Daisy the iphone eater

Meet the ma­chine that rips up iphones for re­cy­cling

How It Works - - CONTENTS -

You might be sur­prised to learn that Ap­ple has a ma­chine de­signed specif­i­cally to tear iphones apart, but it’s true. At Ap­ple’s fac­tory in Austin, Texas, and the com­pany’s Euro­pean dis­tri­bu­tion cen­tre, you’ll find a ro­bot called Daisy.

At first glance, Daisy looks like a ma­chine that would put to­gether an iphone on the assem­bly line. In­stead, it sorts through nine dif­fer­ent iphone mod­els and sep­a­rates all of their valu­able parts for re­cy­cling. It’s all au­to­mated, and Daisy can strip 200 iphones in just an hour.

Based on years of re­search and de­sign, Daisy re­moves and sorts use­ful com­po­nents so that Ap­ple can re­cover ma­te­ri­als that nor­mal re­cy­cling prac­tices leave be­hind.

Typ­i­cally, elec­tronic de­vices are ‘shred­ded’, which can con­tam­i­nate each metal and mean more smelt­ing, re­fin­ing and other ex­pen­sive (and pol­lut­ing) pro­cesses have to be com­pleted. With Daisy, Ap­ple can re­move the most valu­able com­po­nents quickly and with­out dam­ag­ing them so they can be melted down and used again more eas­ily.

This is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant for re­cov­er­ing the rare earth mag­nets that drive the iphone’s speaker sys­tem. If an iphone is shred­ded, these neodymium, praseodymium and dys­pro­sium mag­nets cling to other met­als and have to be dis­carded in the re­fin­ing process.

All of this is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant be­cause min­ing these ma­te­ri­als – as well as tin and cobalt that are used in the sol­der and bat­ter­ies re­spec­tively – is in­cred­i­bly dam­ag­ing to the en­vi­ron­ment. Min­ing pro­duces huge amounts of car­bon diox­ide, so the more of these ma­te­ri­als that can be re­cov­ered from old de­vices, the less en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact each new iphone has.

The ul­ti­mate goal is to cre­ate a ‘closed-loop’ sys­tem, where new iphones are made en­tirely from the re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als of old de­vices. With Daisy’s help, Ap­ple are a step closer to their goal.

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