How to build an 8x8x8 LED cube and control it with an Arduino

Picture of How to build an 8x8x8 LED cube and control it with an Arduino
There are a lot of LED cubes on Instructables, so why do another? Most are for small cubes consisting of 27 or 64 LEDs, rarely larger since they are limited to the number of outputs available on the microcontroller. This cube will be 512 LEDs, and will only need 11 output wires from the Arduino. How is this possible? By using the Allegro Microsystems A6276EA LED driver.

I'll show you how I made the cube itself, the controller board, and finally the code to make it shine.

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Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
All parts you'll need to build the cube:

1 Arduino/Freeduino with Atmega168 or higher chip
512 LEDs, size and color are up to you, I used 3mm red
4 A6276EA LED driver chips from Allegro
8 NPN transistors to control the voltage flow, I used the BDX53B Darlington transistor
4 1000 ohm resistors, 1/4 watt or higher
12 560 ohm resistors, 1/4 watt or higher
1 330uF electrolytic capacitor
4 24 pin IC socket
9 16 pin IC sockets
4"x4" (or larger) piece of perfboard to hold all the parts,
An old computer fan
An old floppy controller cable
An old computer power supply
A lot of hookup wire, solder, soldering iron, flux, anything else to
make your life easier while making this.
7"x7" (or larger) piece of wood used to make the LED soldering jig
A nice case to display your finished cube

My Arduino/Freeduino of choice is the Bare Bones Board (BBB) from The LEDs were purchased off eBay and cost $23 for 1000 LEDs shipped from China. The remaining electronics were purchased from Newark Electronics ( and should only cost around $25. If you have to buy everything, this project should only cost around $100.

I have a lot of old computer equipment so those parts came off the scrap heap.
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Hayawatta6 months ago

What about a 8x8x8 / 24V / 20W colored bulb lights? It's possible?

You would obviously need to make a driver board, likely with 64 opto-isolators and 64 mosfets with another 8 even higher power mosfets for the layer selects.

CAN it be done? Sure. But it will cost quite a bit, and be a lot more work.

brujah19809 months ago

here are some 10mm ones that worked

This guy is using a completely different approach to the controller, but the cube assembly is the same. If you want to build this, but want the cube to look a little neater, check out my instructable.

ollowing my assembly method, the cubes tend to come out looking like this.
BMC67651 year ago
Ok thanks alot
BMC67651 year ago
Also i was wondering why you prefer the bare bones board over the other arduinos
R- (author)  BMC67651 year ago
they're cheaper...$15 vs $30 each.
BMC67651 year ago
And also what are you useing for the hook up wire?
R- (author)  BMC67651 year ago
colored pairs from cat5 networking cable
BMC67651 year ago
will the Arduino UNO with ATMega8U20 chip work for this?
R- (author)  BMC67651 year ago
probably, I don't own an Uno but i don't think the pin out was changed. Load the software and see if it compiles.
BMC67651 year ago
hi. Im going to be attempting this soon and you have the best indestructible for what i want to do but i have a few questions. Will the arduino UNO work the same as what you are useing?
megaduty2 years ago
Well done R-!
I applude your fantasitic effort! I have built several 4x4x4 and they are so hard to get square! I can only imagine what a n 8x8x8 must be like, I think no Matter WHAT anybody else says YOU ARE A WINNER to the max!

By Hawkings chair it was a fine accomplishment.

Good show,
Villiis Iohnes ab Oakmeadow.
jonodan2 years ago
Oh and thanks to R- for getting the mind cogs turning :)
fryddog3 years ago
Your tutorial looks pretty awesome so far. But before I give it a go, do you know what I can use instead of the led drivers. They appear to be discontinued everywhere.
Check out the TPIC6B595, these are similar (Hi current sink capability, output latch ect..) only they do not have constant current output so you will need series resistance on each column. They are commonly used in LED moving message displays.
pfred23 years ago
Intelligent build. Well documented. I have to give you a patch!

