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Apple Unveils Liam, An iPhone Recycling Robot That Salvages Parts (inhabitat.com) 70

MikeChino writes from an article on Inhabitat: There are around one billion Apple devices in use, and with that comes "significant responsibility," according to Apple CEO Tim Cook. That's why Apple just unveiled Liam, a robot that quickly and efficiently disassembles old iPhones so that their components can be reused for other products (like solar panels).
According to the Inhabitat, "The robot takes apart old iPhones, removing each component and extracting metals like lithium, so that the parts can be reused and your phone 'can live on.'" TechCrunch notes that Liam specifically rescues cobalt and lithium from the battery, gold and copper from the camera, silver and platinum from the logic board and the aluminum enclosure, as well.
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Apple Unveils Liam, An iPhone Recycling Robot That Salvages Parts

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  • But I will disassemble you.
  • Apple is green-minded my ass. More like they've realized there's money to be made in the recycling business as long as robots costs less than African or Chinese children's labor. Now it's happened and they want a share of the pie.

    They've had decades to think about their responsibility towards the environment, and they haven't done jack squat about it up to now...

    • by Hentes ( 2461350 )

      If there's money in it that's even better, means that more businesses will start recycling in the future.

    • In business, this is known as a "win-win". I agree... it's terrible when everybody is happy, right?

      In case you hadn't heard, Apple recently switched CEOs. Maybe the company has slightly different priorities with a different person in charge?

    • Money is a far better motivator than anything else. If you want people to do something, make it profitable for them to do so and that's the end of it. No need to beg, lecture, etc.

      The amount of materials if most phones or other electronic components aren't worth the cost of hiring a person to extract them, so of course we're going to use a robot. Apple just talks up the greenness in order to appeal to the kind of people that buy into that stuff because it makes the feel good about themselves. If you real
      • by necro81 ( 917438 )

        If you want people to do something, make it profitable for them to do so and that's the end of it. No need to beg, lecture, etc.

        Inversely, and a necessary component of any environmental policy, is this: if you want people to not do something, make it expensive for them to do it. Then the mash-up converse policy: if you want people to do something, make it too expensive for them not to do it.

    • They've had decades to think about their responsibility towards the environment, and they haven't done jack squat about it up to now...

      Better late than never. If they're better than their competition then they deserve some kudos. I doubt they'll make a great deal of money on recycling, the aluminum content will be a few cans worth... they will also recover some of the previous metals in the phone but there's precious little of those.

      This is probably about a combination of good marketing to a public which

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        Better late than never. If they're better than their competition then they deserve some kudos. I doubt they'll make a great deal of money on recycling, the aluminum content will be a few cans worth... they will also recover some of the previous metals in the phone but there's precious little of those.

        This is probably about a combination of good marketing to a public which is increasingly concerned about environmental impact as well as a portion or corporate environmental responsibility.

        Actually, e-waste as

        • True, they'll make a bit of money, especially with automation, but Apple's bread and butter is their huge profit margin on the iPhone. They make hundreds of dollars in profit per phone sold. Optimistically they'll get what - a few dollars worth of materials per recycled iPhone? This program will make them money mainly by driving new sales from positive publicity and giving people an environmentally friendly way to get rid of old phones (giving them incentive to make new purchases).

    • by hondo77 ( 324058 )

      Apple is green-minded my ass. More like they've realized there's money to be made in the recycling business...

      Oh no! Apple wants to make money? When did that start happening!?!

    • Ah, no.
      The realization came quite a long time ago, that Marketing is the specialty of Apple.
      This is just some more nice warm fuzzy marketing.

      Of course they wont actually use this - as it wont work if the phone has physical damage - just look at the methods used - they require nice
      smooth surfaces for the vacuum handlers, screws that remove cleanly, etc, etc.

      NO WAY IN HELL this will work for the type of phones generally thrown away.
      Most phones in good enough condition to be workable in this 'robot' should sim

      • Who says they need smooth surfaces for the vacuum handlers? What a silly idea. So long as there's plenty of suction, a few scratches and cracks aren't going to prevent a suction pick up.

        And who says the screws need to remove cleanly? Just because in the video, the screws were cleanly unscrewed, doesn't mean that there isn't a backup of drilling them out. It's a robot, it can adjust depending on what it's faced with.

        You're vastly underestimating what industrial robots can do. If a human can do it, a robot ca

    • by jcr ( 53032 )

      You don't know shit. Quit pretending you do.

      -jcr

    • They've had decades to think about their responsibility towards the environment, and they haven't done jack squat about it up to now...

      They built a robot, which couldn't be bought, to specifically disassemble their products. That sounds like a little more than squatting.

