Australian Researchers Create Custom Titanium Horseshoes

Australian Researchers Create Custom Titanium Horseshoes

Scanned and modeled on the racehorse's hooves, these new shoes are a first for 3-D titanium printing.

Photo: Courtesy CSIRO

Scientists at CSIRO (the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization—Australia's largest scientific research organization) have custom-made a set of titanium shoes for one Melbourne, Australia, racehorse, using a novel method for the first time.

The horse, dubbed "Titanium Prints" by researchers, had its hooves scanned with a handheld 3-D scanner this week. Then, using 3-D modeling software, the scientists used the scan to design a "perfect-fitting," lightweight racing shoe. Four custom shoes were printed within only a few hours, they said.

Traditionally made from aluminum, each racing shoe can weigh up to a kilogram (about 2.2 pounds). But the horse's trainer, John Moloney, says that the ultimate race shoe should be as light weight as possible.

"Any extra weight in the horseshoe will slow the horse down," he explained. "These titanium shoes could take up to half of the weight off a traditional aluminum shoe."

CSIRO's titanium expert John Barnes, PhD, said that 3-D printing horseshoes for racehorses 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 3-D titanium printing," he said. "At CSIRO we are helping companies create new applications like biomedical implants and even things like automotive and aerospace parts. The possibilities really are endless with this technology."

The precision scanning process takes just a few minutes and for a horse, shoes can be made to measure each hoof and printed the same day, scientists say.

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