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Rufus Cuff

3D Printing Spotlight: An Interview with the Inventor of The Rufus Cuff

The Rufus Cuff was designed with the help of a 3D Printer. We had a chance to sit down for a brief interview with the CEO of Rufus Labs.
Rufus Cuff

If you've been looking for a new peripheral, the Rufus Cuff may be just be the ticket.  Although it is something that you wear on your wrist, the guys over at Rufus Labs are quick to quip "don't call it a smartwatch, it's a wrist communicator".  As a big fan of the video game Fallout 3, it reminds me a lot of the Pipboy 3000, which makes me happy.

The Rufus Cuff debuted on Indiegogo just about a month ago and has since exceeded their goal with about 18 days still left to go.  One of the most interesting parts about the Cuff for us is that a good deal of the prototyping was undertaken on an Airwolf 5.5 that was purchased from us about a year and a half ago. 

I had the opportunity to chat with Gabe Grifoni yesterday, the inventor of the Rufus Cuff and CEO of Rufus Labs.

There's really nothing like being able to touch, hold, feel and wear something you've printed to spec.


Mike Hulse: Hey Gabe, I know you're extremely busy with your Indiegogo campaign, so I really appreciate you taking a few minutes to chat.

Gabe Grifoni: Of course! I'm happy to be here, and love what you guys are doing at MatterHackers.

MH: Thanks, it's always exciting for us to see people putting 3D printers to use to start to make their ideas a reality. First off, I just wanted to congratulate you and your team on hitting your funding goal.

GG: Thanks. We're obviously pretty happy about it. Our team has all worked really hard for over a year now to get to this point. So to see all of the support has been amazing.

MH: So let's jump right into it. The Rufus Cuff has made quite a splash on Indiegogo recently, can you briefly describe what exactly it is?

GG: Sure. The smartwatch is great, but in our minds its a stutter step to where we have to be. The Rufus Cuff is something we like to call a "wrist communicator." This is a category beyond the smartwatch. It's got the same Z height as most watches like the Pebble or Samsung Gear but 3x the width. We've built something with a reimagined form factor that's got a wide screen, bigger battery, more functionality and the screen real estate for full apps. We've also built in fitness hardware like Accelerometer, Gyroscope and GPS so our users can track all their steps, calories and miles walked with apps they're used to like Strava and RunKeeper. And, of course, we've made it spill and splash proof which is a must for wearable devices - no more fear of checking and responding to a text in the rain. Built in Wifi allows it work on its own with no connected smartphone - its great for home, school or office environments to give you full use of apps, email, messages, etc... hands free and no need for a smartphone. Those are the quick highlights but the Rufus Cuff can do a lot so make sure to check out our indiegogo campaign page for more details.

MH: That all sounds pretty awesome. So how exactly did you come up with the idea?

GG: I was at CES in Jan 2013 and saw a few wearables there. I've always been interested in that sector and I had just been waiting for someone to finally do it right. No one had and I just thought, heck, I'll do it myself. We can build a better device. I started from there and spent 4 hours on the ride home from Vegas to LA conceiving the beginnings of The Rufus Cuff. Once I got back home I spent a few days sketching concepts out on my iPad and talking to a few friends about it - seeing if they'd sign up for the ride. Within weeks we had a solid team of co-founders (and great lifelong friends) and I had taught myself CAD and bought a 3D printer with some money we pooled together so that I could start physically printing wearable models. We went on to raise some money from Angel investors so we could hire an Industrial design firm, a fabrication house for board assembly/testing and we brought on some more really smart people to assist in the engineering effort. It's been a great year for our startup and we're looking forward to some more growth in the coming months as we lead up to launch.

MH: So you purchased one of the first printers that we sold here at MatterHackers nearly a year and a half ago, an Airwolf 5.5. How did 3D printing make it easier for you to go from idea to prototype and production?

GG: It was a big help. I had never used CAD and never done any 3D printing. I quickly learned some basic CAD software and started building the first Rufus Cuff in 3D format. Getting a 3D printer was the next logical step to really see if the Rufus Cuff would feel good on the arm. I must have spent weeks printing one refinement after another, shaving 1mm here and 5mm there. There's really nothing like being able to touch, hold, feel and wear something you've printed to spec. Our design was important to us for comfort and wearability so having the ability to print one model after another in pretty short order really helped us speed up our industrial design process.

MH: Do you ever print for fun, if so what kinds of things do you print?

GG: When I have time I do like to print some fun creations or download someone's cool files they've shared online. I have a really cool mini version of the Maltese Falcon on my desk and I did use it to print my wedding topper which came out just great.

MH: That's fantastic! As expensive as wedding toppers are these days, that's a really creative and fun way to make one. I know you have to get going soon, but just to finish up, what advice would you give to future inventors/entrepreneurs?

GG: Don't listen to the naysayers - they don't know any better than you if your idea is good or bad. Teach yourself anything you don't know - the resources are all out there - a keyboard away. Get friends on board with the same passion for what you see and build a great team. Eat Nutella. Try and sleep when you can.

MH: I guess we need to get some Nutella for our office. Hard to go wrong with that advice. Well I know you need to get going, so I just wanted to thank you again for taking the time to talk, and good luck with the rest of the campaign and with the future of the Rufus Cuff. We’ll certainly be keeping our eye on it.

GG: Absolutely thanks for having me. 

You can check out the Indiegogo campaign for the Rufus Cuff here.