Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Real Deal: Laminitic Pony in Australia First Horse in History to Wear 3D Printed Titanium Horseshoes

A pony with chronic laminitis in Australia is wearing the world's first horseshoes that are "printed", not forged or cast or turned. The shoes are made of titanium and were created in a laboratory setting by the government agency CSIRO.
The Hoof Blog promised a follow-up on that viral story back in October about 3D printing of titanium horseshoes in Australia. We promised that when we could show you a horse wearing them, we'd be impressed.

And today's the day we are officially impressed. Our friends at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), which is Australia's national science agency and similar to our National Science Foundation, joined forces with our friends at the Equine Podiatry and Lameness Centre in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales to help a needy pony named Holly overcome her struggle with chronic laminitis.

Holly the Pony became queen for a day. While there were probably plenty of shoes or boots on hand at the clinic that veterinarian Luke Wells-Smith could have used to make the mare more comfortable, she had drawn the lucky number to be shod with experimental titanium shoes created by the 3D printing process.

CSIRO tells us that Holly has had problems with laminitis for three years. Wells-Smith, who was in the USA last month to attend the International Laminitis Conference in Florida, said that his team saw the 3D printed shoe CSIRO built for a race horse earlier this year and started to think about using 3D printing to rehabilitate lame horses.

"The new shoes will work to redistribute weight away from the painful areas of the laminitic foot and give Holly, and horses like her, the chance to recover," he said in a CSIRO press release.

"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 to us. Christmas is looking a lot merrier for Holly this year. She should be walking normally and without pain in just a few weeks," said Luke.

Here's the shoe: notice that even though the foot was scanned for a perfect fit, vet/farrier Luke Wells-Smith still set the broad-toe, straight-branched, "rail"-type shoe back, and avoided a full fit at the toe in order to facilitate breakover.

CSIRO's 3D printing expert, John Barnes, said scanning the hoof would allow them to manufacture a shoe that is the ‘perfect fit’ for these complicated foot diseases, giving the horse the best possible chance for rehabilitation," he said.

"We know that 3D printing has the potential to create so many advanced biomedical products, but rehabilitation of horses has been a completely new area of work for CSIRO.

Wells-Smith designed a wedge-heeled broad-webbed shoe for the pony to help with chronic laminitis pain. 

"We’re glad that this technology is opening so many doors and is now helping to aid the rehab process for these animals and get them walking comfortably again," he said.

Holly's unique new shoes demonstrate the range of applications open to 3D printing technology. "At CSIRO we are helping companies use this game-changing technology to create new applications like biomedical implants and even automotive and aerospace parts," the agency said in a press statement.

To learn more:

3-D Printing in the Forge and Clinic: Hoof Anatomy Models, Veterinary Applications, and Horseshoes

3-D Update: The Horse Speaks: No Purple Titanium Horseshoes on Hooves (Yet)

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