Apple’s Disassembly Robot

Links to articles:


  • Daisy is able to “disassemble nine different kinds of iPhones, 200 per hour, and separate into logical buckets of recyclable materials and components”
  • Disassembly vs. Shredding: most recycling involves high-volume shredding where devices are shredded and then separated by hand or machine.
  • This type of shredding is not ideal for today, when there are around 70 different materials (over 3/4 of the period table) in a product today.
  • “Daisy separates nine different iPhone models into logical parts that can be recycled today, recycled in the future, or disposed of as safely as reasonably possible.”
  • Process: (1) Daisy senses if there is more than a 10mm bend. If so, it is rejected. Phone needs to have some amount of rigidity. (2) takes off the display with something that looks like a skewer. Display removed and placed in a bin. (3) remove the earpiece with a tap, then the piece drops into a chute. (4) the earpiece has a magnet with rare earth metals, so like the display, cannot be recycled. (5) remove the battery. Battery glued in place so it must be blast with -80c air for a few seconds, freeze it and the adhesive keeps it in place, then knocks it out. Freezes then knocks out. (6) batteries are scanned, bagged and inventoried for reuse or cobalt recycling. (7) iPhone’s aluminum housing with one PCB with components attached with screws, sometimes titanium which needs to be removed. 5 robot arms punch out all the screws. (8) last robot bores out all the PCB, camera, speaker, haptics, logo and remaining PCB assemblies with one stroke. all these components fall into a conveyor. (9) aluminum shell then gets dropped into a bin to be sorted. (10) worker cleans up aluminum shell, removes any remaining adhesives and sorts into 3 distinct metals types (“6K” and 2 types of “7K”).


This is crazy! I can’t believe it! This idea of having a robot that is smart enough to know what model the device is to know hot to disassemble it properly is exactly what I was writing about a week or so ago! This was marvelous for me to see and gives me more faith in Apple. It is amazing that this robot is reverse engineering the whole manufacturing process. This really could solve a big portion of the electronic recycling issue and provides a good alternative to our two other alternatives (products going to landfills or products going to recyclers who may or may not be exporting to other countries).

Questions: What does Apple do to the parts that are disassembled? Are they reused for new products or are they melted down again? I would think they are reused for new devices but that means they must have more labor that manually checks to see if those components still work…right? If it were melted, and not reused, then it seems like the difference between this robot and the shredders at the recyclers is that the quality of material separation is better.