CNET reports that Foxconn, Apple's primary manufacturing partner for iOS devices, has recently begun adding in-line x-ray imaging machines to its production lines, seeking to improve quality control while also seeking to increase automation.
Foxconn Technology, which has about 1.2 million employees working at its myriad factories in China, has begun adding automated inline X-ray inspection systems to its plants, according to a source with first-hand knowledge of the change. With inline X-ray machines using software algorithms to inspect solder joints or printed circuit boards at production line speeds, a company is able to spot defects that humans might miss before the pieces get tucked into packages for resale.
The report points to Foxconn's announcement last year that it intends to add one million robots to its production facilities in an effort to increase efficiency and address rising labor costs. Foxconn has come under fire for its treatment of workers at its facilities, and recent wage hikes combined with other expenses associated with meeting labor standards and Apple's continued growth may be tipping the economic balance for Foxconn toward more automation.
Today's report does not specifically state that the x-ray machines are being used on production lines dedicated to Apple products, but with Apple being the manufacturer's largest and highest-profile customer it seems likely that the iPhone and iPad are part of its automation plans.