A pony mare in Australia has become one of the first horses to be fitted with new custom designed 3D printed titanium shoes to help with laminitis.
A team of 3D printing experts from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) worked with horse podiatrists to scan Holly’s feet and design the ‘horse-thotic’, which aims to support the foot and encourage it to heal, whilst making the mare comfortable.
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.
Holly, a 10-year-old riding pony, has suffered for three year with laminitis, which affects the attachment between the hoof and bone, causing pain and inflammation. She took her first steps today in her new shoes.
Horse vet and farrier, Dr Luke Wells-Smith from the Equine Podiatry and Lameness Centre, said his team saw the 3D printed shoe CSIRO built for a racehorse 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.
“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,” Wells-Smith said.
CSIRO’s 3D printing expert, John Barnes, said scanning the hoof would allow them to manufacture a shoe that is the ‘perfect fit’ for complicated foot diseases, giving the horse the best possible chance for rehabilitation.
“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.
“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 new shoes demonstrate the range of applications the 3D printing technology can be used for. CSIRO is helping companies use the technology to create new applications such as biomedical implants and even automotive and aerospace parts.