Apple’s phones have long been criticized for being difficult to repair or customize. They’re apparently so difficult that Apple is now using a robot to disassemble old iPhones to scrap. At a press conference at its Cupertino, California, headquarters yesterday (Mar. 21), Apple unveiled Liam, a robot that it’s using to recover valuable materials from old iPhones.
The oddly Irish-sounding Liam can recognize phone parts and dissemble iPhones without damaging any parts of the phone, according to Apple. The company said at the event that the robot’s arm can rescue cobalt and lithium from iPhone batteries, gold and copper from the camera element, and silver and platinum from the logic board. “In a world with limited resources, some things can’t be replaced,” Apple said in a promotional video on Liam.
Liam currently only works on iPhone 6 models, but according to Reuters, Apple plans to expand its ability to strip down other iPhone models as well. Liam can strip apart an iPhone in 11 seconds, but Reuters suggests that even when running at full capacity, it can likely only dissemble a few million iPhones a year. Apple recently said that it sold over 231 million iPhones in 2015 alone.
The company is apparently planning to install another Liam in Europe, Reuters reported, but it seems Apple would need a small army of Liams under its employ to recycle all the old iPhones we generate every year. Apple wasn’t immediately available to discuss its plans for Liam. A person with knowledge of the situation told Quartz that Liam’s name didn’t actually mean anything—Apple’s engineers just thought the robot looked like a Liam and the name stuck. Perhaps it’s because it has a particular set of skills.
This post has been updated with information about why the name Liam was chosen.