Wild horses do not have horseshoes - they run barefoot. The wear on the hooves of horses in their natural environment is in balance with the re-growing horn. Horseshoes are only needed when horses are used for carrying loads or for riding. The hooves of domesticated horses are subject to great stress and so for hundreds of years they have been equipped with horseshoes. However, this tradition can cause considerable problems. Goodsmith uniquely combines the benefits of barefoot movement with the need for shoeing. The plastic parts are manufactured by Protolabs.
The horse's hooves are part of a complex musculoskeletal system. The shapes and problems of hooves are as individual as their owners and activities. Horse's hooves have been iron-shod for protection from time immemorial. Horseshoes are made to measure. They protect against wear and are renewed every 6 to 8 weeks. They are attached by nails which are driven into the hoof. As a result, the hoof no longer makes direct contact with the ground. The natural wear, shaping and shock absorption is impaired by rigid iron and the horn is damaged by nails. This can lead to numerous problems. The ideal solution would be a flexible shoe, which could be fitted for hard, abrasive ground and removed when the ground is soft.
Uncompromising production material required
Time to put the theory of calculations, material science and engineering into practice. A 3D print gave the basic idea. But what mattered was a trial under real conditions and this required uncompromising parts made of production material. At this time, commissioning a costly injection moulding tool was not an option. In cases like this, Simon Salowsky and Bennet Klein turn to low-volume production specialist Protolabs: "There's no quicker or easier way to get production quality plastic parts" say the two.
Real parts in no time
"We loaded our 3D model from SolidWorks directly onto the Protolabs Internet quoting platform. The carbon cores were supplied by a Munich-based company directly to the Protolabs production facility. "We were very well advised by Protolabs and received valuable tips on injection-moulded construction. It was also important to prevent air pockets occurring during the over-moulding process. In the end we were very excited when the first test copies arrived 15 days later and - they were really good!"
Iteration cycles drastically shortened
The young engineers were greeted by a wave of enthusiasm from initial users. The principle of elastic decoupling worked, but minor adjustments and improvements were necessary. CTO Simon Salowsky now played his trump card: "The iteration cycles of new developments are based on two points - technical need and financial means. Designers are therefore often hesitant to make improvements for cost reasons. It's different with Protolabs. Here you can immediately convert findings from practice into a high-quality production product. If an expensive production tool is then needed, you can order it as soon as you have sufficient orders."
Blacksmiths still in demand
The result is hoof protection that fully accommodates the natural quality of complex hoof ergonomics, from pony to racer. The blacksmiths entrusted with the tests are also thrilled because they finally have a real alternative to the classic horseshoe. Horses are still shod, just in a different way: adjust, saw, file, glue – and off! The horse has a 100% customized shoe that is easy to remove. The higher purchase price is offset by the longer life cycle of up to 800 riding hours.
Test series extended
The shoe also gives real hope for horses suffering with hoof problems. "We travelled across Germany and specifically sought out owners of problem horses. We often left owners shedding tears of joy. They had never had this kind of solution. And many other horse enthusiasts, blacksmiths and riders were immediately convinced. We ordered another batch of 150 from Protolabs for an extensive test series - 100 hooves for 100 days."
Into the dragon's den
The system is so innovative that it even appeared on TV in Germany's "Dragon's Den" at VOX. Unfortunately, the dragons could not agree on the amount or share of the investment. On the other hand, they did agree on the innovation potential of "Goodsmith", which is why Salowsky and Klein are still open to investors. Official sales start in early 2018.
Bennet Klein and Simon Salowsky are confident: "The feedback from our initial customers and from experts makes us very optimistic. Protolabs gives us the necessary flexibility. We will source the entire run of up to 20-30 thousand units from Protolabs. That way we can win more satisfied customers and convince investors with our sales figures. We are open to international expansion and see tremendous potential."
The future beckons
The "Goodsmith" founders see further expansion stages, especially in equestrian sport and in veterinary orthopaedic applications. One idea is to couple the shoe with modern sensor technology. This would allow for the first time the collection of valuable data for analysis of the musculoskeletal system and corresponding healing or recovery methods. The unfettered creativity of young minds combined with the state-of-the-art manufacturing services of Protolabs has taken horseshoe development to another level. The greatest happiness on earth may still be on the back of the horse. But now it is supported by the progress of the digital revolution.