The Prusa i3 is one of the most successful 3D printer designs in history. Because it’s an open-source design, dozens of manufacturers have sold their own versions. Sometimes those are exact clones, and sometimes they have small tweaks. But genuine Prusa i3 3D printers are consistently rated as the most reliable consumer printers on the market. That said, they have a pretty basic monochrome LCD screen. Dr. Scott M. Baker decided to swap that out for something a little more interesting, and chose a vintage VFD.
This mod was tested with the Prusa i3 Mk3 3D printer, but should work with earlier iterations and many clones. It essentially just replaces the boring monochrome LCD with a cyberpunk-style VFD (vacuum fluorescent display). VFDs used to be common in consumer electronics, because they produced clear, bright graphics. But they’ve fallen out of favor in recent years as LCD, LED, and OLED displays have become more affordable. There is no denying how cool they look though, which is why Dr. Baker performed this modification.
The VFD itself is made by Noritake, and — very surprisingly — is almost an exact drop-in match for the LCD that comes with the Prusa i3 Mk3. The display is a little expensive at around $90, but it’s hard to beat the convenience. All you have to do is take apart your control panel and pull the PCB out. Then either desolder the original LCD or order a new PCB (available at printedsolid.com). Next, just solder in the Noritake VFD and put the control panel back together. That’s it! It should just work. You can even use filters if you want to change the color of the VFD.