Now I am wondering what this all would have be like built it into an infinity mirror.
bibor1683 years ago
Thanks for the detailed instruction on how to build an LED cube. I eventually managed to build one of these things my own and it works fantastic. Thanks alot again. I used eight 8bit shift registers and changed the code a little, but in the end it works like your prototype does.
kully3xf3 years ago
Hey! I'm workin on this project and i have everything assembled and finished, but when i send the code to the arduino it completes but the cube just stays lit up. every led is lit no matter what code i run to the arduino any idea what might be wrong?!?
Mechtek3 years ago
Is it possible to light one led at a time with this cube?
raaymaan3 years ago
This looks really nice, well done.

Just been skimming through and I wondered why there are two codes? Do they both go to the arduino consecutively??
Ok so I figured it out! Matrix.pde wouldn't verify with arduino but it will with a program called 'Processing'. It looks identical to the arduino GUI but I cannot state the major differences.

Compile matrix.pde for a very easy way of making your own animations!
prcrow3 years ago
What are the 9 - 16 pin IC sockets used for?? I can't seem to find them on the circuit diagram. I assume it is used to connect to the leds,but not sure how that works.

Another comment they are discontinuing the A6276EA chip, it looks as if the TB62706BN/BF chip is a suitable replacement., do you see anything wrong with using it?
Piplx_224 years ago

Just wondering, a few people have asked about which NPN transistors to get... there are so many options, just wanted to get the correct ones (newark part# maybe??)

Also - I bought 1000x 3mm Blue LEDs from ebay. They are 10000 MCD, 465-470 NM, 3.4-3.6v. Do I need to adjust anything to use these LEDs?

R- (author)  Piplx_223 years ago
I'd decrease the value RC from 1000, but don't go below 500 ohms. With all 8 layers lit, a value below 500 ohms will draw more power through the LED driver chips than they are rated to handle.

Transistors were BDX53B, but any NPN transistor would do.
ghostunit124 years ago
 Hi, could you tell me what are the blue wires coming out of the arduino for?
R- (author)  ghostunit123 years ago
They are the triggers from the individual layers. They go from the arduino to the power transistors.
what did you use for NPN transistors what numbers
R- (author)  darkwolfpack_2323 years ago
R- (author) 3 years ago
I finally found the package from the transistors I used. They are BDX53B NPN Darlington transistors. But, as I said, ANY NPN transistor should work. I just went with a high power one since that's what I had available.
pkrouse4 years ago
Looks like a great project to try! I see LEDs on ebay rated at many different voltages. What voltage LEDs did you use? I'd hate to have to alter the circuit any, and heaven knows I don't want to buy LEDs with resistors and solder all those in too!

Has anyone, other than the author of course, finished this project yet?
R- (author)  pkrouse3 years ago
They're a little under 2 volts, can't remember the exact value. Anything under 5 volts should work.
Deep C4 years ago
If I went with common cathode, I think I could just modify the schematic from the other one using NPN transistors instead without modifying the code. I understand electronics pretty well, But I'm just learning arduino code and would like a jumping off point. I think that would be the only modification necessary. Anything anyone else can see I'd need to change?
Arikel Deep C4 years ago
Other than grounding the transistors instead of using 5V, you will need to find a new LED Driver. The one listed will not provide power.
Deep C Deep C4 years ago
Someone else had a different way of wireing it if I remember correctly it used only 1 output for the eight layers I'lltry to find it and post a link or schematic
Mechtek4 years ago
Is there anyone here who could help me understand the code better? I love my cube but really wish I could add my own effects. Thanks in advance!
kupa14164 years ago
El servicio npn PUEDE C1008 voi un probarlo i les digo Como FUE
VHawk5 years ago
Its easier to go to the Sunled USA webstie, sign up and get free samples of the LED Grids.
Zorink VHawk5 years ago
What product are you referring to? I couldn't find anything like that, unless you mean the dot matrix displays.
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