Foxconn adds X-ray inspections to reduce defects in Apple products

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Apple supplier Foxconn has begun adding automated X-ray machines to its assembly lines, allowing it to inspect and cut down on defects with devices like the iPhone and iPad.

Citing a source with first-hand knowledge of the changes, CNet reported on Monday that Foxconn's inline X-ray inspection systems have begun to appear at its plants in China. The machines are said to rely on software algorithms to quickly inspect solder joints or printed circuit boards at speeds that allow the production line to continue moving quickly.

The new equipment could not only allow Foxconn to improve efficiency and cut down on errors, it could also allow the manufacturing company to reduce rising labor costs. In the face of rising criticism, the company announced last month that it had raised the wages of its workers by as much as 25 percent.

But the source who revealed Foxconn's investment in X-ray machines also suggested there could be "quality issues" on the company's production line that may have prompted the purchase. It was said the machines are being bought in "unprecedented quantities."

Foxconn remains the primary assembler of devices for Apple, and Apple continues to see tremendous year-over-year growth for its popular products like the iPhone and iPad. For example, last quarter Apple saw its iPhone sales grow by 128 percent, while iPad sales grew 111 percent from the same period a year prior.

Foxconn workers file down the Apple logo on an iPad component. | Credit: Almin Karamehmedovic/ABC News.

An inside look at Foxconn conducted last month by ABC's Nightline showed that the iPhone is basically handmade by Chinese workers on the company's assembly lines. There are a total of 141 separate steps that go into the production of Apple's smartphone.