This 29-Armed Robot Can Recycle an iPhone in 11 Seconds

Liam Apple Recycle Robot Credit: Apple

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Apple added a new robotic recycling unit to its arsenal last year, named Liam. Liam is a 29-armed robot that — at peak production — can disassemble 1.2 million iPhone 6 smartphones in a year, about one entire iPhone every 11 seconds, according to Mashable.

Apple first introduced the system a year ago at its spring announcement event in March 2016. The system allows iPhones to be taken apart in a way that allows more of its valuable internals to be reused or recycled.

Reportedly, for every 10,000 devices that the robot takes apart, the company can recover:

  • 190 kg of aluminum
  • 80 kg of copper
  • 12 kg of gold
  • .04 kg of platinum group metals
  • 70 kg of silver
  • 5 kg of tin
  • 4 kg of rare earth metals

“Many of these materials would not be recoverable at high quality using traditional recycling methods,” Apple noted in a 2016 shareholder’s report that was published on Feb. 21. According to that same document, part of the funding for the development of Liam came from Apple’s Green Bond, bonds that are used to finance clean energy projects.

With Liam, Apple hopes to address one of the more worrying and increasing issues in the tech industry: electronic waste. Battery waste, for example, can become a hazard — particularly in the developing countries that the waste oftentimes ends up. Last year, Apple said it hopes competing companies will copy the idea from them. If other tech giants do indeed imitate Liam with their own machines, it could play a huge role in making tech a greener industry overall.

Apple just recently revealed that the Liam system is currently operational at facilities in California and the Netherlands. In addition, Cupertino added that the yearly maximum of 2.4 million smartphones the two systems can disassemble is just a small fraction of the 211-million iPhone devices that the company sold last year.

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