Meet Rico Ruffino

The Department of Forest Biomaterials welcomed Rico Ruffino to the faculty on September 1st.  As Assistant Professor of Practice of Industrial & Product Design, he will bring new capabilities to the department in sustainable material design. We reached out to learn more about our newest faculty member.

Before joining NC State, Ruffino was a high school technology instructor for 16 years, spending most of his time in a computer and wood lab.  He also designs products for Tiger Performance, developing safety equipment for aviation and marine applications. I’ve always been interested in building, creating, and art. It wasn’t until after my first year of college that I realized what I really wanted was to design and develop products.” said Ruffino about his path to industrial design. 

Rico Ruffino

How do sustainability principles and sustainable materials affect the industrial and product design process? 

It is no longer just about how the product looks or functions with the operator. Now, as designers, we have a responsibility to help reduce or remove the negative environmental impacts with more intended designs. It causes us to look at if we can create products differently with the material, assembly, and production of those products to be more environmentally conscious.

How do you describe industrial and product design to a high school student?

Industrial and product design is the professional practice of creating solutions to problems and developing them into a manufactured product that people use every day. Industrial and product designers design and develop products, instruments, and systems with an environmentally ethical and human-centered approach.

Can you describe the activity you shared with the Sustainable Materials & Technology students during your visit this winter?

The straw activity was to give the students a task to begin to think about design, the design process, and sustainable design with a current real-world problem. We walked through the straws’ history, present environmental issues, recent improvements, sustainable design, and design process in the straw activity. Following that, the students brainstormed in groups to come up with their solutions. A lot of intriguing ideas were generated from that activity.

Please share more about a particular design-related accomplishment. 

The design and development of the Maxillo Face Shield Hinge was a particular achievement of mine. This product attaches a face shield to an aviation pilot helmet that allows the pilot to quickly pivot the face shield from the left side, right side, or altogether remove the face shield. This product is 3D printed in nylon with fiberglass reinforcement.

What advice can you offer students?

Always move forward with anything you’re interested in or passionate about.

What do you enjoy in your free time?

I spend most of my time with my children, but I enjoy hiking, camping, exercising and the arts.