Arcade Button Shelves for Fast Inventory Tracking

Arcade Button Shelves for Fast Inventory Tracking

Not much specific detail about what’s going on in this intriguing tumblog image from British open-source kit-makers .:oomlout:., who simply write:

Getting more serious with our button shelves ( ) (shipping has never before felt so much like an 80s arcade game)

But unless I miss my guess, they’re tracking their part inventories in real time: pack or use a bit from bin 12? Just hit the corresponding button and the database is updated immediately. Very cool. [via adafruit]

Update:  Thanks to commenter Derrick Stableford for pointing out that this is, in fact, a pick-to-light system:  The computer knows what parts goes in what kits, and you pack a kit under its automatic instructions.  The bin lights up, you pack a part and slap the button, and the machine tells you where to go next!


button shelves

20 thoughts on “Arcade Button Shelves for Fast Inventory Tracking

  1. Dave Nash says:

    I’d guess that when they’re processing an order, each component for dispatch lights up. Once it’s been taken out and put in the box, they hit the button, the database updates and they know not to pack any more.

    That’s how I’d run it anyway, I’m intrigued to see how it actually does work!

  2. jpitz31 says:

    A bar code scanner attached to a networked workstation right next to the parts bin.

    Place bar codes next to each bin with the two labels, one for scanning parts in, one for scanning parts out.

    Much more efficient and much cheaper to implement.

    Writing shop floor automation, with database access is one of my specialties.



  3. Derrick Stableford says:

    It’s a pick to light system, although it looks like a small company wanted to be a bit more efficient, and didn’t have a lot of money to implement one.
    Good thinking really in a difficult economic environment.

  4. Scott says:

    Pick-to-light system

  5. Sofiadragon1979 says:

    The only thing that I don’t like about it, is that you have to hit the button for each piece, there would have to be an easier way to do it.

  6. MAKE | Top 10: Oomlout Factory Hacks says:

    […] Button Shelves (Pick-to-Light System) […]

  7. Top 10: Oomlout Factory Hacks | House of Mods says:

    […] Button Shelves (Pick-to-Light System) […]

  8. James Newton says:

    On the top of the shelf, at the left and right corners, mounted a short distance out in front of the shelf, are servos with laser line modules (e.g. from cheap laser level) and photo darlington sensors in tubes. The laser lines are set to show an “X” over the front surface of the shelves which crosses at the desired bin. The servos are programmed with some simple trigonometry which adjusts their angles accordingly. The photo detector tubes are aimed with the beam so they can’t see the front of the drawers when they are closed, but CAN see them when they are open. Some means of preventing reflection from the floor at the base of the shelf must be arranged; e.g. a strip of reflective tape mounted at 45′ in order to direct the beam out away from the shelf, or back under it. The laser modules are modulated at a frequency above 30fps so they appear solid to the human eye but are flashing at a known rate for the sensors. Some filtering and amplification of the signal will provide a very sensitive but robust indication of when a drawer has been opened enough for the laser to light it up. When both sensors see the reflection of the laser from the opened drawer, that is the same as hitting the button; the system then moves to the next part bin, swinging the X to cross at a new location. A bit of programming is required to set a reasonable minimum length to expect the drawer to be open, etc… A pair of buttons on the side allow you to back up or advance if the system gets a false positive or fails to detect a drawer open. Cost should be much lower than all those industrial strength buttons, wiring, and lights. Can be placed on top of unmodified bin racks. Works better in low light… and looks cooler. Known issues: Servos wear out or drift out of alignment, modules slip or get hit, reflections of the modulated laser line from other bins somehow manage to bounce around and trigger the other module into thinking the bin has been seen. You know… all the normal Murphy’s law stuff.

  9. Top 10: Oomlout Factory Hacks says:

    […] Button Shelves (Pick-to-Light System) […]

  10. Herman Darmawan says:

    Hi Sean, I am based in Indonesia and I am interested to build exactly this for our warehouse. Can you share with me your plans and schematics for this Arduino project? Thank you!

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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