Delcam software gives Cascade DAFO success in small steps

Polly Ethel footplates manufactured by Cascade DAFO, used in the custom-fitting of ankle /foot braces for children

A combination of Delcam software is enabling Cascade DAFO to achieve its important goal of helping children to walk. The company, which is based in Washington State, takes its name from the Dynamic Ankle Foot Orthoses that it designs and produces. The "DAFOs” are braces for children who have neurological or neuromuscular problems. They correctly position the foot and ankle to increase stability and help the child walk on his or her own.

The design of a custom brace begins with a cast of the child’s foot and ankle. This is sent to Cascade DAFO, where it is filled with plaster to form an exact replica that can be used to size the brace components. During the casting process, the patient’s foot rests in a sole-shaped footplate, which positions the foot and helps assure the accuracy of the cast.

From about the time of its founding in 1982, Cascade DAFO made the footplates using resin moulds. However, because each mould was hand carved, there was no simple way to make changes or to scale the moulds to create different sizes. Left and right footplates weren’t exactly the same. Also, because they were rather flat, the footplates tended to move around under the foot, requiring careful placement to produce an accurate cast.

Manufacturing Engineer Mike Walls Walls described how the software was used. "We started with a mould that Don Buethorn had approved, laser scanned it, and brought the data into CopyCAD. There we made modifications, tidied things up a bit, and added a little more definition. We took that file into PowerSHAPE, created the outline mould shape, and scaled it to produce the 28 different sizes we needed. Then we brought those files into PowerMILL and created the machining programs. Finally, we milled the shapes of the moulds into Renshape polyurethane tooling board.” The tooling board moulds are used in an automated thermoformer to produce the footplates.

Use of the Delcam software guarantees that the left and right footplates are symmetrical. Mr. Walls said, "Scaling is absolutely uniform, so we are very much in control of our sizing. Another big benefit is that all the new footplates stack up neatly, so transporting them and using them is very quick.”

The software also provided significant savings in design and manufacturing time. "The cost is less than the original footplates, and it’s passed on to the customer,” Mr. Walls said.