Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization offered a tantalizing glimpse into the future of 3D printing technology by making titanium horseshoes for a racehorse in 2013.
The level of detail in the “horse-thotic” was extraordinary. The printer enabled the shoe to be designed in such a way that it offered a perfect fit for any horse’s foot.
There were drawbacks, though. Although the machines were touted for their speed, 2 to 4 hours was time consuming. The materials were lightweight metals, but plastics were far too brittle to withstand the abuse that a 1,200-pound horse would inflict. In addition, the machines were costly. In short, 3D-printed shoes weren’t practical for special footcare cases.
Three years later, the technology continues to evolve enough that Williams, Ore., farrier Jeremy VanSchoonhoven is not only applying 3D-printed horseshoes, he’s printing them at home.
Early in his shoeing career, VanSchoonhoven, a former professional bike rider who was a finalist on the TV show “America’s Got Talent,” wanted an edge when helping horses with poor feet.
“In my experience as a professional bike rider, I learned that every little detail matters,” he explains. “I used that focus in my shoeing. I started going to clinics and doing research about all of the new materials and treatments of different hoof and limb issues.”
Printing machines allow the operator to control a number of features in a 3D horseshoe including perfect fit, nail holes, frog plates, direction of traction, support, flexibility and concussion.