How Apple’s Daisy iPhone recycling robot works

Daisy is designed to pull apart iPhones that would cost too much to refurbish and are deemed end-of-life. It’s staffed by three to four people.

James Martin/CNET

Daisy is many things. It’s a 33-foot-long robot that pulls apart iPhones with its five arms. It was created by Apple. It’s a cacophony of servos, pressurized screw punches and other moving parts. It may also hold a key to electronic recycling’s future.

This robot, announced last year, is at the center of a new Material Recovery Lab Apple’s built in Texas. The lab is designed to share Daisy’s technology and help advance e-recycling. Apple hopes the project will attract academics, recyclers and other companies to participate. 

“This is about the big hairy goal of making all our products from recycled materials,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, in an interview. “It’s going to take a while, but it’ll also take tons of innovation.”

While at the lab, we got to watch Daisy in action. Here’s what we saw:

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This is a traditional e-recycling machine, which smashes electronics in an effort to expose valuable materials and collect them.

James Martin/CNET

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Unfortunately, these materials often get co-mingled and become impure in the process.

James Martin/CNET

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Apple’s first recycling robot, Liam, was announced in 2016 and was designed to disassemble the iPhone 6. Liam processed phones every 12 minutes.

James Martin/CNET

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An iPhone begins its journey through Daisy on the conveyer belt.

James Martin/CNET

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In the first stop, Daisy jams a set of prongs into the crease between the phone’s screen and body, separating them.

James Martin/CNET

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In the next section, the iPhone loses its battery and screws.

James Martin/CNET

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How do you remove a battery glued onto the phone’s body? Blast the glue with freezing air and knock it with enough force. The battery just falls out.

James Martin/CNET

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Then the screws that hold the logic board are punched out. Daisy identifies which phone it’s looking at and the angle at which it’s sitting to make sure it’s accurate.

James Martin/CNET

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At the last stage, Daisy removes the cameras, haptics, speakers and other bits. Daisy’s left with an aluminum shell, which can be carted off to be recycled.

James Martin/CNET

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