around A$600 (£350).