CANBERRA, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) -- Australian horse veterinarians and scientists have given a surprise Christmas gift to 10-year-old mare, Holly, who suffers from a chronic hoof disease.
The Commmonwealth Scientifc and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) announced on Wednesday that Holly took the first steps in her new 3D printed titanium shoes that were custom designed to fit her hoof.
CSIRO said these shoes 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 hoof and design the "horse-thotic" which aims to support the hoof and encourage it to heal, while making Holly comfortable.
Holly has been suffering from a debilitating disease called Laminitis for three years. 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," 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," he 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 hoof 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 said.
"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, including biomedical implants and automotive and aerospace parts, CSIRO said.