The advancement of technology holds great potential for staircase manufacturers that want to stay ahead of the game. Upgrading of machines for automated loading via robots promises a significantly more efficient production process. But machines alone do not guarantee success.

Stair builders need efficient software to run their equipment. Compass Software has recently set up two five-axis machining centres for one of its Swedish customers. Both machines are loaded automatically with the aid of robots. Compass Software controls the data flow for both the machine and the robot.

The software generates CNC programs and vacuum cup positions, as well as work lists for the entire machining centre. Producing with robots saves stair builders an immense amount of time and manpower as the machines can run while controllers are on break and can even work an additional shift during the night.

The two machines in Sweden utilise different systems for the automated loading and unloading with robots. The first machine, which is used to manufacture different staircase parts, functions via a waiting queue system. The workers prepare the queue in advance and provide the material in the exact order necessary to complete the queue. The robot then loads and unloads the machining centre according to the queue, which ensures unmanned production.

The second machine, which is used to manufacture treads, works with barcodes. All material is tagged with barcodes. The robot automatically loads the material onto a re-grip station which is equipped with a barcode scanner. The scanner communicates with the machine and identifies the part.

The robot then loads the part onto the machine where it is correctly processed. This system does not require any order or preparing of queues for production. All CNC codes are generated right before production.

Both systems save the stair builder an immense amount of time and personnel. Employees can work on other projects while the machine runs automatically and production does not have to stop overnight. Even stair builders that do not want to invest in new machinery can benefit. Compass Software has successfully upgraded old SBA3 machines with robots in the past. Even though the old machine is slower, the upgrade still results in beneficial time saving and innovative production, as well as simultaneously opening up the valuable capacities of skilled workers.