A Chinese startup company called Megvii has developed an industrial robot for Foxconn to use in its smartphone manufacturing operations.
Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai Precision, is the main supplier to Apple, making iPhones and iPads for the tech giant.
Foxconn is also said to be the world’s largest contract manufacturer, employing a massive 1.3 million people and generating revenues in excess of $136 billion a year.
The South China Morning Post reports that the robot Megvii is testing will save one of the manual steps in the making of smartphones.
As quoted by SCMP, Megvii’s founder and CEO, Yin Qi, says: “With new emerging technologies, we can address soft spots in industrial manufacturing one at a time.”
However, Qi did not divulge any technical details of the robot, and we haven’t republished the picture for copyright reasons – but it can be seen on the SCMP website.
The Megvii website mostly talks about the company’s main work, which is in the development of artificial intelligence systems for such things as facial identification, which is one of the features of the iPhone X, the new, top-of-the-range smartphone from Apple.
It’s not clear to us, however, whether Megvii, which is also known as Face++ or Beijing Kuang as Technology Company, is the company which supplied the facial ID system to Apple. But its customers include large companies such as Lenovo, Alipay, Citic, and Xiaomi.
Foxconn currently has approximately 40,000 industrial robots at work in its production facilities, and the company is looking to automate even more of its processes.
The company is said to be producing 10,000 robots annually. These robots are called Foxbots, and it is one of these machines that Megvii appears to have modified or customised, judging from the picture on the SCMP website.
Earlier this year, DigiTimes reported that a Foxconn executive was talking about introducing “fully automated” production lines.
This could mean tens of thousands of human workers at Foxconn lose their jobs, but the company says this may not necessarily be the case as those humans could be reallocated.
However, the company has already fired 60,000 people because it’s been able to replace them with robots.
Meanwhile, Foxconn has been negotiating with governments in India and the US, among other places, about setting up facilities in those countries.