It’s a sure bet: 3D printed titanium shoes for racehorses

titanium horseshoes

The unexpected applicability of 3D printing technology was proven once again with the creation of the first set of printed titanium horseshoes. The Australian based Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) used a 3D printer to print custom designed horseshoes in an effort to improve the racing performance of racehorses. There is interest in equipping racehorses with titanium shoes because the high yield strength of the more lightweight titanium provides better flexibility as compared to aluminum.

Titanium flexes ten times that of aluminum without spreading or collapsing. As such, titanium horseshoes are more elastic under stress and better able to retain their fit to a horse’s hoof. Existing titanium-fabricated horseshoes are advertised to provide both health and performance benefits for horses. Fabricated titanium shoes are advertised to improve the hoof wall strength of horses, to protect hooves, to dissipate shock and to offer superior durability with a lighter and stronger material. If these types of health and performance benefits are realized with titanium printed horseshoes, investors and owners stand to benefit from the technological developments in 3D printing as much as the horses.

The chosen racehorse, Titanium Prints, was used as a test case for the technological advancement. A handheld 3D scanner was used to capture digital representations of the horse’s hoofs, and the captured digital data was input to 3D modeling software. 3D modeling was used to manipulate the digital data and to create digital images that were sent to a 3D printer. The 3D printer then printed a perfect set of horseshoes, which were fitted onto the horse.

Precision scanning only took minutes to complete. In the course of a single day, four horseshoes were printed. The cost of 3D titanium shoes is about twice the cost of some aluminum shoes. While traditional aluminum horseshoes cost in the range of $100 to $300, the cost of printing 3D titanium horseshoes is about $600.

The payoff for the extra cost is with the enhanced performance provided by the lighter titanium shoe. A traditional aluminum horseshoe may weigh up to one kilogram while a 3D titanium-printed horseshoe weighs about half as much. The objective is to make a horseshoe as light as possible since the more lightweight the shoes, the faster a horse may run.

The application of 3D titanium printing for horseshoes is a breakthrough in technology that sets the path for more innovative applications. One of CSIRO’s experts in titanium indicates that CSIRO is working with other companies to develop new applications, such as with biomedical implants and spare parts for automobiles and aerospace.

Developing the printed horseshoes is just the first step in the process. It remains to be seen whether Titanium Prints will improve in performance and run faster as a result of wearing his new shoes. Other factors, such as the reliability and durability of the printed material, will need to be assessed.

h/t: Horse Talk