Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple a patent that relates to automated disassembly of portable electronic devices. More particularly, the present embodiments relate to a modular system for automating a disassembly procedure for different portable electronic devices. Commercially, the system was marketed as "Daisy," big sister to "Liam."
In their patent background, Apple notes that consumer electronic devices are sold to various customers all over the globe. These devices are designed to do a variety of tasks that change the way people live and interact. Over one billion new smart phones are sold worldwide every year. Manufacturers also sell other devices such as tablet computers, laptop computers, televisions, digital cameras, wearable devices, drones, home appliances, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and many other types of consumer electronic devices every year.
As technology evolves, new features are integrated into these devices. Materials utilized to manufacturer particular components or a form factor of the device may change as new models are designed and sold. New components may be added to the devices or old components may be replaced with new components. Consumers are constantly upgrading the devices they have bought with newer generations of the same device or similar devices, which may lead some consumers to no longer want their old consumer electronic devices.
However, consumer electronic devices may include hazardous materials such as heavy metals in lithium-ion batteries or arsenic, copper, lead, and/or other elements in printed circuit boards that may be toxic. There is a desire to prevent landfills from being filled with these harmful materials.
In addition, some materials in consumer electronic devices may be very valuable if properly recycled. Consequently, there is a desire to collect older consumer electronic devices in order to salvage the components for reuse or recycle the materials included in these devices. However, the numbers of devices that may need to be processed on a yearly basis is too large and potentially hazardous to efficiently handle with manual disassembly techniques.
Apple's granted patent relates to modular systems for automated disassembly of portable electronic devices. The modular systems comprise a number of modules that perform different portions of the disassembly process. Each module includes one or more stations designed and configured to perform a specific task in the disassembly process.
According to some embodiments, a method operable by an electronic component recovery system for detaching an electronic component adhesively bonded to a housing by way of an adhesive bond, is described. The electronic component is carried within a cavity defined by the housing of a portable electronic device.
The method can include while the housing having the electronic component attached thereto is located at an electronic component detaching module, where the electronic component detaching module includes a movable arm capable of rotating about a hinge: cooling the housing and the electronic component attached thereto to a temperature that is low enough to weaken the adhesive bond, and causing the movable arm to rotate about the hinge such that a portion of the housing strikes a detachment element with sufficient force to separate the electronic component from the housing.
According to some embodiments, an electronic component recovery system for use with a portable electronic device having a housing and an electronic component that is: (i) adhesively bonded to the housing by an adhesive bond, and (ii) carried within a cavity defined by the housing, is described. The electronic component recovery system can be capable of recovering the electronic component in an environmentally friendly manner. The electronic component recovery system can include a controller capable of providing a control signal and a swing arm in communication with the controller and capable of acting in accordance with the control signal, the electronic component capable of being secured to the swing arm, where the swing arm is capable of rotating relative to an axis such that the electronic component has a pre-determined kinetic energy at an angle of rotation corresponding to an impact point.
The electronic component recovery system can further include a cooling module in communication with the controller and capable of responding to the control signal by providing a coolant that reduces a temperature of the adhesive so as to weaken the adhesive bond. The electronic component recovery system can further include a detachment element located at the impact point, where a portion of the housing striking the detachment element at the impact point imparts a detachment force corresponding to the kinetic energy, and the detachment force is sufficient to overcome the adhesive bond.
Apple's patent FIG. 1A below illustrates a system diagram of a modular system for disassembling portable electronic devices; FIG. 2B illustrates an exploded view of a portable electronic device that is disassembled by the modular system.
Apple's patent FIGS. 6A-6B above illustrate a first transfer station of the first module which can also apply to the second transfer station #104-2 and the third transfer station #104-3. The first transfer station #104-1 is proximate the robot such that the robot can place the housing into one of the slots in the first transfer station. shown in FIG. 6B, the first transfer station 104-1 includes a rotary unit #610.
In some embodiments, the inspection unit uses laser range-finding techniques to measure the profile of the components included within the cavity enclosed within the housing #252. A laser beam is directed toward the housing and a receiving unit included in the inspection unit measures the time it takes for the laser beam to be reflected back to the receiving unit. The time can be converted to a distance. By scanning the laser beam across a path that intersects the housing, topological data for the cavity enclosed within the housing is created.
As illustrated in patent FIG. 8D below, a robotic arm (#860) is capable of transferring the housing of the portable electronic device between the first transfer station, the second transfer station and the electronic component removal station #810.
Apple's patent FIG. 11A above illustrates a pulling unit #1150--e.g., the pulling unit that is capable of separating the electronic component from the housing.
Apple's patent FIG. 23 above illustrates an out-feed unit #108. As shown in FIG. 23, the sorting table #1860 includes a table top #2302 that includes orifices #2304-A and #2304-B. The orifices lead to chutes into one or more receptacles #2310 located beneath the table top.
In some embodiments, the receptacles #2310 are on wheels and include a handle for rolling bins of sorted components to a location to be recycled. The sorting table can also include a rotating table #2320 located beneath an exit of the conveyor #1808.
In some embodiments, the rotating table can include a vibratory element that helps separate the components from smaller particulate matter that may result from one of the disassembly tasks performed by the fourth module.
While we simply know this system as "Daisy," the patent goes miles deep into how Daisy operates that may interest some to explore in Apple's granted patent 11,129,318.