23 September 2019
The young Bordeaux-based company has breathed new life into this ancestral article by digitalizing the complete design and production line. A 4.0 initiative made possible by the TopSolid’Design and TopSolid’Cam software applications.
A mythical bringer of good fortune according to popular legend, the horseshoe was invented in Europe in the 9th century. Horseshoes of various shapes are made of different materials, depending on whether the horse is used for work or for riding, and on the condition and the state of health of its hooves (orthopedic horseshoes). Formerly made by blacksmiths using traditional methods, this U-shaped piece of metal that protects the underside of the horse’s hooves, has now entered the 21st century.
Value Feet, a company founded in Canejan, near Bordeaux, France, combines digital technology and horse-shoeing techniques by developing computerized systems for blacksmiths. “We have industrialized the production of horseshoes by adopting an original approach based on a digital chain that covers every step of the design and manufacturing process,” explains 30 year-old Maxime Rooryck, who set up the company with his 27 year-old brother, Thibaut, and expects to employ about 15 people by the end of this year. “We collaborate very closely and continuously with several blacksmiths, vets and professionals from equine circles in order to make the best possible products.”
Ease of use and modeling power
This out of the ordinary company offers solutions that address every challenging aspect of a product that is just as complex as a medical prosthesis. Every horseshoe must be uniquely adapted to the morphology of the horse for optimal comfort, increased range and freedom of movement and ideal working conditions on different types of ground. Horseshoes must be hard-wearing, light and offer sufficient grip on the ground. “A standard part made by Value Feet weights 150 g, which is almost one-third of the weight of existing horseshoes on the market,” claims Maxime Rooryck. “What’s more, their low vibration minimizes resonance and their capacity to absorb shock waves offers greater comfort to sporting horses. Not to mention their biocompatibility, which is essential to improving the quality of the hoof and accelerates horn growth.
It would be difficult to produce these characteristics without using computerized tools.” Consequently, in 2015, the company decided to invest in the well adapted TopSolid’Design and TopSolid’Cam CAD-CAM software. “We were looking for a solution that combined ease of use and modeling power, and a genuine partner capable of reacting promptly to help us to overcome all the obstacles on a path like ours,” explains the specialist. Driven by a spirit of permanent innovation, the young company started from scratch. The two young brothers, one of whom studied mechanical engineering, while the other graduated in business studies, have practically revolutionized the profession by inventing a computerized process for a typically traditional craft. Proof that start-ups are not limited to the world of IT, but can also succeed in age-old mechanical industries.
“After surveying the market, we were won over by the user-friendly and comprehensive TopSolid solution”, explains Maxime Rooryck. “Today, we use all the TopSolid’Design et TopSolid’Cam modules, which supplement the other skills that are essential in order to develop our products and services: materials engineering, optics, electronics, specialized software, embedded systems and specialized skills in logistics, finance, marketing and sales.” For this young entrepreneur, “Having the PDM built into the TopSolid’Design software offers numerous advantages: management of the links between parts, assemblies and all the project documents, remote and collaborative working, secure data, traceability of changes, etc.” The permanent contacts with the TopSolid branch in Toulouse, which believed in this original project right from the start, help to solve all the design and manufacturing issues that the company faces on a daily basis.
The modern solution that Value Feet offers to blacksmiths comprises a scanner, a tablet and a software application. “More than just a horseshoe generator, this system manages all the parameters required for made-to-measure designs: type, thickness, size, turning, position of the studs, coverage, sponges, grooves, punch holes, caulkins, rolling, fitting, bevels and nails,” points out the expert. Users can create their own ranges of horseshoes from the materials offering the highest performances with an optical-thermographic image fusion scanner, and a made-to-measure digital tool. After scanning the horse’s bare and trimmed hooves, the blacksmith can send the electronic files over the Internet to Value Feet, which then makes the horseshoes. Initially, Value Feet implemented a scanner, the TopSolid and TopSolid’Cam digital chain, and then a numerically controlled machine tool. But the company has since optimized its productivity by automating the computerized process from end to end. Value Feet asked TopSolid for a bespoke development that almost totally avoids any human interventions between the generation of the scan and the production of the finished horseshoe. When a new scan arrives, the generic CAD-CAM files are automatically updated in order to machine the corresponding horseshoe.
“We used to make up to 25 pairs of customized horseshoes per day, including the surface treatment. But, thanks to this solution, we have upped our production rate to about 100 pairs per day,” explains Maxime Rooryck. The parts are made from different materials, including special alloys generally used in the aerospace industry. “We are looking into multi-material solutions, involving the use of ceramics or polymers capable of offering performances close to those of metal parts,” continues the specialist.
These advanced design and manufacturing solutions enable Value Feet to propose a highly competitive offer and to be very reactive. “Our horseshoes cost €70 per pair, and we can produce and deliver them in just 24 hours. Elsewhere on the market, this can take six to seven weeks, and at a much higher price,” concludes Maxime Rooryck.
The strengths of the TopSolid application
- Ease of use and 3D modeling power
- A very rapid and economical response to blacksmiths’ demands
- Built-in PDM (Product Data Management) for the traceability of changes and collaborative working
- A productive partnership with the local TopSolid branch office
Maxime Rooryck’s opinion: “We particularly appreciate the versatility of the TopSolid solutions, which have become our factotum. We use them to design and make our parts, but to do everything else too, including building our own equipment, like the surface treatment machines and the tribo finishing machines currently under development, laying out our offices or designing our stands for different events.”