It's been a long time coming, but my Universal RGB cube is finally ready!

If when you are done, you love this project as much as I do, please vote for any contests I might be in.

Trust me, I have some cool ideas in mind for all the prizes being offered !!!

TO THOSE THAT CAME HERE BECAUSE YOU FOUND THE PARTS KIT FOR THIS PROJECT ON eBay - NO the parts kit does NOT include the circuit board - it's the parts kit FOR the circuit board. Inbox me for direct board pricing and availability or go to TheLEDCube dot com. I do ship worldwide.


ONLY use the parts kit from HONG KONG.

A parts supplier in China copied the ad from my parts supplier in Hong Kong, but they miss parts, get values wrong, use wrong parts types etc. I have been trying to get their ad removed because of exploding capacitors and overheating or wrong size/shape/value of parts. If you bought a kit from China, I apologize, but I was not aware they had done it until quite some time had passed. If you did get one of their kits, file an "Item Not as described" case with ebay, and get your money back. You can refuse to return the parts and still get a refund in almost all cases like this. Use your refund to purchase any missing or incorrect parts. Giving negative feedback on ebay to these "counterfeit" kits would go a long way towards solving this problem.

PLEASE NOTE: DUE TO A fabrication error - if you have a V4.0 Rev 3.11 purchased on or before December 1st, a small trace repair is needed - PLEASE contact me IMMEDIATELY for info. I'll post more info here as well. Any boards purchased AFTER this date will have this repair already done. ALL V4 Boards purchased before December 8th require another fix where the fabricator made one of the VIA pads too large and it shorts to one of the traces that run past it. A simple cut fixes this.

To those that are just now (FEB 2015) getting the first Mini Music Modules - due to a change in the parts kit, the USB port MUST BE MOUNTED TO THE BOTTOM OF THE BOARD!!! The V4.X music modules fix this, as well as an input sensitivity issue.

Earlier on there was a problem with the parts kit from Hong Kong with the 1000uF capacitor. It's not a necessary part when using a switching supply (power brick) but the issue is the supplier switched to a 10V cap from the original 50V cap specified in my BOM to them. You can either leave the cap out completely, or put one in that is rated at at least 35V.

ATTENTION: If your layers 5, 6, and 7 are not working on your Arduino UNO, there is a code fix. Please download the new RGB Arduino parallel code!

We currently have code for the Arduino UNO, the ChipKit UNO32 (PIC32MX processor), The Arduino MEGA2560, and my UNO Eliminator boards [discontinued except by special order in favour of the bridge boards] (which get rid of the last of the wires)

Jerry Lesnefsky and Karl Moeller made a great little music module that fits onto the base / driver board, and allows the PIC ChipKit Eliminator to plug right onto it - and in the process, noticed the the I/O Aux header has A2 and A8 labelled backwards on the eliminator board !!!! If you are hand wiring a music module to your ChipKit Eliminator, please make note of this!

SPECIAL THANKS to Doug Domke who is making firmware templates for the PIC32 (ChipKit UNO32) which work much more like standard Arduino code so that we can more easily create animations on the PIC.

See his page at for information and downloads. I will add code here as I create more animations using his template.

This was originally inspired by the project by Nick Schulze, and then added to using the project by Kevin Darrah.

You can use the cube assembly method Nick Schulze at uses, however I did develop my own assembly method. Nick's method is great if you enjoy woodworking, or you can use mine if not.


When I first started looking for my Next Big Project (after the original 8X8X8 LED mono colour cube) my searches came overwhelmingly to two.

Nick Schulze and Kevin Darrah.

My problem is that I don't get along well with wood. It's just a medium I haven't mastered.

That's why my previous cube assembly method used a cardboard motherboard box for the LED layer template.
It did work extremely well though, and I was quite happy with the results!

So, with that in mind, I WILL show you how I built mine (steps 9 to 15 currently) but initially we will go on the assumption that you will build Nick's assembly rig modified to a 26.5mm spacing to fit my board.
If you'd rather just build it the way I built mine, go directly to step 9. It seems others are finding my assembly method to be favourable to the big wooden rigs. Once you have your notched rulers made, you never need make another measurement with my method.

