- Course: Robotics MRes
- Year of graduation: 2016
- Nationality: British
- Job title: Managing Director
- Company: Mechatech Limited
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/robert-bloomfield-6460ba149/
Leeds alum Robert Bloomfield graduated from an MRes degree in robotics in 2016, and is now the Managing Director of Mechatech, a successful technology company which he founded. Rob has been interested in exoskeletons for more than 20 years, and uses the expertise he built on during his studies to steer the development of the company’s prototypes and designs.
Making exoskeleton technology commercially viable
Exoskeleton technology has existed for many years in laboratories and has some well-defined applications, but it has not been widely adopted, Rob explained.
“Exoskeleton technology has benefits across society, from helping individuals walk and move, to those working in difficult or strenuous environments, so it’s potential is vast,” He said.
“Mechatech aims to solve the challenges involved in making this technology commercially viable. We have developed novel approaches to exoskeleton design, control and manufacture which could solve some of these problems.”
Mechatech aims to solve the challenges involved in making this technology commercially viable.
Industry meets academia
Mechatech has sponsored many research projects at the University of Leeds since 2011. The company works closely with Leeds on all exoskeleton related work, and uses a dedicated laboratory at the University for this purpose.
Rob said: “The strong connections and support of academic staff members benefits our work in many ways, including theoretical ideas, practical projects and funding applications.
“Our key focus is putting the applications of our prototypes and that of the researchers at the University of Leeds into a real-world setting.”
The strong connections and support of academic staff members benefits our work in many ways...
Inspired to help people
Rob’s role as Managing Director is to bring people together, while also sharing his knowledge and experience of exoskeleton design and practical commerce, to create products, which can help people who are physically impaired, that are ready for the marketplace. Mechatech enables Rob’s passion and vision for these assistive prototypes to be applied in a real-world setting.
“I have always been interested in robotics, and my interest in exoskeletons grew out of a fascination with sci-fi films and manga in the 1990s,” Rob said.
“I wanted to help bring this technology into the real world to help and inspire people.”
He added: “My experiences at Leeds and the skills I gained as a result supported me in achieving this goal: I can understand academia and its requirements, and everything I now do in the company is a reflection of applying the theoretical work to real-world settings.”
I wanted to help bring this technology into the real world to help and inspire people.
Mechatronics and robotics at Leeds
Rob explained how he learned of the University’s expertise in robotics research and teaching, and how this informed his decisions to embark on his career. He said:
“When I first left school, The University of Leeds was the only University to offer a mechatronics course, and while I’d pursued a different degree, I always held it in high regard.
“Naturally, I went straight to Leeds when I decided to sponsor academic research later in life.”
“The help and support of Professor Abbas Dehghani and postgraduate researchers in the Mechanical Engineering department has proved invaluable throughout,” Rob added.
The help and support of Professor Abbas Dehghani and postgraduate researchers in the Mechanical Engineering department has proved invaluable...
Rob explained his research was closely tied to that of the academics and the postgraduate researchers whom Mechatech sponsor at the University of Leeds. Rob was also able to fund his own MRes, titled ‘Design and development of a low-cost and versatile motion capture system’ through Mechatech. His research involved building a motion capture system to analyse data to address important questions.
Rob said: “My research came out of a gap in academic knowledge – namely human movement data, and particularly that data in relation to exoskeletons. My work was to help provide the broader exoskeleton team at Leeds some of this data directly.”
My research came out of a gap in academic knowledge – namely human movement data... in relation to exoskeletons.
He continued: “My research involved creating an exoskeleton- based motion capture system to capture directly the movement of the wearer, and then compare this data to the model data used by academics. It compared very well.”
Motion capture is a technique used by Artificial Intelligence researchers at the University of Leeds. Robotics at Leeds has a vibrant, multidisciplinary research environment comprised of computer scientists, electronic and mechanical engineers.
“I maintain a strong relationship with the research community at Leeds, as there are always new projects and new research to consider,” Rob added.
I maintain a strong relationship with the research community at Leeds, as there are always new projects and new research to consider.
Running a successful business
Rob commented on the success of Mechatech and explained how his background in accounting helped to provide a solid foundation for undertaking his business venture. He said:
“I have a background in business and accounting, and run another successful company, so setting up and running the company is relatively straightforward. The challenge for me is in focusing enough time across many researchers and projects.”
...we hope to continue to prosper from collaborating with Leeds' researchers in the future.
Rob added: “Mechatech has expanded into a commercial company, outside of the University from the original sponsored research, and we hope will prosper from this approach in the future.”