Lockheed Martin Leads $3M Investment in Q5D’s Electronics 3D Printing System

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Q5D, an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of robotic arm, hybrid additive manufacturing (AM) systems used for wire harness production, has closed a $3 million investment round. The investment arm of defense giant Lockheed Martin, Lockheed Martin Ventures, led the round.

Based in the UK, Q5D makes a machine called the CY1000, a manufacturing cell featuring a five-axis robotic arm compatible with different toolheads that can deposit a variety of materials including conductive inks, and pick-and-place wire harness assemblies onto other parts. As wire harnesses are “systematic and integrated arrangement[s] of cables” used to “transmit a signal or electrical power,” the CY1000 can be viewed as a hybrid electronics printer.

This is at least the second investment in as many years by Lockheed Martin Ventures into an OEM specializing in electronics printing, with the division joining with RTX Ventures in 2023 to make a $12.5 million investment in composites 3D printing OEM Fortify. As with all other strategically critical areas of the economy, the defense sector has been hit hard by the chaos in semiconductor supply chains in recent years, driving defense contractors to ramp up investments in microelectronics.

In a press release about Q5D’s $3 million investment round led by Lockheed Martin Ventures, Q5D’s co-founder and CEO, Stephen Bennington, said, “We are thrilled to have Lockheed Martin as a strategic investor. The potential market for our technology within the defense sector, for both printed electronics and wiring products, is vast. Lockheed Martin’s guidance and support will spearhead our entry into this market and beyond.”

The VP and general manager of Lockheed Martin Ventures, Chris Moran, said, “We see the opportunity for increased versatility and agility in Q5D’s technology. Wiring is a complex and expensive part of the manufacturing process. Q5D’s technology can offer flexibility with the potential for hardware to efficiently switch between manufacturing different parts without compromising quality.”

In June 2023, around the same time as Lockheed Martin Ventures announced its joint investment with RTX Ventures into Fortify, Lockheed and semiconductor firm GlobalFoundries announced a strategic collaboration to bolster semiconductor supply chains in upstate New York. Earlier this year, it was announced that GlobalFoundries would receive $3.1 billion in federal subsidies from the CHIPS and Science Act.

Along with helping Lockheed assert control over its own existing supply chains, companies like Q5D could help the defense contractor branch out into new markets. National security enterprises’ accelerated focus on the links between manufacturing and their overarching mission means it’s not inconceivable that, in the future, every supply chain disruption will be viewed as a matter of national security.

Thus, Lockheed and the other primes could realistically be enlisted into tasks like helping the automakers out of a jam, civil works crises, etc. In this context, it would seem at least somewhat relevant that Q5D is a UK-based company. In any case, even if Lockheed’s electronics investments only ever directly affect its own supply chains, we should expect that announcements like this one will continue to become more and more commonplace.

Images courtesy of Q5D

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