In recent years additive manufacturing (AM) machines have been used to make a variety of unique bespoke applications – such as high-end taps/faucets, a sundial, and a replica Celtic figurine – but often the most complex parts engineers have been called upon to 3D print have been implants for a variety of injured animals from both sea and land. Although the applications are unusual they still require the same focus on design, detail and optimum material choice.

Perfect fit
In December 2013, there was news from Australia that a lame racehorse was benefitting from a set of 3D printed horseshoes, which had been especially designed for a lame foot.

Scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) 3D printed the bespoke set of titanium shoes for the racehorse in Melbourne.

This came on the back of news that the organization had printed a set of 3D printed horseshoes for a healthy racehorse in October of the same year. CSIRO’s titanium expert, John Barnes, said that 3D printing a race horseshoe from titanium was a first for scientists and demonstrated the range of applications for which the technology can be used.

‘There are so many ways we can use 3D titanium printing,’ Barnes said. ‘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 with this technology.’

Dr Luke Wells-Smith from the Equine Podiatry and Lameness Center, based in Muswellbrook, New South Wales, said that his team saw the 3D printed shoe CSIRO had made for the healthy racehorse and started to think about using 3D printing to rehabilitate lame horses.

The horseshoe was fitted to a horse suffering from laminitis, which affects the attachment between the hoof and bone, causing pain and inflammation.

‘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,’ said Dr Wells-Smith. ‘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.’

This article appeared in the July/Aug issue of Metal Powder Report.

Download now