CORUCHE, Portugal (Reuters) – A Portuguese tech agency is uncorking an Android smartphone whose case is constituted of cork, a pure and renewable materials native to the Iberian nation.

The Ikimobile cellphone is likely one of the first to make use of supplies apart from plastic, steel and glass and represents a lift for the nation’s know-how sector, which has made strides in software program improvement however much less in manufacturing.

A Made in Portugal model of the cellphone is ready to launch this yr as Ikimobile completes a plant to switch most of its manufacturing from China.

“Ikimobile desires to place Portugal on the trail to the longer term and applied sciences by emphasizing this Portuguese product,” chief government Tito Cardoso instructed Reuters at Ikimobile’s plant within the cork-growing space of Coruche, 80 km (50 miles) west of Lisbon.

“We imagine the product gives one thing completely different, one thing that folks can be ok with utilizing,” he mentioned. Cork is harvested solely each 9 years with out hurting the oak timber and is totally recyclable.

Portugal is the world’s largest cork producer and the cellphone additionally marks the most recent effort to diversify its use past wine bottle stoppers.

A technician works on the Ikimobile manufacturing facility in Coruche, Portugal June 21, 2018. Image taken June 21, 2018. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

Portuguese cork exports have currently regained their peaks of 15 years in the past as cork stoppers clawed again market share from plastic and steel. Portugal additionally exports different cork merchandise corresponding to flooring, clothes and wind turbine blades.

A layer of cork covers the cellphone’s again offering thermal, acoustic and anti-shock insulation. The cork is available in colours starting from black to gentle brown and has licensed antibacterial properties and protects in opposition to battery radiation.

Cardoso mentioned Ikimobile is working with north Portugal’s Minho College to make the cellphone even “greener” and hopes to exchange a plastic physique base with pure supplies quickly.

The fabric, agglomerated utilizing solely pure resins, required years of analysis and testing for the use in telephones.

The plant ought to churn out 1.2 million telephones a yr – a drop within the ocean in comparison with final yr’s worldwide smartphone market shipments of just about 1.5 billion.

Most cell telephones are produced in Asia however native manufacture helps make the most of the provision of cork and the “Made in Portugal” model appeals to customers in Europe, Angola, Brazil and Canada, Cardoso mentioned.

In 2017, it bought 400,000 telephones assembled in China in 2017, together with easy function telephones. It hopes to surpass that quantity with native manufacturing this yr. High-of-the-line cork fashions, costing 160-360 euros ($187-$420), make up 40 % of gross sales.

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Modifying by Axel Bugge and Matthew Mpoke Bigg