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From aerospace to equine: APWORKS 3D prints horse race shoes

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You might not think that horse racing is rocket science, but German company APWORKS would disagree. The AM service provider, which is part of Airbus, has applied its specialized knowledge of aerospace 3D printing to design and manufacture the AeroRaceShoe, an optimized equine racing shoe.

The link between aerospace and horse racing is related to weight reduction. While in aircraft and launch vehicles minimized weight it critical for fuel efficiency, in horse racing a lighter weight shoe translates to superior racing performance and comfort. APWORKS therefore applied its extensive knowledge of lightweighting through material choice and design to reinvent the race horse shoe.

While most horse race shoes are forged from aluminum or steel, APWORKS chose to work with a proprietary alloy, Scalmalloy, which is both lighter and stronger than both alternatives. According to the company, a single horseshoe made from Scalmalloy can weigh as little as 50 g, while an aluminum shoe weighs more than double (127 g per shoe) and steel is even heavier at 200 g per shoe. With four shoes per horse, that means the Scalmalloy version saves between about 300 to 600 grams for each horse.

While the material is central to the equine shoe lightweighting, APWORKS also leveraged generative design and metal additive manufacturing to bring the AeroRaceShoe to life. Design was used to improve weight distribution as well as the fitting process through customization, all while remaining a cost-effective option.

APWorks AeroRaceShow equine shoe

As Dr. Philip Parkes, Head of Virtual Product Engineering at APWORKS, said: “Having worked as a research scientist in aerospace and other high-performance industries for more than a decade, I understand the drivers that are pivotal in creating a competitive edge. AeroRaceShoes encourage and enable a horse to run faster, because they are the ultimate in optimized, lightweight design. Maintaining the required strength, whilst crucially, minimizing weight on the hoof. This is only possible with our patented combination of technologies: generative design, additive manufacturing and advanced materials.”

Overall, the 3D printed AeroRaceShoe offers a number of benefits for horse racing. The dramatic reduction in weight means horses have less weight to lift when they run, which means they can achieve a more rapid pace and greater agility around turns. On top of the performance benefits, the lighter shoe can also reduce fatigue and minimize the impact of running on the horse’s joints, leading to improved post-race recovery and less risk of injury.

To date, it is not clear whether the 3D printed AeroRaceShoe has been tested in any professional horse races, but we’ll be interested to see if this innovation makes waves in the equine world.

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Consumer Products AM 2024

1,346 polymer and metal AM companies and 143 end-users. Consumer products AM generated $2.6 billion in 2023. Segment expected to grow to $28 billion by 2033 at 26.8% CAGR. This new market study fro...

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