Watch Apple’s Super-Secret Recycling Bot “Liam” Rip Apart an iPhone

Rafia Shaikh

Along with a smaller iPhone and an iPad, Apple also unveiled Liam - an iPhone disassembly robot - at its March 21 keynote. Designed and built by Apple itself, Liam pulls apart old iPhones to recycle their parts. The robot has been launched in response to the criticism that Apple's products are difficult to deconstruct, making it harder to reuse the parts. Liam will help portray a better and greener image of the company by recovering valuable materials, like silver, gold and tungsten, from old iPhones for recycling.

As most of us were more focused on the newly released 4-inch iPhone SE than anything else, let's take a moment and watch this amazingly designed bot work its way inside an iPhone and cleanly disassemble it for recycling. Watching this, I almost exclaimed, "So robotic!" But then, it is a robot. Meh.

apple robot liam recycles iphone

Watch Liam cleanly and quickly disassemble an iPhone

Apple focused a lot on preserving the environment during its latest event. The company has long been criticized for its lack of focus on making products that are upgradable, helping them live longer. Apple is now taking steps to minimize its impact on the environment and make its products more green. Since we can't expect the Cupertino tech giant to produce gadgets with longer life expectancy, it is certainly working to consciously recycle the materials used in the iPhones.

The world is awash in discarded electronic equipment, with the United States and China accounting for nearly a third of it.

Less than a sixth of global e-waste is properly recycled or made available for reuse, according to an April 2015 United Nations University report. - Reuters

Made up of 29 robotic modules, Apple has been working on its disassembly robot for nearly three years. The robot currently sits at one location near Apple's headquarters, but Apple has promised to install a second unit in Europe later this year.

Wondering how fast Liam actually is? Watch this beautifully designed disassembly robot at work salvaging parts of an old iPhone for recycling.

Kyle Wiens of iFixit said that a large number of older iPhones are resold to people in China and Africa, which have limited recycling options, "putting robots in California and Europe may not address that problem." iFixit is popular for breaking open every high-end smartphone that is launched in the market, giving them a repairability score.

"On the one hand there is this really cool robot, and that's great. On the other hand there are a lot of realities on the ground that will make this not really have an impact," Wiens added in a comment to Reuters.

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