$1.1M Grant to Drive Q5D’s Automated Wiring Tech

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Q5D, a UK-based company, specializes in creating an automated wire harness robot cell. The firm has recently received a $1.1 million grant to further automate its CY1000 wiring solution. For this project, Q5D will collaborate with the Manufacturing Technology Centre and Siemens reseller Emixa.
Q5D 3D prints wiring loom.

Q5D 3D prints wire tracks. Image courtesy of Q5D.

Q5D’s cell employs a robotic arm that can deposit conductive inks, print polymers, and place circuits and other components, aiming to automate the creation of wire harnesses. These harnesses are intricate assemblies crucial to the functionality of airplanes, cars, and devices like 3D printers. Traditionally, wire components, circuits, and plugs are sourced from countries such as China, then assembled into specific configurations needed for products like a Volkswagen Golf, often in countries like Romania. The assembled harnesses are then shipped to another location, such as the Czech Republic, for integration into the electrical systems before being installed into vehicles.

Wire harness assembly has traditionally been seen as a labor-intensive step not suitable for automation. However, increasing concerns over supply chain resilience and the impact of global shocks have heightened industry and government interest in Q5D’s technology as a potential solution for automating the production of these harnesses.

Q5D's CU500 five-axis platform.

Q5D’s CU500 five-axis platform. Image courtesy of Q5D.

Q5D develops the firmware and controls for its machines in-house, while further operations are managed by a custom implementation of Siemens NX CAD/CAM, created by Emixa. The consortium of companies has now received funding to simplify the overall workflow and user interface, a challenging task considering the wide variety of surfaces Q5D’s technology can be applied to. The diversity of operations and sequences possible adds to the complexity.

Additionally, controlling the motion stage arm is critical, as it must manage various heads that deposit different materials while moving and positioning. Ensuring this process can be repeated millions of times without error adds another layer of complexity to the system.

Q5D is collaborating with clients on various applications, such as embedding wiring in aircraft components, integrating NFC communications into objects, and wiring for car bumpers. Although gaining the trust of major automotive and aerospace industries may take time, the company is addressing a significant market, largely unchallenged by competitors. The lack of competition is surprising, especially when considering the vast potential applications, such as equipping every lamppost worldwide with sensors or enhancing internet connectivity in cars and phones through additional antennas. These advancements are increasingly likely as the demand for smarter, more connected environments grows.

The opportunity for the conformal placement of sensors and 3D printed components is substantial, yet currently, there are no complete automation solutions for many of these tasks. As the world moves towards greater connectivity and sensor integration, the necessity to equip millions of items with these technologies will escalate. This substantial market opportunity appears to be overlooked, suggesting that more attention should be directed towards this sector, anticipating more market entrants in the future.

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