Staircase Construction & Timber CNC-Processing




Startup More Than 30 Years Ago

Some of Compass Software GmbH´s (CS) most important software developers have been devoted to topics concerning software for staircase construction for 30 years and more.

These are computer scientists

Ludger Ostendarp
(today head of development at CS),

Manfred Hoernemann

(also leader at development at CS)   


Detlef Hollinderbaeuumer

(right, on the staircase 1.0, today managing director at CS),

which have joined the team in reverse order during the 80s. 

In 1982 a development started, which closely correlated with the technical advancements of the PC and application software in the field of wood crafts, and which has significantly influenced these.

CS is still benefitting from its headstart and expertise today.



1983 - 1984​

CNC From the Beginning

As early as 1983, one customer requested the connection of a CNC machine for the construction of wooden staircases.

The company Trautwein out of Weingarten, Germany had expressed great interested when they were contacted by the company MAKA. Only a short time prior to this our computer scientists had approached MAKA and had codeveloped the idea for direct software connection to the CNC machine.            
The concept was born, the automated transfer of manufacturing data from a construction system directly to the machine.

Every staircase construction software on the market has orientated itself by this idea ever since (to put it cautiously).

Finally, the first CNC connection was brought into service in 1984.


International From the Start


Word that the system was working got around fast. Since MAKA was active as an international company, there were inquiries from abroad straight away. 

First machines were brought into service in France and Norway in 1985. When it came to development, CS was therefore compelled to keep an eye on both the CNC technology, as well as its internationality. The latter does not only affect translatability and applicability, but also international constructional differences for staircases. 

Customers still benefit from this know-how transfer, which comes and goes from and into all directions today!         

The company COMPASS GmbH was founded in 1985, which was the predecessor of today´s Compass Software GmbH.




5-Axis Technology in Staircase Construction


1986 one staircase builder approached CS and MAKA with the request to be able to mill risers angled into the stringers on a CNC machine. This is only possible if the cutter is able to work exactly into the direction in which the riser is going to be inserted into the stringer.

This requires 5-axis technology.

A 27 year old computer scientist does not deem anything impossible, as he feels "invincible." Therefore, it was decided: "We are going to do it!" Hence, the groundwork for an unprecedented development was laid.

1987 ​​

Wreath Editing


The possibility to edit stringer wreaths on machines with 5-axes was "simply" added, just because it seemed so natural!


The complete software/machine system was then presented to the public at large for the first time at the Ligna 1987.



The first machine with 5-axes, which was controlled directly by CS.


3-Dimensional Display


The construction software experienced a rapid development, parallel to other CNC related advancements. Due to the exponentially improved performance of hardware (PCs) each year, we were able to continually make the software work more efficiently and it became more and more applicable.

Therefore, Detlef Hollinderbaeumer was able to develop the first integrated three-dimensional display of staircase on a computer, as early as 1986. Back then it was all about leveling off 3D-drawings on pen plotters, that is to say, the system was vector-based. Thus, it was already possible to scale drawings to every size, without losses. 

Today, 3D-Images are rendered pixel-orientated on devices.

This technology was added later by Ludger Ostendarp.



The Year CS was Founded


1992, after experiencing some turbulences, today´s Compass Software GmbH was founded. It was decided that the company would exclusively develop, sell, and maintain software for staircase construction.  

This decision proved successful and the strategy was maintained approximately until the year 2010 (more about this later).

The decision was also right for another reason; the "roaring 90s" had started. Due to the reunification of Germany, there was a major special business cycle in the building sector. East Germany was in a gold-rush mood. Even though many of the then new customers have disappeared by now, CS was able to develop long and fruitful customer relationships with many excellent customers there.


1995 - 1998

Automation I

It was during this time that the first special-purpose machines were developed and the first machines with automated vacuum cup positioning were brought into service. Again, CS was a leading contributor to the developments in this sector. Right away, these machines were controlled by CS in such a way that the customer did not have anything to do with their programming.

The foundation for the presently existing system for the control of automated vacuum tables, first only for editing treads and post-machines, was laid back then. Today, CS is able to control any system existing on the market, be it a pin table or a joist-system with mobile vacuum cups and clamps. The components are even moved during processing by now.

