By Barry Copping | Plastics & Rubber News
Entrepreneur and former horse trainer John Filipelli realised early in his career that horses run better without shoes. But allowing them to be ridden, let alone race without shoes was not a viable option from either practical or humane perspectives. Hooves consist of tightly compacted hair and need to be protected - hence they have been shoed with metal for centuries. No other material has been found to be better, said Filipelli - until now.
Filipelli's Nanoflex firm, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has patented and now produces and sells one-size-fits all horseshoes made from BASF's Elastollan thermoplastic polyurethane, sourced from distributor Alliance Polymers & Services of Romulus, Michigan.
"My first attempt [at replacing metal shoes]," recalled Filipelli, "was to develop a polymer boot, not a horseshoe. Polymers at that time deemed possibly suitable for a horseshoe didn't fit the bill in terms of processability, flexibility, durability and the basic capability to be affixed to a hoof and stay on. The boot didn't work.
"I was lucky to hook up with Roger Huarng, a former BASF technical materials expert and now with APS." Filipelli was glad to acknowledge APS's technical assistance with the project.
Huarng and Filipelli agreed on a polyurethane grade with all the required attributes -consistency and uniform density across the shoe, toughness, durability, a certain level of flexibility and cushioning, and a cost comparable to that of a metal horseshoe.
Having arrived at the ideal material formulation, built injection mould tooling and engaged a custom moulder, working with prototype shoes revealed additional benefits:
• The new Nanoflex shoes can be applied in either traditional way - with nails, or with Equalox or Vettec, popular adhesives used for securing horseshoes;
• The polyurethane shoes stay on longer than traditional metal shoes - their durability is comparable to that of aluminum shoes;
• One size of shoe, when trimmed, fits any horse;
• The polymer shoes are reversible, prolonging their life even further.
Filipelli chuckles when he lists a final benefit - polyurethane horseshoes can be injection moulded in any custom colour desired."