CNC Wood Machining - Stairs
Stairs and staircases, functionally indispensable, since they provide the means for movement between the floors of a structure, nonetheless function like the architectural heart of a structure—and when produced in wood give a sense of beauty, warmth and life, which only wood provides. Today's homes and public structures are requesting the enduring styles of the past, as well as new innovation, for this essential structure. The need for personalized productions, enhanced manufacturing capabilities, precision, freedom of design, and reduced time for delivery have continued to increase, while the lack of "end-to-end" design, manufacturing and production information tools to manage such a work has continued to be one of the most obvious areas wanting in progress.
CMS has, over the last years, beginning in 2004, completed its ground breaking work in both the manufacture of American and European stair production capabilities, in many respects two different worlds, supported by a comprehensive solution including its 5-axis CNC manufacturing technology, required for the range of "real world" manufacturing demands, cutting tool design and implementation experience, fixturing methodology and systems, production, training and the "putting it into production" capabilities, tied together with a complete design and manufacturing software, providing the market requested range of standard models and concepts, completely parametricalized, together with all the tools for personalized solutions for responding to functional and aesthetic needs, and providing the necessary manufacturing and machining information to process the entire range of components including: the stair system proper and its handrail, and in particular, utilizing CMS' proven solid wood handrail construction methodology with improved aesthetic, functional, and installation benefits - real precision - true to the design plan and holding its shape.
CMS' "end-to-end" stair manufacturing solution means that the manufacturer has "one-only" partner to work with and depend upon, in bringing it all "on-line" - a proven solution, ground breaking in its scope.
ARES - all around, basic stair production
ARES, CMS' moving bridge class CNC machining center, is an all around choice, covering all required aspects, of staircase manufacturing. ARES' large 3D working envelop, with powerful 5 axis PX5 working head, 8 or 16 position tool changing rack, with additional 24 position off to the side tool disc storage, CNC controlled vacuum tables, nonstop pendular work cycle, optional special fixtures for stair manufacturing or even automatic pallet changing tables (APC), provides a necessary and fundamental starting point for all staircase processes: lots of room, ability to maneuver, maximum power for heavy work, and all the tools to get the job done accurately and quick, with "know-how" from those who've done the work and understand the process requirements from one end to the other.
As seen in this photo, and in addition to the wide range of stair manufacturing processes, ARES is particularly well suited for one of the most difficult aspects of stair manufacturing: solid wood hand rail production. The picture to the bottom shows a solid wood wreath rail, an elevation changing section, which is being held upside down and which has had a 6010 profile machined on both sides, as well as the location holes for the balusters, and trimmed to length. The rail is ready to be detached from its support block with just a "snap" leaving but a small amount of material at the breaks to be easily cleaned up before its ready to be used.
The other pictures show several examples of complex assembled rails, with remaining break away tabs showing, on the one at the top, and at the bottom, square baluster mortises, as well as connection holes for bolting them together.
While the machining capability is important, and the methodology for processing, including the knowledge of tooling and fixtures, preparation of nested blanks, understanding and finding the blank machining location in space, processing feeds, speeds and approaches is essential, the special Powerstairs software - as seen in the photos to the right - derived from years of work that allows implementation of this process knowledge, visualization, automatic creation and generation of machine code, has been at the heart of CMS' complete "end to end" solution -- something stair manufacturers have been waiting for during the last 15 years.
Karat - staircase component special production
This double moving table Karat version is equipped for the production of special staircase components, including one-piece volutes with upeasing, as well as fluted, spiraled, or carved balusters and posts.
The fixtures for the one-piece integrated volute with upeasing, provide for left and rights, and various heights in a universal manner in all of the normally requested profiles, such as 6010, while providing for a wide range of other custom profiles. The various fixtures can be setup and ready on the table for producing several of each type at a time, or adjusted to be identical, if larger batch production is required.
On the other table, CMS' special 4th axis rotational system for post and baluster production is mounted, which means that where the point/counter-point markings may not be in the center, as happens with older style production lathes, CMS' system guarantees that the balusters will be centered and that the fluting or spiraling will also be the same depth from the surface, even if the baluster is not consistently finished to the same outside dimension. The posts may also be worked and finished with flutes, spirals or even carving as required.