  • From TFA:
    “Every time you send an iMessage, ask Siri a question, or make a FaceTime call, you can feel good about your impact on the environment,” said Jackson.
    Haha, umm, OK.
    How long until Siri is instructing Liam to "recycle" humans for the coming Robo-pocalyse.
    • by tom229 ( 1640685 )
      What a load of marketing garbage. This company continues to prove it either has no shame, or no clue.
  • China will say no they need to keep the jobs and they have the power to shut foxcon / apple down.

  • by Rob from RPI ( 4309 ) <xrobau@gmail.com> on Monday March 21, 2016 @05:46PM (#51747757) Homepage

    but isn't this an extremely handy way to remove old, but functioning, phones from the second hand market?

    Sorry kids, your'e not getting Mum's perfectly good phone, because we're giving it to the bot that will smash it. But we'll buy you an new iPad instead.

    • but isn't this an extremely handy way to remove old, but functioning, phones from the second hand market?

      Why? If Apple finds the phone is working, why would THEY not put it on the secondary market (which they have done forever).

      Rather it's a simple way for Apple to get even more devices in for potential resale, along with a secondary supply of key materials (when you process as many devices as Apple does you would gain a fair amount of material from recycling).

      It's also a partial hedge against future mater

      • by kuzb ( 724081 )

        If Apple were to give you fail market value for your device I wouldn't have a problem with it. However they don't even come close. Only the most extreme brand loyalists (read: idiots) think selling their device back to apple at a microscopic fraction of its actual worth is a good idea.

        • Apple's price is not much different than any other third party service that buys back phones - you take a hit over selling it yourself because of convenience.

          Apple just happen to also be able to fix anything wrong with a device you turn in, or scrap it if worthless...

          I gave up selling old phones some time ago because it's easy enough to get ripped off, that the loss from using a service to sell the phone to means almost nothing.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Having done this recently, at least for some devices, they do give you fair market value. I recently sold an iPhone 5 back to them, and they gave me $195 for it. A quick stare at eBay suggests the going rate is about $130-150 for one.

          That said, a Mac from about 5 years ago appears to net you a grand total of $50, which is *way* under its value on eBay.

          • So, do they pay you cash, or is it a 'discount/voucher off a new model at standard price'?
            Because unless its the first, its not comparable, of course.....

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      but isn't this an extremely handy way to remove old, but functioning, phones from the second hand market?

      Sorry kids, your'e not getting Mum's perfectly good phone, because we're giving it to the bot that will smash it. But we'll buy you an new iPad instead.

      Maybe, but Apple needs to get the phones. And I don't know about you, but buying a new iPad would be more expensive than giving the kids the old iPhone.

      Apple has a robot to disassemble phones. But to take them off the secondary market would require Apple

    • by fizzup ( 788545 )

      I think if Mum believes she gets the most benefit if she gives her phone to her kids, she will give her phone to her kids. If she thinks there is a greater economic benefit if she recycles her phone, she will probably recycle it. Not everything is a conspiracy.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      but isn't this an extremely handy way to remove old, but functioning, phones from the second hand market?

      Yup. Just like people who trade-in their car when buying a new one. They could probably sell that old model for hundreds or thousands of dollars more for what they're getting for the trade-in, but it's a hassle to do so.

      This isn't anything new. They've been doing it for years, even without a fancy schmancy robot.

      Besides that, it's also a way to recycle old, non-functional devices. I'd sooner give my

    • Sorry kids, your'e not getting Mum's perfectly good phone, because we're giving it to the bot that will smash it. But we'll buy you an new iPad instead.

      You're sorry? The kids are not. They're too spoiled for crappy hand-me downs when they need the latest and greatest iPhone 6+ just to not be shamed and shunned in social circles at school.

      Actually in some families I see hand me ups. The kids upgrade and the parents get the old ones. But you do realise that it's entirely optional to return the device right? Your cynicism is misplaced, and if you think it's not I suggest you visit the local dump at some point and see how many itoys you can find lying in a hea

  • by lionchild ( 581331 ) on Monday March 21, 2016 @05:46PM (#51747759) Journal

    Not to be confused with his cousin, Mail, who will be assembling new iPhones, the next building over.

    • by drnb ( 2434720 )

      Not to be confused with his cousin, Mail, who will be assembling new iPhones, the next building over.

      Wow, so a Trump campaign promise might actually be feasible. Apple returning to domestic manufacturing. ;-)

    • so, what will disassemble all the liam robots when they reaches the end of their useful life?

  • by ickleberry ( 864871 ) <web@pineapple.vg> on Monday March 21, 2016 @05:51PM (#51747809) Homepage
    Is there any machine out there that is the reverse of a PCB pick and place machine, that desolders those miniscule SMD resistors and caps, measures them and puts them all into nice ribbons?

