Holly, a ten year-old horse with a debilitating foot disease called Laminitis, will walk again this Christmas thanks to a 3D-printed titanium horseshoe. Laminitis is inflammation of the soft tissue of the foot which causes extreme pain and leads to instability in the coffin bone in the hoof. This makes walking incredibly painful for Holly.
Experts from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest research agencies in the world, created a custom-fit, 3D printed titanium “horse-thotic”, a horseshoe custom-fit for Holly to increase healing while allowing her to walk comfortably.
Horse vet and farrier, Dr. Luke Wells-Smith from the Equine Podiatry and Lameness Center said 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," Wells-Smith 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."
John Barnes, CSIRO's 3D printing expert, 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. 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."
CSIRO scientists scanned Holly’s foot to create the custom-fit titanium shoe. The agency had previous experience creating horseshoes when they had created 3D printed titanium horseshoes for racehorses. The 3D printed shoes were said to weigh 50 percent less than traditionally-made horseshoes. 3D printing has a promising future for helping animals and people and further advances are yet to come.
To see Holly’s journey, watch the video below.