Get to know Liam, Apple’s iPhone disassembling robot

IDG.TV | Mar 29, 2016

Apple gets serious about recycling with Liam, a 29-armed robot designed to take your iPhone apart precisely in 11 seconds.

Apple’s coolest invention won’t be coming to an Apple Store any time soon. Because it’s actually a robot that can take your iPhone apart in just 11 seconds. Meet Liam, the future of Apple recycling.

A new iPhone and a new iPad weren’t enough to steal the spotlight away from Liam at Apple’s event last week. Liam is the robot the company built to disassemble recycled iPhones, and a video of it doing its thing racked up over a million views on YouTube in just a few days.

But how does Liam work exactly? And how does it fit into Apple’s larger environmental strategy? For starters, Liam has 29 robotic arms rolled into one, each designed to take apart a section of the iPhone 6s with near-perfect precision. So if you send your old iPhone back to Apple for recycling, chances are that it will end up in a mysterious warehouse near Cupertino where Liam awaits.

The first robotic arm removes the screen from the casing. Another arm then removes the battery, and then the SIM card. I don’t think Liam has ever been to Burning Man, but this robot still leaves no trace behind. Even the tiniest screws are sucked up by Liam’s suction tubes and kept in a container.

According to Mashable, some of Liam’s robotic arms work in pairs. Meaning that one arm could be removing the screws on your iPhone, while the other one tampers with getting the battery out. Damn, I hope your iPhone has a safe word.

This teaming up makes Liam super efficient, and able to take your iPhone completely apart in just 11 seconds. That’s faster than the time it takes to watch two Vines back-to-back. Liam disassembles 350 iPhones every hour, which adds up to 1.2 million recycled phone every year.

Apple clearly takes recycling very seriously, Tim Cook kicked off the event last week talking about it. And Liam is just the first step towards the company reaching its goal of becoming 100 percent sustainable. Even though Liam is designed to only take apart the iPhone 6s, Apple has plans to create a Liam robot to disassemble other recycled iGear. And Apple’s European recycling facility is also getting a Liam of their own.

Being a mean, green recycling machine sure sounds like a full-time job. But don’t worry, Liam is only put to work Monday to Friday. Robots need the weekend off, too, you know.