Can a robot install a tempered glass screen protector? Swappie is exploring the possibilities of automation and robotics

The Finnish company Swappie refurbishes iPhones using in-house technology in the Kalasatama district of Helsinki. The company’s secret weapon is the in-house maintenance technology that guarantees the quality of the phones sold. That is why the company sells the phones with a 12-month warranty. 

Swappie is one of the fastest growing companies in the world. Now, they are considering which stages of the refurbishment process could be automated to allow their employees to focus more on their personal strengths.

“This is a real vantage point. It is a unique opportunity to get to work with such an interesting, new methodology that has a big impact on the carbon footprint of phones,” says Jaakko Nyrhinen, Automation & Robotics Engineer at Swappie. 

He has worked with robotics in various industries for the past 18 years. He has work experience from all over the world.

A 52-step inspection process

Before servicing a phone, Swappie’s technicians test each one using a 52-step process. A technician checks all of the phone’s functions one by one: does the touch screen work? Is the battery in excellent condition? Does the speaker crackle? How about the microphone? Are colours displayed correctly?  

Once all faulty components are replaced or refurbished, the phone goes through another inspection process. When the phone is ready, the technician selects a condition category to indicate its appearance. The phone will then be put on sale on Swappie’s website.

Nyrhinen’s task is to consider which parts of the phone’s journey could be automated. 

“When the tester receives a repaired phone, it is connected to a computer, the test software is launched and the phone goes through the full list of tests. In the long run, it may get tiresome for the technician to listen to whether the speaker works or check if the colours are displayed correctly. This work can be automated in order to allow technicians to focus on even more challenging tasks in the future,” says Nyrhinen. 

Automation and robotics will enable Swappie to ensure consistency, especially in repeated tasks. Employees will use devices in their work and solve any potential problems. 

“Our technicians are unique experts, even on the global scale, whose experience can be used in more challenging tasks. At Swappie, automation will allow people to use machines and take on more meaningful tasks, where the employees can make better use of their strengths,” says Nyrhinen.

Could a robot install a tempered glass screen protector?

More and more employees are working side by side with automation and robotics. The challenge lies in the fact that it is more difficult to find solutions for unique technologies. Premium quality of work is a must in the end result, to ensure that customers get the best possible quality. 

“This is modern craftsmanship, where human hands will continue to play a big role even in the future,” Nyrhinen says. 

For example, installing a tempered glass screen protector is a familiar task for many. A single dust particle under the glass will cause an annoying air bubble. Nyrhinen thinks that in addition to traditional targets of automation, this could be an interesting work step that could be handled better. 

“The challenge is that the space must be clean and completely dust-free. Today, machine vision is so advanced that it could detect every single air bubble,” Nyrhinen says.

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