Apple begins hiring iPhone/iPod manufacturing design engineers for Mesa, Arizona plant

Mesa-Arizona

Back in November, the State of Arizona announced that Apple had chosen the city of Mesa to create a new manufacturing facility and in the process 700 new permanent manufacturing jobs. Some had speculated it could be part of CEO Tim Cook’s plan to bring manufacturing of Macs back to the US (Cook previously stated some parts will come from Arizona), but a supplier later revealed it would be providing equipment for the production of sapphire material at Apple’s new plant. Apple never confirmed what the plant would actually be used for, but we’ve discovered through a new job listing that Apple will indeed use the facility for manufacturing iPhone and iPod components. Read more

Apple’s multi-billion dollar spend on gadgets you’ll never see

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Bloomberg claims to have some info on how Apple plans to spend some of the $10.5B it has set aside for capital expenditure over the next year, saying that the investments will span everything from lasers to robots.

Apple is spending more on the machines that do the behind-the-scenes work of mass producing iPhones, iPads and other gadgets. That includes equipment to polish the new iPhone 5c’s colorful plastic, laser and milling machines to carve the MacBook’s aluminum body, and testing gear for the iPhone and iPad camera lens …  Read more

Apple to build new manufacturing facility in Arizona with solar-power, will create 2000+ jobs

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The State of Arizona today announced that Apple is planning to build a new manufacturing facility in the city of Mesa, Arizona. The facility will create 700 jobs for manufacturing, and an additional 1,300 jobs for the construction and management of the new facility, In total, Apple will be bringing at least 2,000 new jobs to the United States thanks to this new facility.

In addition to the manufacturing facility, Apple will be constructing a new solar power grid in the city to power the manufacturing operations, according to Arizona’s announcement:

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Apple confirms iPhone 5s battery life affected by manufacturing issues in some units

Apple has confirmed to The New York Times that a “very limited” number of iPhone 5s units could experience shortened battery life as the result of a manufacturing problem.

“We recently discovered a manufacturing issue affecting a very limited number of iPhone 5S devices that could cause the battery to take longer to charge or result in reduced battery life,” said Teresa Brewer, an Apple spokeswoman. “We are reaching out to customers with affected phones and will provide them with a replacement phone.”

The exact number of affected units is not clear, but the statement is said to imply that the number is in the few thousands range. Apple sold 9 million iPhones total over its opening weekend. The NYT notes that a manufacturing problem does not equal a defective battery, so it is unclear what the actual source of the issue is.

Affected users can expect to be contacted by Apple soon and will be issued a replacement phone.

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Yet another reason Apple has to make its products in China: Rare Earths

With all of the controversy and media attention Apple has experienced since The New York Times’  “How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work” article, a post from Motherboard (via iFixit) provides yet another reason why Apple makes its products in China—rare earths. While noting China’s cheap labor and lack of environmental regulations certainly contribute to Apple’s decision, the post explained how Apple’s use of rare earth elements might make it hard to move manufacturing elsewhere:

But there’s another important reason why Apple and other manufacturers have their heels stuck in Chinese mud. iPad manufacturing, like the manufacturing of other electronics, requires a significant amount of rare earth elements, the 17 difficult-to-mine elements used in all kinds of green technology. It’s hard to say exactly what rare earths are in an iPad, since Apple is really tight-lipped about their materials

iFixit ‘s Elizabeth Chamberlain spoke with Cambridge engineering professor Dr. Tim Coombs who “guesses that there may be lanthanum in the iPad’s lithium-ion polymer battery, as well as ‘a range of rare earths to produce the different colours’ in the display.” He also thinks the magnets in Smart Covers and the iPad itself contain neodymium alloy. So how does rare earths keep Apple tied to China? The report explained: Read more

NYTimes: Why Apple builds its products in China

The NY Times just published an absolutely fascinating piece on Apple and why it builds almost all of its stuff in China. Go read it.  Clearly some of our politicians could learn a lot from it.

The short of it is that companies like Apple simply cannot manufacture products in the United States.  The cost (though it is cheaper in China) is not the reason, however.  Years ago, the Chinese government subsidized building cities of factories that can hire 3,000 workers to live in a dorm per day —or 8,700 Industrial Engineers in two weeks (it would take 9 months to do this in the U.S.).  Today’s gadgets require thousands of little parts that are all made in the same areas.  This whole global supply chain cannot be moved to the U.S.

The most interesting tale might have been the last minute decision to make the iPhone’s display glass:

In 2007, a little over a month before the iPhone was scheduled to appear in stores, Mr. Jobs beckoned a handful of lieutenants into an office. For weeks, he had been carrying a prototype of the device in his pocket.

Mr. Jobs angrily held up his iPhone, angling it so everyone could see the dozens of tiny scratches marring its plastic screen, according to someone who attended the meeting. He then pulled his keys from his jeans.

People will carry this phone in their pocket, he said. People also carry their keys in their pocket. “I won’t sell a product that gets scratched,” he said tensely. The only solution was using unscratchable glass instead. “I want a glass screen, and I want it perfect in six weeks.”

After one executive left that meeting, he booked a flight to Shenzhen, China. If Mr. Jobs wanted perfect, there was nowhere else to go.

 New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.

A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

For over two years, the company had been working on a project — code-named Purple 2 — that presented the same questions at every turn: how do you completely reimagine the cellphone? And how do you design it at the highest quality — with an unscratchable screen, for instance — while also ensuring that millions can be manufactured quickly and inexpensively enough to earn a significant profit?

Other notable tidbits: Read more