One of Apple's most innovative and recently revealed devices is not for sale--and that's kind of the point.
Apple's recycling robot "Liam"--the machine that disassembles used iPhones to salvage parts and materials like copper and platinum--could signal a potential transition for the company to completely automate the production process for iPhones, MIT Technology Review reports.
At Apple's new iPhone event this week, the company showed a video of Liam meticulously taking apart iPhones and extracting parts from the device's logic board. Some of the materials get recycled, while others are used in new devices. Here's what that process looks like:
As MIT Technology Review 's Will Knight points out, China is already moving toward automation throughout its manufacturing facilities, partly due to workers' wages, which have risen 12 percent every year for the past 15 years, and partly due to the competitive advantage that comes with automation. Knight observed this himself during recent visits to manufacturing plants in China.
"I saw how rapidly they are adding robots to production lines," he writes. "The shift seems inexorable, and it's likely to shape the evolution of the Chinese economy, as well as the global manufacturing picture."
The Chinese manufacturer Foxconn, which reportedly churned out more than 500,000 iPhone 5s's per year back in 2013, has already replaced tens of thousands of employees with robots for various tasks other than iPhone assembly, according to MIT Technology Review. They've also begun selling the robots themselves.
Apple's Liam has 29 arms that work together to disassemble old iPhones, and it can take apart more than 1.2 million phones per year. Soon, however, those arms may be used for building the devices, too.