Additionally, the first machines with barcode readers, which are fully integrated into the staircase software, were equipped at that time. This made it possible to launch and control the entire process for loading and starting the machine with a barcode reader. The result is an enormous amount of time saved, plus the possibility for errors is minimised.






Version 9


It was during this time that the foundation for the contemporary, more modern, staircase construction software structures was laid. After an intense period of research and planning, CS decided to take a completely new path. It was decided to develop client/server software, which would be entirely network-compatible. The basis would be an object-oriented data base, which would contain all of the system´s data. Development is always conducted with the latest tools and software technology.


1999 - 2001

Handrail Wreaths with Profile Cutters


This is one of the most important developments CS has ever conducted. One of the biggest challenges in staircase construction is the manufacturing of curved profiled handrail parts.


Due to the geometry of these parts it is mathematically challenging to calculate a corresponding model in order to automate the processing on a CNC machine with 5-axes.


Especially transitions between curved and straight parts are impossible to describe with closed mathematical models. Thus, the developmental period became relatively long. Tests on the machine, to validate the theoretical calculations, were necessary again and again.


The fruit of this labour, which was presented to the public in 2001, is still setting the standard today.                  

It took several years before the competition was able to produce an even rudimentally acceptable result.


Production of staircases on machines with 5-axis technology without this model has become unthinkable today.

Starting 2003

Automation II


During this time a new phase of automating started, which has not been completed yet. This regards the fully automated manufacturing of staircase components and includes the automated loading of the machine.

This development started with loading portals on the automated tread machines mentioned above. Another step was taken with the development of a fully automated post machine, in collaboration with the company MKM. It was possible to load the machine with posts in any order desired. Every post had to be scanned with a barcode reader and the software put them into a queue, which was then processed automatically in the unmanned production.

For further milestones see…




Starting 2006

Version ND


Version ND (New Dimension) is the result of the systematic continuation of the development, which had started with Version 9. ND has a completely graphical interface with a graphical help system, which was a unique feature at that time.


Starting ca. 2010

New Paths


Compass Software GmbH´s staff has grown an enormous amount of know-how regarding the connection of CNC machines during the last 30 years and more. More than 900 CNC connections with machines from more than 30 different suppliers with 2-5 controlled axes, or even more, have been conducted in this time.

This know-how had to be used more broadly!

The demand existed. CS developed a CNC connection for the 5-axed processing of sunroom components for another major German software company in the wood sector.

This product line is currently very popular in China.




Starting 2012



As a result of the first major hype about the internet at the end of the 90s and early 2000s it was already decided that the staircase manufacturing software had to be compatible with the internet. But, contrary to the then predominant opinion, technology was nowhere near ready for "useful" applications.

Still, the computer scientists at Compass Software GmbH were convinced that it would be ready one day and that they had to prepare for that day.

The entire development of the SSP ND (Version 10 of the staircase manufacturing software program, New Dimension) was geared towards this goal.

Otherwise, it would not be possible to run the software as a "black box" (as a calculator so to speak) on a server, which is situated in the cloud, which, with the help of new user interfaces, enables users to configure and automatically calculate staircases online using standard-browsers, today. 

For more information go to …

Staircase Configurator

Furthermore, it is also possible now to upload any constructed staircase or attachment onto an internet server, as well as visualizing it via a link.


For more information go to …

3D-Plus Online

Starting 2012

Window Components are Really Just Wood


Out of our collaboration in the field of sunroom construction another CNC-module for the processing of window components emerged.




Starting 2014

Compass Software Goes Joinery Elements


Through our encounters with the company Krüsi from Switzerland, a new idea emerged. The vision was to develop a complete CNC processor, which would process joinery elements on machines designed solely for this purpose.

Out of this project grew an entire system that not only makes it possible to process data from wood construction programs for CNC processing in the preparation phase, but also contains a module which allows for this to happen directly on the machine, on a specially designed interface.

Furthermore, a complete baluster optimization is integrated, as well as a complete BTL-Viewer.


March 2015 

Founding of Compass Software Inc.


After trying to manage sales-related business in the US through dealers for more than 25 years, CS has now committed to take action itself.

This manifests itself in the founding of

Compass Software Inc.,               

which is based in Atlanta, Georgia.