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First Step In 3D-Printed Shoes

Published: January 6, 2014 3:21 pm ET

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A few weeks ago, equine veterinarians and CSIRO scientists gave a surprise Christmas gift to 10-year-old mare, Holly, who suffers from a chronic foot disease.

Holly’s Christmas wish came true, as she took her first step in 3D-printed ‘horse-thotics’ in mid-December. The shoes were custom designed to fit her foot.

The team of 3D printing experts from 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 Holly comfortable.

Holly has spent three years suffering from laminitis. The horse's foot is similar to our finger. The hoof wall is like our fingernail and is attached to the bone underneath. Laminitis affects the attachment between the hoof and bone, causing pain and inflammation.

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 in 2013 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.”

Dr. Wells-Smith also said, "Christmas is looking a lot merrier for Holly this year. She should be walking normally and without pain in just a few weeks.”

CSIRO's 3D printing expert, John Barnes, said scanning the hoof would allow them to manufacture a shoe that is the ‘perfect fit’ for these complicated foot diseases, giving the horse the best possible chance for rehabilitation," he 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," he said.

Holly's new shoes demonstrate the range of applications the 3D printing technology can be used for. CSIRO is also helping companies use the technology to create new applications like biomedical implants and even automotive and aerospace parts.

(Edited press release from CSIRO)


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