Please also see the original projects if you want schematics or theory of operation etc. I am not here to re-invent the wheel. I am here to bring these projects to those that:
otherwise couldn't have made them;
tried to make them and failed;
cannot read a schematic;
are overwhelmed with the magnitude of wiring involved;
are (like myself) not good carpenters ;
want a portable or "neat" looking project;
require the cube to be portable;
or a plethora of other reasons.
If you are looking for schematics and the technical info on how it all works, please go to these links:

How Not To Engineer - RGB Cube project by Nick Schulze

Dedicated To Design - RGB Cube project by Kevin Darrah

All the theory and design and schematics that I used to base this circuit on are there. For the most part, my circuit very closely conforms to Nick's except that I use through hole chips rather than SMT.
My chips are just a touch slower, so I had to modify Nick's code to widen a couple pulses, but other than that, his code is stock.

Feel free to ask questions about my design other than "do you have schematics" or "can I have the Eagle files".

I don't design with Eagle, and I also don't make schematics. I design the PCBs in my head, and go right to design on the fly. I don't know why I work this way, I just always have, and it works for least eventually...

I almost always have flaws in the initial designs that do not present themselves until I start building the project.

That's when a new version is made. Minor tweaks or additions are the revisions within those versions.

It took me until Version 3 Revision 4 of the PC Board before I was ready to make an instructable for it.

I am happy to clarify anything you don't quite get about the way it all works etc. (assuming I fully understand it myself enough to explain it better than the original explanations. The hardware I can easily explain - the software is better explained by the authors).

Paso 1: Eliminating the wires and mess

As you may know from my previous instructable "CHR's 8X8X8 LED Cube Revisited with improvements!" the one thing I hate is wires, and the one thing I love to do is take an otherwise daunting or nearly impossible build, and make it so anyone who can solder can build it, even if they don't understand why and how it works.
I felt that the projects these two guys made needed to be more accessible to the more general public.

Many people wanted to make the original 8X8X8 LED cube, but either couldn't read the schematics, had trouble understanding the instructions, or got close, but just couldn't get the darn circuit to work!

Once again, I have taken the mess of wires and circuit building that prevent most people from being able to make these, and made a circuit board to handle it.

After all, who has time to wire it like that???

One of these is the project by Kevin Darrah - it's the one that uses the Arduino and has the hand wired circuit.

The other - and the inspiration for my board - is by Nick Schulze. It uses the ChipKit UNO32 which uses a PIC microcontroller rather than the ATmega328P. He made a circuit board, but one issue is that it takes SMT chips, and a lot of people aren't comfortable soldering those.

The other problem is that there's STILL 200 wires to run to the cube from the board.

