Apple has reportedly been experimenting with automated iPhone assembly in partnership with Foxconn, tests have revealed robots struggle with the more delicate aspects of iPhone assembly. Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou expected by 2014, Foxconn would be using 1 million robots in factories.
However, the team was met with several challenges. For instance, the screws Apple uses in its products are so fiddly, the robots couldn’t cope.
Building a robot that can fasten screws is among the hardest challenges in the industry, according to iMore. A robot must pick up the screw at a specific angle and align it with a hole using multiple industrial cameras. Apple uses screws so tiny that robots had no way to measure the force used to drill them in. By contrast, humans can feel the resistance from their hands and can tell when something is off.
Apple also reportedly tried to automate the production of the 12-inch MacBook, but early trials saw the conveyor system fall foul of erratic movement, and the robot which installed the keyboard using 88 small screws “kept malfunctioning,” requiring humans to come in and clean up afterward.
Automation has proven useful for some less taxing work, like the testing of some devices.