    What about a cup-to-bean coffee machine that people can throw their slops of cold, milky coffee in to produce coffee beans at the other end?
    • I... don't think it works that way.

      You see, coffee machines turn coffee beans into hot coffee which is then further processed into cold coffee through a Brownian deceleration method. In order to turn cold coffee into coffee beans you'd first have to find a way to turn it into hot coffee again - and I don't see any technology like that in the forseeable future.
      • Coffee contains bits of coffee bean and therefore can be made back into coffee beans again.

        There are bigger gains to be had from reprocessing used ground coffee that's still in the machine than from the slop but both have some bit of potential
        • Um... no. You will not get a coffee bean. Dang, they needed to do more actual biology on Mythbusters. If you mean you could smush the grounds back into a bean shape with the addition of binder and make a thing that could be used as bait in a hipster trap, OK, but since much of the oils and chemicals that make coffee taste like coffee and most of the caffeine gone after the first steeping making it basically useless for making coffee... that's not a coffee bean. If you mean you could use the coffee groun
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      Why? you shave them off as they will be ground up, then smelted to get the metals back. Used chips are worse than china black market copies.

    • by Arkh89 ( 2870391 )

      And what about a machine that takes your old, messy and large entropy and reduce to a new, tiny and shiny one?

    • You just invented compost.

      Imagine a future of 'smart' buildings where every office kitchen is fitted with a waste disposal unit that sends organic waste down chutes and up tubes to the rooftop greenhouse to fertilise climatically controlled coffee plants.

    • Is there any machine out there that is the reverse of a PCB pick and place machine, that desolders those miniscule SMD resistors and caps, measures them and puts them all into nice ribbons?

      You put effort into scavenging tiny parts for resale with an unknown history of wear, unknown branding, likely unknown tolerance ratings at small quantities to try and sell second hand competing with a product that costs only a fraction of a cent?

      Not only is there no such machine, there won't ever be such a machine.

  • Liam specifically rescues cobalt and lithium from the battery, gold and copper from the camera, silver and platinum from the logic board and the aluminum enclosure, as well.

    It's an arm that disassembles iPhones. Sure, separating parts is a first step to recovering raw materials, but they make it sound like the thing has some magic nano-disassembler ray.

    The thing is, Apple will sell something like 8 iPhones per second. Think of how many workers it takes to *assemble* iPhones; it would take a similar army of

    • by drnb ( 2434720 )

      ... Apple likely built this as a testbed for robot manufacturing ...

      They are getting ready for Trump, when they will have to manufacture domestically again. :-)

    • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Monday March 21, 2016 @06:17PM (#51748047)

      To some degree, economizing and efficiency can be better for the environment. The more you can recycle, the less you're dumping. The less waste you have, especially some of the stuff like heavy metals, it's going to be a good thing.

      I'm under no illusion that this sort of efficiency will be anything close to a dedicated, large scale program to clean up industry. By itself, this is a drop in the bucket.

      However, if all manufacturers started their process with designing in small, but an increasing number of improvements to waste reduction which happen to coincide with with supply chain efficiency, after awhile it will have a real effect on the whole industry by changing the way things are done slowly.

      There's two things you have to do in order to have a better environmental future: the big cleanups, and the small, but continuous process refinements that consolidate any gains into the future. No one is going to stop making gadgets like iPhones, so it is important for Apple and others to think this way. We just need to make sure they keep it up.

  • Essentially, Cook feels it's his responsibility to underpay you for your used device so he can turn a profit on the components. Apple's recycling program is a joke. Assuming your device is in working order, you'll make more on ebay than you will giving it back to them.

  • It takes throngs of slave children in china to make them?

    Honestly why cant they be assembled by robots?

    • Honestly why cant they be assembled by robots?

      They can be, but so far it's still cheaper to enslave people.

  • I joke about Liam having a cousin Mail who'll be assembling iPhones in the next building over, but if you can use Liam to dismantle the phones, anywhere in the world, why couldn't you soon use something very similar, to assemble the iPhone/iPad/iPod, anywhere in the world. (And suddenly, Apple was assembling iDevices in the United States.)

    Yes, yes...I know, I know. It's far less complicated and easier to disassemble the devices than build them. You're not nearly as worried about damaged parts. However,

  • is that they're doing it with robots now. It used to be only humans could do this kind of pretty fine grain work. At least the initial disassembly.
    • by marciot ( 598356 )

      is that they're doing it with robots now. It used to be only humans could do this kind of pretty fine grain work.

      It probably relies on the components all being in the exact same place. If you really want to f*ck with Liam, open your old iPhone and rearrange the innards prior to sending it back to Apple for recycling.

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