Using DLP®︎ technology to increasing warehouse efficiency and safety through projected displays

(Co-authored with Kapil Menda)

According to a recent report by eMarketer, e-commerce sales worldwide grew by 27.6% in 2020, with sales expected to hit $5 trillion by 2022. With more people shopping from home, online retailers are processing more orders more rapidly to ensure timely delivery. This means that warehouses need to stock more product, replenish inventory faster, and process information quicker to keep up with demand.

There are a wide range of warehouse configurations, from highly automated to primarily manual, and can depend on the size and type of business. In settings that primarily rely on human action or where humans work together with robots, employees may rely on displays such as handheld tablets, shelf panels or simple lights to inform their actions. In these environments where humans and robots work together, and where speed and accuracy are vital, safety while humans and machines collaborate should be a key consideration. As consumers rely more on e-commerce than ever, there is a need for solutions in warehouses to improve productivity, efficiency and safety.

Enabling new display paradigms with DLP® display technology

Integrating projection technology into workflows can help increase productivity, efficiency and safety in warehouses. Projection technology enables a number of new applications that benefit warehouses. Here are a few examples:

  • Adding visual cues to processes. Integrating projection technology with either a 3D camera or equivalent sensor and a warehouse management system (WMS) makes it possible to add visual cues to picking or sorting processes in semiautomated warehouses.
  • Adding visual cues for inventory picking. Inventory picking requires workers to select items to move from one area of a warehouse to another. For this process, projection can indicate which items humans need to pick from a specific bin or rack. Today, light-based systems typically identify bins to aid picking as shown in Figure 1, but this system requires the installation of lights and displays for every bin or rack, which leads to fixed warehouse configurations. Implementing an equivalent solution with projection enables flexible configurations of bins or racks, as only the projector needs installing.

Figure 1: A pick-to-light system using projection

Figure 1: A pick-to-light system using projection

  • Adding visual cues for assembly line sorting. Projecting visual cues for sorting enables employees in warehouses to identify packages that require an action in the sorting process, like when on an assembly line. By using projection technology, employees do not have to scan package information but will instead know what action to perform for a package based on a projected visual clue as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Adding visual cues to sorting

Figure 2: Adding visual cues to sorting

  • Adding dynamic elements to projected signage. Adding projection technology can make signage in warehouses dynamic and attention-grabbing and can help improve safety for humans. Physical signs are typically displayed in aisles, on the floor or on racks to guide employees or let them know about potential hazards in the environment. Projection makes it possible to display similar signage that can change dynamically depending on need, as shown in Figure 3. In addition to easily changing information, projected signage is visible in low-light areas and resistant to wear and tear.

Figure 3: Dynamic signage using projection

Figure 3: Dynamic signage using projection

  • Hands-free picking using smart glasses. Adding projection technology to a pair of smart glasses enables the addition of a display that can show information such. By integrating sensors and cameras with this display and connecting it to the WMS, the glasses can navigate employees to the inventory that they need to fill an order. Smart glasses keep employees’ hands free, and can show relevant information at any time to help them perform tasks quickly and efficiently.

In environments such as warehouses, DLP technology offers:

  • Reliability: shock, dust and vibration tolerances to ensure long periods of operation.
  • High optical efficiency: lower LED illumination power (for smart glasses).
  • Free-form displays: the projection of information of any shape or size on any object or surface.
  • High brightness: high thermal capabilities to enable very bright displays (for picking, sorting or signage).
  • Fast pixel switching: high frame rates to minimize latency and motion blur (for smart glasses).
  • Laser or LED illumination: hiding instant on and off displays when not in use.
  • Fast time to market: an optimized bill of materials from a diverse ecosystem that enables shorter design cycles.

TI DLP technology enables the projection of information onto any surface to increase safety and efficiency in warehouse environments. The high optical efficiency, brightness output and resilient nature of DLP technology enable the seamless embedding of information in a wide variety of applications.

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