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Liam disassembles iPhones, for now

Thursday, 24 March, 2016

Tuesday’s post here, Apple is losing more than the name game, was rather harsh on the company’s Special Event in Cupertino on Monday. But the occasion was not without some worthy highlights. One was provided by Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives. In China, the company has built a solar farm that doesn’t disturb the local Yak population, she said. In Singapore, it is 100 percent renewable because of solar panels on the roofs of buildings. Then, Jackson’s really cool announcement: Apple has developed a robot that disassembles iPhones down to their smallest components to improve recovery and recycling of materials. It is called Liam:

Liam completes an iPhone disassembly every 11 seconds and can manage some 350 units an hour, equivalent to 1.2 million iPhones a year. Traditional tech recycling involves a shredder that makes it hard to separate materials, but Liam is programmed to disassemble returned iPhones part by part — batteries, SIM card trays, screws and cameras. In this way, plastic and glass are not mixed in with metal, making the components easier to recycle. To complete the virtuous (re)cycle, the salvaged components can be sold to vendors that specialize in cobalt, tungsten, copper and nickel, and turned into something useful.

Prediction: If Apple can build robots to disassemble iPhones, we must assume that it is working on robots that will assemble iPhones.

Name: Liam is the Irish Gaelic version of William, which has its origins in the Frankish Willahelm. When the Frankish Empire was divided in two in 843, Willahelm became Wilhelm in the German half, while in the French half, it developed into Guillaume. The English William is the end product of this evolution.


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