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China Iphone Robotics Apple Technology

Will Your Next iPhone Be Built By Robots? 251

itwbennett writes "Foxconn has ambitious plans to deploy a million-robot army on its assembly lines. But while robots already perform some basic tasks, when it comes to the more delicate assembly work, humans still have the edge. George Zhang, senior principal scientist with ABB, a major vendor of industrial robots, thinks Foxconn will eventually replace human workers for much of its electronic assembly, but probably not in time for the iPhone 6. For now, humans are still a cheaper and more practical choice."
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Will Your Next iPhone Be Built By Robots?

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  • Robots in China? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by maxwell demon ( 590494 ) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @06:05PM (#41553547) Journal

    If the work is done by robots anyway, then what is the advantage of producing in China (except when producing for the Chinese market)? You don't have the advantage of cheap workers (robots don't get wages), but you have the disadvantage of higher transport cost.

  • by scamper_22 ( 1073470 ) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @06:18PM (#41553639)

    Supply chains, factory skills, skill workers, operators...

    Do you know how long it took China to build its industry? It took decades. It takes a lot to move big systems.

    Why is Ontario or Michigan still a huge player in the automotive game despite their high cost? There's a huge system there that is hard to move. Lots of suppliers, skilled people that know what they're doing...

    You will note it is FoxConn working on this. There's nothing of course stopping a Western country from working on it.... but do you know the first thing about assembling mobile phones? No... it takes knowledge. Knowledge that right now resides in China. They know all the tasks people need to do to assemble the smartphone and can then build and task robots to do it.

    And most likely it won't happen all at once. Maybe one part of the assembly gets automated. So that robot is placed in the FoxConn factory in China. A lot of parts suppliers are probably in China too (transport costs there as well). To move the automated factory to the west would cost a lot of time and money... is it worth the shipping costs? Believe it or not... shipping costs... even with todays gas prices are still quite low relative to the costs of everything else.

    I'll leave it to the companies to figure out the optimal cost... but it's just not obvious that you'd want to assemble locally for such small items.

  • by alen ( 225700 ) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @06:25PM (#41553689)

    No one wants toxic waste dumped here in the USA

  • Re:Is labor dying? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 04, 2012 @07:23PM (#41554081)

    There is a lot of work that I would like done. Some quick examples:

    1. My lawn needs mowed.
    2. My house could use a good cleaning.
    3. The common cold needs cured.
    4. Full genome mapping for every individual.
    5. Invent a substance capable of providing the cable for a space elevator.
    6. Build a moon base.

    Some of that could use automated labor as well. However, these are all areas where more labor could be devoted. The big challenge is that most of that needs higher education in a technical field.

    In 1900, 90% of the population worked in farming. The US still devotes more of its population to manufacturing now than it did then.

    Worries about a jobless future are overblown. The big problem with the future is the possibility that it will be too easy not to work. If one person can buy a robot that is capable of building arbitrary things, including another robot, then that person could have the robot build another robot and give it to a friend. Repeat that seven billion times, and everyone in the world has their own robot. Assuming we have easy space capability by that time, we can send the robots out to the asteroid belt to mine resources and move into space mansions.

    How will we get people to do things like research and design? What will be scarce and tradeable? How will we motivate people to get advanced educations?

  • by Plumpaquatsch ( 2701653 ) on Friday October 05, 2012 @07:19AM (#41557083) Journal

    Good point.

    Here's another story that didn't hit the front page:

    Apple stock spanked for low iPhone 5 sales
    Only days after Apple (AAPL) began to put its new iPhone 5 into customers' hands, the company's stock has taken a beating. The reason doesn't have to do with Apple's disappointing mapping software, or even the reports of new iPhones being damaged right out of the box.

    Instead, investors have expressed disappointment in how many iPhone 5 units sold in the first weekend. []

    You mean because it didn't sell twice as many as the iPhone 4S as they expected after they heard of the record pre-orders (as opposed to after the introduction where they predicted it would be a huge flop - just like they said about the 4S)? While being confused how to count those pre-orders not yet shipped?

    Just shows that if there's something dumber than a Fandroid, it's a stock market analyst.

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