<p>Just finished my first cube. Spent 3 days to assemble the cube. I use <a href="" rel="nofollow">Steve Manle</a>y's way to put LEDs together, what really save a lot of time is the PCB boards from SuperTech-IT)))</p>
<p>IF YOU ARE JUST GETTING YOUR BOARDS NOW - Please watch the following video in it's entirety. Hopefully it'll answer all the question you were about to ask me ahead of time.</p><p></p>
<p>here is a short video</p>
<p>Awww...arduino...too bad , I would have loved to see them running Left / Right audio! If you want to sometime though, we can try some linking experiments to control both cubes with one arduino!</p>
<p>Have to make a audio module for new cube . Linking the two up sounds interesting I have two chipkit unos but have to make another board to hook without wirers. </p>
<p>Inbox me and I'll give you a deal on a pair of bridge boards and music modules.</p>
<p>The above master panel test code isn't the one in the video. It was written by Jeff DeSilva who wrote it to test his cube-in-progress.</p><p>I liked it, so I put it up for others to benefit from and to aid in troubleshooting.</p>
<p>I got a bad MSGEQ7 in my parts kit - so if that happens to any of you, contact the parts supplier. What mine does is very low response on the first 3 frequencies, and almost nothing on the upper 4. With another chip though, it works like a champ. Just remember that the USB port mounts on the BOTTOM of the music module!</p>
<p>I have caught a board fabrication mistake in the V4.0 Rev.3.11 boards the connects a blue output to a green input in the top row of chips. The fix should be fairly simple for most. Cut one trace on the top, one on the bottom, and put in a jumper wire. This happened apparently when the fabricator was adjusting some of my traces to not be so close to the VIAs.</p><p>There are many ways to fix it, but I have proposed the easiest I can find here, since if you have kynar wire, you can strip it and put it through the VIA holes and solder it. If you don't, it's still easy enough to solder your jumper wire to the VIA pads.</p><p>In red, you will see the TOP layer of the board, and in green, you will see the bottom. The bottom layer image is flipped over so it looks exactly as it would if you were viewing the bottom of the board when it's flipped over.</p>
<p>The other fabrication error is on the bottom of the board near the BLUE 1 chip.</p><p>Too large a VIA pad was used, and it shorts to a line running past it.</p>
<p>This fix also applies boards from V3 Rev5 up to V4 Rev3.11</p>
<p>I just bought one on eBay, but I haven't gotten it in yet. Just follow these instructions? Also, for someone new to this type of project, is this intractable still the best place for an 8x8x8 RGB LED Cube or is there something updated? Specifically with doing the wooden rig and bends.</p>
<p>Please note - if the first repair was already made to your board, you will need to make the second repair noted above by cutting the oversized VIA pad away from the trace it shorts to. This applies to all who purchased between December 1st and December 8th. (the boards that shipped on the 8th have had both repairs made, and any purchases after this will be repaired prior to shipping. The upcoming rev.3.12 boards have been redesigned with these errors fixed.)</p>
<p>I update this instructable on a regular basis if anthing changes. To my knowledge, this is the best instructable on this project.</p>
<p>Norman - U Da Man!!! Just finished my Second one!!! I'll be getting a third board from you soon. It is awesome that you included the bridge boards. Made it easier to hide the controller underneath!!!</p>
<p>Hi, your instructions are really wonderful! However, I cannot find any </p><p>circuit diagram for the control. Where do I get one? Can you help me? Thanks in advance!!! Bernie</p>
<p>My circuit is a hybrid of the 2 original projects. The original projects are linked to in the intro page above, and both have full schematics of how the circuit works. My circuit is extremely close in design and function to Nick Schulze's diagram, so I suggest you base your knowledge off that circuit.</p>
Hello SuperTech! Thank you for your help. Now, I progress certain, because in the moment, I am at the moment soldering the LEDs after your pattern.
<p>Have managed to complete my cube ( yesterday ) without any help!! Quite a feat considering my limited capabilities... 'TILL NOW , Have been running 'The Big Show' (on the Chipkit Uno 32 as recommended), with great pleasure after the build. Initially after completion I had layers 2 and 5 not lighting at all, but found the problem and fixed it, but I have noticed that the column at the far left corner, looking from the bridgeboard end is dimly lit 'red' all the time it should be off, all 8 led's lighting normally when they should be on, so unable to pinpoint problem. Any help would be appreciated, I was going to replace the whole column as it is easily accessible, but that would not tell me the exact problem (even if it worked).</p><p>Thank you for an amazing project, I have enjoyed every part of it, even the constant checking of your instruction.... lol</p>
<p>This EXACT issue is described in detail in the troubleshooting section. Thanks.</p>
