Technology has changed many aspects of our lives, and it seems that nearly every day we’re hearing about new innovations such as ChatGPT. While the horse industry is known to evolve more slowly than others, one entrepreneur is on the fast-track to becoming a pioneer in equine transport. Brad Heath is the owner of Double D Trailers, based in Wilmington, North Carolina, which began manufacturing horse trailers in 1997, and he is working on designing and creating the first horse trailer made by a 3D printer.
That may sound like a far-fetched idea, but the advancements in three-dimensional printer technology will one day make this possible. As to why anyone would want to make a 3D printer horse trailer, there are some advantages. For starters, there’s a low carbon footprint compared to traditional trailer manufacturing because 95% of the components are printed in-house. The 3D printer also uses recycled materials, largely polycarbonate (commonly referred to as PC), which be sourced from material made from plastic water bottles and other consumer products. A 3D printer also virtually eliminates supply chain woes that plagued many industries during the pandemic and are still problematic.
But according to Heath, those are only part of the reason he is choosing to pivot to 3D trailers. “The real reason is the ability to create something unique, and to improve on what is currently available,” he says.
Some of the differences in design and function between the 3D printed trailer and conventional trailers include how ventilation works. “We have a duct system built directly into the chassis/body of the trailer that will deliver uniform air to each horse,” explains Heath. “With the window configuration, we are forcing users to travel with windows closed.” This ensures a quieter ride and improved aerodynamics and fuel economy. He plans to demonstrate in a wind tunnel exactly how the air flow system and the technologies incorporated to monitor your horses will work.
The 3D models will also have a combination forward and/or reverse loading ramp. And of course, there will be some unique technology to get accustomed to. “There will be an entire monitoring system for your horses and trailer all controlled by your smart phone,” says Heath. “As an example, if your vehicle falls below a certain speed or air volume sensors detect not enough air, the auxiliary fan system will kick in automatically.”
Some of the advantages of this new mode of production is that horse owners can order their trailer and watch it on video being made in real time – and fast.
Heath is also hopeful that creating this lighter, durable trailer will help the environment in another way, by becoming a natural partner to the electric truck you will probably own one day. While lighter trailers already exist on the market, they are often produced using materials that are thinner and less strong, such as aluminum. “With 3D technology, carbon fibre and other additive materials can achieve even greater strength but at a much lower weight,” explains Heath. “This will be extremely important for the electric vehicle market and folks that want to tow with an electric vehicle. Payload ratings on EV’s are currently much lower than gasoline-powered vehicles.”
The plan for the roll-out is for a two-horse bumper pull trailer, but Heath foresees eventually extending the blueprints for other styles. The current estimate for cost is in the ballpark of $79,300; you can request a quote and pre-order here.
While Double D hasn’t produced a 3D printer-manufactured trailer yet, the hope is by year’s end their prototype will be ready. But when it is ready it will have been rigorously tested before being released to the public. “We are partnering with an engineering firm, a university, and a company that will provide crash testing and wind tunnel testing, as well as other safety parameters.” One of the testing companies is Calspan, an independent provider of many types of crash testing for the transportation and defense industries.
Does Heath think his innovation is the future of equine transportation? “We are living in an exciting time of evolving technologies from electric vehicles, smart devices that can talk to each other, and artificial intelligence, just to name a few,” he says. “It will take time for consumers to adapt to these as mainstream, but eventually the old will be old and everyone will want the new. I see no difference with 3D printed horse trailers.”
Watch a video of the 3D-Printed Sustainable Horse Trailer by Double D Trailers here: