Cascade DAFO (Ferndale)

May 27, 2010

By Bill Virgin

Cascade DAFO
Cascade DAFOs warehouse
and distribution center in Ferndale is a repository of every orthotic mold the
company has ever made.

DAFO stands for dynamic ankle-foot
orthoses, and thats what the company makesflexible plastic braces for
children with birth defects that affect musculoskeletal development. The
company also makes products and sizes for adults.

Those braces had been handcrafted
through a multistep process. An orthotist would make a cast of a patients
foot, and send the hard model of the leg and foot along with directions on how
the brace was supposed to change the development of the foot or ankle to
Cascade DAFO. There, the cast was filled with plaster and modified to add or
remove material to the mold to a form that the brace would fit. (The company
gets to see the process up close, since its Ferndale manufacturing plant also
has an orthotic clinic for fitting local children who need leg braces.)

Cascade DAFO, founded in 1982 in
Bellingham by Don Buethorn, generally tries to finish and ship braces in four
days or less. Still, the current process is time consuming.

So the company figured out a
shortcut: digitize the cast form, combine that with instructions and
measurements from the orthotist, then feed the data into a software program
tied to a CNC multiaxis milling machine that carves out a model to which the
brace can be fitted.

The result, Cascade DAFO says, is a more
accurate brace produced in less time and at lower cost. Those improvements, in
turn, will go a long way toward helping the company achieve its goal: more
braces for more kids.

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