Don't know if I explained properly, but all 8 led's are dimly lit and all working as they should, so there is not one that is not lighting????<br>
<p>When they are dim, one will not be lit. If you have replaced the column, and it's still happening, it may coincidentally be that one LED again is leaking - again, when the column is dim look for one LED that isn't lit.</p><p>If this is not the case, then you are dealing with something I have never seen before. Triple check all the solder joints on the RED chip that drives that column. You can check the chip itself by swapping it with another red chip. If that doesn't help, check all the chips that pertain to that column.</p><p>If it has taken you an especially long time to build your cube, you may have one of the other issues described in the troubleshooting or above, depending on which board version and revision you have.</p><p>If you are still stumped after this, I will send you my skype address, and we'll have a video chat troubleshooting session and we'll get you up and running.</p>
<p>I have the latest board V4 Rev 3.12 , and only bought it a couple of weeks ago. The column did have &quot;all&quot; the lights lit, dimly, so after replacing it I started checking all the solder joints as recommended, still same problem until I put in a new chip... Problem solved. Thanks for help.</p><p>I have noticed however, the connection between bridge and baseboard is very temperamental, any slight movement and it does some weird things, have checked joints and everything else I can think of so am waiting for some headers to replace the ones I have, see if that works?</p><p>Thanks again, Rob</p>
<p>If you got the kit from the guys in Hong Kong, then you have the same connectors I am using.</p><p>Mine were really tempermental too until I realized they weren't fully in - give them an extra little SHOVE til they kinda click a bit - should be problem solved. If you got your chips / parts kit from the recommended people in Hong Kong, let them know, and they will replace the chip. This is extremely rare for them and is the exception rather than the rule. If you got them from the guys in China, scream and yell till they give you a full refund. I don't know why but their parts are crap, and I've been trying very hard to get their parts kits off of ebay.</p>
Update.. changed the column, and still the same?
<p>Hai </p><p>how can I contact you. I would like to do this project in my home so I want all parts of this project ( led, boards, music module and all parts ). Can you tell me the total cost ?</p>
<p>send me a private message here. I will respond with the details.</p>
<p>Sorry I have been out of touch, had some personal issues, and a Graduation to attend. I will up load a video of the fiber optics I installed. I am interested in making an RGB cube now. Where can I purchase one of your boards?</p>
<p>Inbox me here or go to my dot-com and email me from there. You may want to check out the videos a bit first too - I have been pretty busy since we last spoke I believe.</p>
<p>I have a question regarding the chips your using. Is there much difference between the chips you use and TLC5940NT chips and will your codes work with them as I am building a cube but have a driver board I made using the TLC chips.</p>
<p>Good news and bad news. Knowing absolutely nothing about the TLC5940NT, I googled it and looked at the documentation. Good news is I found there is only one fairly obvious difference between the chips. The bad news is, that thing is EVERYthing. The DM13A ia a much simpler chip.</p>
<p>Wondering if you have any video of the process of bending an LED and what the final result looks like? Also, loading up the rulers and then showing the final result? </p>
<p>No video, sorry. I may be building another cube though, and if I do, then I will make short videos of the processes. I took as many photos as I could originally, and tried to be as descriptive as possible in the text. In a worst case scenario, if you got totally stuck, I will skype with you and help you out.</p>
<p>I completed this project a few weeks <br>ago and felt I ought to share my approach.</p><p>I borrowed very heavily from Steve <br>Manley's wonderfully created cube. His jigs are first rate, his <br>documentation and videos are first rate and the results are first <br>rate. Steve, you are my cube-hero. Thank you very much.</p><p>Thank you Super-Tech! Your great <br>circuit board - it works great (when you put the parts in correctly). The parts all came from my ebay purchase <br>in good shape and quickly. They are a reputable supplier. Thanks too, <br>Super-Tech, for your very quick feed back on my questions. I had a total of 12 bad diodes. Most were where one of the three colors was missing. These were easily found in early assembly stages. I had 4 diodes that had leakage and testing the slice in the board easily pointed these puppies out (as described in Super-Tech's documentation PDF) which I ended up finally reading! :)</p><p>I have a few photos to describe my <br>construction jigs and experiences.