In addition, this Karat is provided with two independent working units, so that work can be carried out on each table simultaneously. The working unit for volute production is CMS' PX5, a powerful 5 axis working unit with full, free form capabilities in 5 axis; that for the post and baluster production is CMS' TX3 working unit, providing the same powerful spindle capability for 3 axis work.
To complete the system, CMS not only provides the cutting tools, specially designed to work with the part geometry, but also the special programs required for each type of component combined with the specific profiles used.
Avant R8 - long stair stringers, as well as treads, risers and posts
AVANT R8, CMS' moving gantry class of CNC machining centers, with 8 position revolver working unit pictured here, provides flexible large areas for stair manufacturing work. This Avant's table is designed for use with CMS' special vacuum pod system allowing for easy, free form placement of all the pods, support devices and references required for a project. In the project shown in the photo to the right, Avant, with 2 long curved stringers on its table, has an enclosed moving gantry, which provides protection for the working area and improved overall dust collection either through R8's special dust extraction hood or by channeling it to the sides of the protection enclosure and onto the moving belt, located at the bottom of its structure, which is constantly moving scrap or dust that falls on the belt out of the system. Along the complete length of Avant's machine bed, groups of quick connections are located for vacuum and pressure access, which are controlled via m-code and permit easy connection and work setup.
Avant's long and wide work bed also makes it possible to machine a range of other parts, such as treads, risers and posts, as well as to work in a pendular, nonstop cycle.
AVANT - pod and rail version for stair components
AVANT, as shown in this picture, can also be equipped with a pod and rail system making easy work of stair component manufacturing. Avant's pod and rails system can function either under complete CNC control for setup of all rail groups, as well as pods and associated devices, or by manual setup via LED's with readout. Avant's pod and rail system provides a range of working devices including various shapes and sizes of vacuum pods, part supports, reference devices, vices, or clamps, making it possible to hold heavy work like posts or complicated parts, like tread nosings, or even a pair of nested treads held by vacuum, which can be separated under CNC control, after being split from their blank, to make it possible to finish the machining work on all edges. Again, Avant's conveyor belt, located in the base of its structure, is constantly removing scrap and any dust that falls during the machining cycle out of the machine.
Avant's pod and rail system is also easily configurable, meaning that pod elements are interchangeable with each other, so that vacuum pods can be replaced by vices or clamps or references and so forth, as needed. In this picture an example of Avant's pendular capability is shown. In the picture on the left can be seen a pair of nested treads, which have been separated after a saw blade split them apart, making it possible to finish the processing around each tread's edges. In the photo to the right is seen an example of clamping devices holding a curved tread nose component, in which Avant used an A/B cycle to carry out in the A cycle the profile and angled end cuts and in the B cycle to make the final cut, as well as the horizontal drilling for dowel holes in the edge.
Avant - post machining, stairs
In this photo Avant has been equipped with special holding vices that permit fixturing up multiple post sections for a special staircase project with an L-shaped section, in which it's necessary to machine the grooves and notches for the treads and riser joints, as well as connection holes. Again, along Avant's length multiple quick connect groups have been placed permitting easy connection to m-code controlled air pressure for vice activation and vacuum for securely holding the clamping vices to Avant's working table.
Avant is equipped with an 8 position revolver, of which several positions are provided with horizontal CNC controlled 4th axis aggregates for hole boring or trimming with a saw blade. In addition, Avant's length makes it possible to carry out a pendular work cycle, so that loading and unloading can take place on one end, while Avant is machining on the other.
Double curved staircase
Shown here is a beautiful sweeping double curved staircase with curved landing made by Century Stair Company, one of CMS' customers, seen in both directions.
In addition to making complete stair systems, the special Powerstairs software also includes a module for producing just the staircase handrail, making it possible to work with just the elevation and plan view information, while furnishing complete machining code for all components based on standard available solid wood blank sizes for the stair manufacturer, layup blank calculation information, including automatic determination of sections lengths and splits, if necessary, baluster positions, machining of all holes, joinery hardware, transitions, and so forth, resulting in complete handrail systems, which can be used to complete already existing drawings.
More about Century Stair Company, their projects and production can be found at their website,
Seen here are several curved staircase landings, the one on the left showing the curved landing from the first group of photos and the one to the right illustrating a simple elegant look. CMS' complete solution for staircase manufacturing includes all the necessary capabilities and features for the most demanding customers and manufacturers, while supplying the differences expected for American or European style work.
