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CSIRO scientists develop 3D printed 'horse-thotics'

19 December, 2013

Horse vets and CSIRO scientists have given a surprise Christmas gift to ten year old mare, Holly, who suffers from a chronic foot disease.

This past Wednesday (18 December), Holly took her first steps in her new 3D printed titanium shoes that were custom designed to fit her foot. They may be the key to stomping out foot disease and lameness in horses.

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 3 years suffering from a debilitating disease called Laminitis.

The horse's foot is similar to our finger; the hoof wall is like our finger nail 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 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," 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," said Dr Luke Wells-Smith.

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.

"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.

Barnes states: "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."

Holly's new shoes demonstrate the range of applications the 3D printing technology can be used for. At CSIRO we are helping companies use this game-changing technology to create new applications like biomedical implants and even automotive and aerospace parts.

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