</p><p>I loved the look of Steve's LED wiring <br>but I wanted to keep the cathode leads so they would match the board. <br> As a result, my LED lead forming jig was a little different than Steve's. I used 1&quot; brad nails for the posts (heads nipped off) in a small piece of wood held in my vice. I got pretty good at pulling the leads tight against the posts with my needle nose pliers. My rate was eventually about one completed LED per minute.</p><p>The column jig was similar to Steve's. To orient and hold the LED in place (kind a) I added a brad nail for the green cathode lead. I used Steve's great idea about straightening the wire with a drill. During the soldering of the anode leads I tried to orient the anode lead directly under the brad nail. I used some large nails and a scrap piece of wood to build my version of Steve's LED extractor. </p><p>My jig for the 8x8 slice was just a piece of 3/4&quot; plywood with slices sawed in it with the table saw. I found that the saw blade wasn't wide enough to fit the anode wire so I ran the jig through the table saw twice, widening the gap to about two widths of the saw blade. This jig is pretty crude but, frankly, it was good enough for me. After the initial soldering of some green cathode lines, The structure got pretty stable and as I soldered each lead I tried to make sure the lead was properly lined up with the others.</p><p>The excitement of firing up the first slice was great. It didn't work, however. I had not read the documentation very well (some not at all) and had mostly place components based on the board artwork. The fuses are clearly marked on the board (now that I have engaged my brain) but the artwork looked like diodes to me and since the two components I received didn't look like diodes (I had never seen fuses that looked like resistors!) I substituted were from my own supply. The artwork led me to put the 5 golf component such that there was no 5V supplied. :) I was about to email Super-Tech and tell him that the artwork for the diode (showing the polarity bar) was backwards when he informed me that there were no diodes other than the LEDs and these we're fuses. :) So I dug up the parts I received and put them in and - bingo 5V and 3V showed up where it should be.</p><p>Still no lighting of the LEDs though. By using my scope it seemed clear I wasn't driving the anodes at all. Then it hit me that I may have put the driver transistor in backwards. If you look close at the photo showing the first slice where it is soldered to the board, you'll see the back of the driver transistors pointing to the end of the board where there is a word &quot;front&quot; on the artwork. :) I hd gone by the bars on the artwork for each transistor.</p><p>After removing and turning the transistors around, all things started to work! What fun.</p><p>regards, Frank</p>
<p>LOL - I can see in your photos of the panel (slice) assembly that you have the transistors in backwards. That was more the fault of my program than myself as I chose a &quot;similar&quot; transistor type, but it's pins were different. What I am doing on the V5 R1 boards is I manually ungrouped the thing and rotated it 180 degrees, so the thick line is in the right place for those that REFUSE to READ the instructions that specifically tell you how to mount the transistors. I have also taken the symbol around the big F1 and F2 labels, and ungrouped the silkscreen and removed the polarization line so they can't be confused with diodes. It's one of the downfalls of using free software - to get the right size and shape component, sometimes you have to improvise and go &quot;well, the resistors aren't the right size, so I'll use a diode layout here, but I'll clearly mark it as a fuse...&quot;. The problem with making things foolproof is once you do, the world invents a better fool !!! ROFL !!!(no offence, just kidding). I also noticed it looks like you got a 50V cap (shouldn't happen if you get your parts from the right seller who should be using 35V caps) and it's really close to the cube header, so I scooched it over a smidge so it shouldn't hit the music module. Thanks for the photos, looks like you have a nice cube there. I like your modified construction method. Your comments will make life easier for the next generation of board owners since the silkscreen and cap placement is fixed. I also addressed the issue with programming while the reset link is in place, so we should be able to leave the reset link jumper on the bridge boards or have the proto-boards reset line linked to the cube all the time and still be able to program the board without issue.</p><p>I am almost out of boards right now too, which means I have almost got enough money to get another small run made with these revisions in place. Once about 3 more sell, I should be able to get another run done. Hopefully those will arrive before the very last boards sell so that I'm not stuck with zero boards for 2 or 3 weeks like last time!</p>
<p>Looks really awesome! Only suggestion I can make so far is in going through and consolidating the Instructable down, clearing out the superfluous and obsoleted stuff. Maybe a few short Vine-like videos? A complete parts list all in one place, with links to suppliers. Another list of tools and extras (rulers, perf board, tinned wire, power supply, etc.). Great job, and look forward to other projects, suspect will be nibbling away at this one for a while, plus the planned customizations once I get this bad-boy finished. </p>
<p>I tell you exactly how to get the parts kit The parts kit lists all the parts in the kit, eliminating the need for a parts list elsewhere. As for outdated stuff, some people that got their boards months ago are just getting around to building now, so the information isn't actually outdated yet. in fact I had to resurrect old comments. As for the miscellaneous stuff - I am pretty sure I mentioned that I got the rulers at Wal-Mart. Everything else is off ebay.</p>
<p>Wondering how the flower stem stub silver compares to the roll of wire in terms of strength? Is it square cut or larger diameter, greater hardness? Like that it comes in straight lengths. Is there a supplier you can recommend? Also, the wire roll supplier you suggest evidently does not ship to the U.S. </p>
<p>The stem stubs are strong because they are steel, but as discussed, they are a bugger to solder to, and the joints break much more easily than tinned copper. My next one I will be using tinned copper roll wire.</p>
<p>Oh that makes more sense. The bridge boards sit on top the driver with small through-hole to through-hole header. Cool. Still not seeing what the &quot;what-to-where&quot; chart is describing though.</p>
<p>What goes where is for people without bridge boards wiring their proto boards to the cube header with breadboard wires.</p>
<p>Are all the diodes individually addressable or are there some patterns that will cause errors? It looks like these diodes are common-positive with one anode and three cathodes. Got that. <br><br>For example: In big picture at bottom above, if lower left diode is (1,1) with x-axis going to right and y axis going up for that plane. The in-parallel anodes are almost finished for two layers...let's assume two layers are working. <br><br>What if anode for layer 1 and R cathode for column 1 receive a signal? Then (1,1) lights up right? What if anode for layer 2 and R cathode for column 2 receive signal at same time? Then (2,2) also lights up. My question is, how does R of (2,1) stay turned off, since the anode for layer 1 has a signal and the R cathode for column 2 has a signal (GND)?<br><br></p>
<p>You made 1 bad assumption. 2 layers are never on at the same time. Ever. It LOOKS like they are when the cube is running due to persistence of vision, something the cube absolutely relies upon. each layer is &quot;drawn&quot;, enabled for a small amount of time, then the outputs are disabled, and we move to the next layer, draw it , enable it for a small amount of time, disable it, and so on up the cube. The end result is that we see the cube lit as a whole, but it's actually rapidly scanning through each layer.</p>
<p>To clarify, a layer is horizontal like this _____________ .</p><p>there are 8 layers from bottom to top. Each layer has 192 signals, meaning each LED is completely individually addressable in any given layer. We only ever activate 1 layer at any given time by connecting the anode grid for that layer to +V through it's transistor.</p>
<p>Got it, am glad there are no artifacts generated by the system. </p>
<p>Think am close to having all the gear to commence building. I think down to just needing the rulers and the bending jig. Suspect will have some questions on the particulars specific for the Mega 2560 when I get into that part. </p>
<p>1. Hmmm am confused at the difference (is there) between an eliminator board and a bridge board? Also, how does the bridge board eliminate wires from the Mega 2560 to the driver board...still have to wire the bridge board to the driver board...?<br><br>2a. Next, am not understanding the &quot;what goes where&quot; chart above. Am using the Mega 2560 and understand the right-most column is for it. But so what? &quot;PWM3, PWM2...GND, 5V&quot; I understand the signals, not asking about that. Wondering what this chart tells us. <br><br>For example, am not seeing most of these signals on the bridge board or on the driver board. Would expect a from-to sort of mapping, such as a through-hole on the bridge board (which one) goes to a through-hole on the driver board (which one). Not seeing that. <br><br>2b. Is there something else this chart is telling us? <br><br>3. Lastly, one or two steps back you mention something about needing to get some sort of PIC programmer also. Is that necessary for the Mega 2560? </p>
<p>this video is on the main page, but I will put it here as a specific reference answer to all your questions. Had you watched this video, you would not have needed to ask any of the above questions (I think).</p><p></p>
<p>Thanks will look at it soon.</p>
<p>I have started this project and everything was going smooth until i started putting the LED's in the slotted ruler's. That is when I found out the LED leads are 5mm from the next slot. I don't know what to do.</p>

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Ago 14, 2014


Bio: Just getting into the microcontroller craze. I used to do this sort of thing building circuits for 8 bit microprocessors back in the early 80s ... Más »
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