CSIRO, the “Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization” of Australia, announced recently that it has successfully 3D-printed the first pair of horse shoes. Using laboratory-grade 3D scanning and printing methods, scientists scanned each foot of the pilot horse and set-off to print a custom titanium shoe for each foot, which the team did in one day. After doing so, researchers affectionately nicknamed their experimental equine “Titanium Prints” and offered the world yet another biologically-sensible application for 3D printing technology.

On-Site Racehorse Shoe Printing?

As is the case for most athletic apparel, the ideal horseshoe should be as lightweight as possible, while maintaining maximum structural integrity and durability. A typical racehorse shoe is made from aluminum and can weigh up to one kilogram, or 2.2 lbs. In theory, a titanium horseshoe could weigh half that of its aluminum counterpart. Crafting a titanium shoe to replace an aluminum one certainly comes with an added price point, but for an anticipated thoroughbred, that added cost might not be of great concern to its backers, who are often willing to go to great lengths to swing the favor of their most valuable teammate. The additional speed that could potentially be gained from the weight deduction might make the added cost of titanium shoes a smart investment.

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It is no surprise that anatomy has become a major focus area for 3D printing applications in recent years. As the technology continues to evolve and become more accessible and affordable, it is making more sense than ever to take advantage of the customizability that 3D printing technologies offer. The irregularities in organic tissue, and the problems that arise from trying to adapt and repair the curves and imperfections in natural forms, offer a petri dish of opportunity for 3D printing ideas and solutions to incubate in. Until this point, however, almost all 3D-printed solutions for bodily-related dilemmas have been geared-toward helping humans. After all, the medical industry is generally a win-win for any pioneering technology in need of financial endorsement and research experimentation outlets. The adaptation of 3D printing to design solutions in animals, however, marks an important shift in the history and expansion of the technology, and it will be interesting to see if 3D-printed titanium horseshoes prove to be the vanguard move that paves the way for similar innovations intended for animals.

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Whether or not you are a proponent of the sport of horse racing, the concept of custom-manufacturing horseshoes via 3D printing is a pretty neat one, and it might someday prove to be an aid to horses and handlers of all types. Someday soon, the whole process will probably be done in the back of a truck.

(All images via Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Australia)

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