Straight & Curved treads, Landings
CMS' complete solution for staircase manufacturing includes capabilities for special tread design whether straight, curved, winders, balanced, or footpaces, intersecting with various types of landings and with special end or edge treatments, as well as that of the first treads and risers, or open staircases, without risers -- and much, much more, a flexible design environment for every need.
Open & Closed Plan Staircases of various types
CMS solutions include the complete spectrum of staircase plan types providing for Open, as well as Closed, versions of each. In this photo to the left can be seen a curved staircase of Open design, eliminating the risers for a more "open" and spacious look. The first tread is also special to give it distinction. The staircase on the right is a Closed design, with risers enclosing the staircase. It's also provided with a special double bullnose shaped first tread, edge profile and bullnose riser, as well as a special curved stringer at the side of the staircase - a design and manufacturing solution providing beautiful flexibility and power.
Open staircases with central or stringer support
Another beautiful staircase style is that shown in these photos, Open staircase design with a choice of either central support or support at the sides, supported by the staircase's stringer system. In the photo to the left, a beautiful curved open staircase is shown with a modern, spacious design, supported by its stringer system, without use of a wall. To the right is shown a central support staircase system, eliminating the stringers at the outside edges, while providing an openness, beauty and strength to its setting. CMS' staircase solutions, run the spectrum from traditional to modern with the same ease of design and manufacturing.
Special Staircase Components
As seen in this photo, CMS also provides the machinery that makes the broad range of staircase components required for today's staircase manufacturing, including everything from posts and balusters, with or without special treatments with carving, to volutes, volutes with integrated upeasings, handrail, handrail components, and much more. CMS is a complete solution for staircase manufacturers from machinery, tooling, fixtures, Powerstairs software, programs, and training, to know-how, a true "end to end" solution.
Wood Staircases: Case History and Technology Overview
The staircase manufacturer, Escaliers Flin, is featured in this case study, a company with an impressive design and manufacturing depth, which makes a broad line of varied styles from modern to traditional staircases. Flin's wide range of product along with its processes is shown including stringers, treads, risers, and posts, with a high level of mass customization involved.
CMS' wide range of CNC machining center technology is also shown featuring 5-axis processing in nonstop fashion on machines whose work tables are themselves setup either manually or under CNC control, involving the use of CMS' standard vacuum pod tables, as well as its special pod and rail designed system allowing for complete flexibility for various vacuum pods, of various sizes and shapes, along with reference stops, clamps, vices and support rails. Manufacturing processes are shown for nested treads, permitting a single blank to be split for "balanced" or "spiral" treads, providing the most efficient yield, as well as permitting all the work to be completed in a single placement, all under CNC control. The processing of stringers of various types is also presented, including some in which the curved handrail is machined directly from the outside edge of the stringer and separated from it during the machining cycle, as well as the machining of a number of other parts such as nosings, posts, carving on posts and volutes, volutes with integral one piece upeasing, and much more.
Semi-automatic setup, "nested" tread machining
One of CMS' CNC machining centers, is shown with its CNC controlled automatic pod/rail table setup system—which is available on most CMS' families of machines—including easy change out pod components with quick disconnects, as well as highlighting its CNC controlled pod movement within the machining cycle, support rails for loading/unloading and reference stops for part positioning. The machining cycle shows several types of blanks which are separated into 2 angular treads then moved apart to complete the rest of the machining cycle. The cycle includes the use of a 4th axis saw blade for blanking work, milling for blind tenons on the tread ends, slot for the riser component, and profile shaping of the tread front and back edges.
ARES - Curved Handrail process & machining
CMS' unique methodology for handrail machining is presented, featuring the processing of a handrail rake component, in which substantial transitional elements are involved, and includes the preparation for the solid wood blank, from which the handrail will be machined, its accurate placement on special support fixtures, drilling of holes for balusters, the rough shaping process and profiling for the final handrail shape, removal of the remaining material by which the part is attached to the blank, leaving only several small tabs, which permit it to be easily removed from the blank by hand, the small tab material easily removed later, and a light hand sanding being all that's needed prior to finishing. The entire process and design of this part and all the elements of the entire staircase is supported by CMS' complete staircase manufacturing system including, machine specification, cutting tool development, fixture holding and support system, complete software for the CAD/CAM work, and its overall implementation with complete training, resulting in a total system that works to produce custom staircases.
Wood Stairs Sector and Escaliers Flin Case Study
(click folder on the left to download)