The first quarter of Apple’s March 2016 keynote was dedicated to its environmental efforts and Liam is the company's new robot that'll be taking apart your old iPhones from now on.
We’re not exactly sure where the name ‘Liam’ came from. Initially, we like many others assumed it was some sort of acronym (akin to the Apple Lisa), but according to the team who actually developed the robot, it just looked like a 'Liam'.
Mashable, who gained early access to Liam ahead of its unveiling at the latest Apple keynote, revealed that a version of the robot was already in trials as far back the iPhone 5. That early iteration was a single-armed robot tasked with every stage of disassembly, however Liam in its current form is actually a 29-armed robot, replete with suction cups, laser scanners, drills and vacuum tubes that can disassemble an iPhone in stages with speed and precision.
Presently one Liam resides in the US, but there are plans to build a similar robot in Europe to carry out the same task. Liam is fitted to specifically take apart iPhone 6s handsets, with a conveyor that can accommodate up to 40 handsets at one time. The design is such that a phone is disassembled every 11 seconds and if one arm has trouble on a particular task, there are others to keep the line flowing, whilst the occupied arm attempts to successfully carry out its set job.
Liam is a really tangible example of Apple's environmental efforts. It moves away from conventional recycling methods that typically involve shredding electronics, thus mixing materials, making them harder to separate down the line. Instead it allows for clean and easy separation of precious materials including conflict metals like tungsten, as well as safe removal of the iPhone's lithium battery, which posses a toxic hazard when ruptured in typical recycling processes.