Back in 2011, Foxconn’s CEO (Terry Gou) revealed that the company plans to automate its production line by year 2014, by “employing” one million robots which we all came to refer to as “Foxbots”. While Foxconn made some progress in this area, and although Foxbots have been used in the company’s production line ever since June, the first generation of robots isn’t precise enough to be used in the entire assembly line. The Foxbots are given menial tasks, which fall more in the lines of tightening screws, assembling larger exterior components and so on.
Now, according to a Chinese financial website, it has become very clear to Foxconn that the technology is not there yet, and that Terry Gou’s original plan to rely on a million robots in the assembly line by 2014 was more than ambitious.
Foxconn’s Automation Program Disappoints
The Chinese financial publication known as Jiemian recently reported that Foxconn is facing various difficulties in making its Foxbots good enough for the complete automation program. One of the main issues is that these robots are simply not precise enough, having a production accuracy of 0.05 mm while assembling Apple products requires an accuracy of 0.02 mm.
Another big problem is that the Foxbots are simply too large and clunky, mainly because they have their roots in the automotive industry. Needless to say, these robots can be used for handling materials and other tasks that don’t require finesse, but assembling a fully-automated iPhone factory seems impossible at this point.
These robots need to be quite flexible, figuratively, in order to be capable of undergoing numerous tasks, and one of the most challenging requirements to make these units more versatile is to develop Foxbots with 5 flexible fingers. The technology is simply not there yet, and it seems that Foxconn would require at least one or two more years before Foxbots will reach an acceptable level.
The 2nd generation Foxbots has already been rumored to be in the making, but it seems that we won’t see any breakthroughs anytime soon.