Foxconn Technology Co. Ltd. (TPE:2354) will soon replace human workers with robots to assemble products, a new report says, adding that their in the assembly line is expected in time for production of Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) next-generation smartphone, informally dubbed the “iPhone 6.”
The “Foxbots” are currently being tested and could soon be deployed in at least one major Foxconn facility, with Apple products being the first devices they assemble, IT Home, a Chinese news website, reported, citing Foxconn’s CEO Terry Gou, who made the announcements during a recent shareholder meeting.
According to Gou, the company is planning to install 10,000 Foxbots to produce the iPhone, and each robot can assemble an average of 30,000 devices a year. The robots, which will cost between $20,000 and $25,000 each, could turn out large savings for Foxconn, which currently employs more than 1 million workers across its various factories in China, Apple Insider reported.
Foxconn first announced the deployment of robots in 2011, saying that nearly 10,000 units were already in operation and by 2014 that number would touch the one million mark.
It was reported in March that Apple was planning to have its iPhone batteries fully manufactured on automated production lines in 2014 in an effort to reduce dependence on human workers. The move was expected to help Apple avoid manufacturing defects like the ones found in a small number of iPhone 5s units last year.
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Despite the use of the robots to assemble the iPhone 6, Foxconn will still have to rely on human workers to some extent initially. According to a report last month, Foxconn would recruit as many as 100,000 people to help produce the iPhone 6.
In addition to the hiring spree, Foxconn was also reportedly planning to expand two of its production facilities to meet potentially high demand for the next iPhone.
Apple is likely to release two iPhone 6 models this year, with its Chinese suppliers expected to begin production sometime this month. The new iPhones are rumored to feature 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screens while sporting a rounder and thinner form factor compared to the current-generation versions.