Picture of LED Cube 8x8x8
Create your own 8x8x8 LED Cube 3-dimensional display!

We believe this Instructable is the most comprehensive step-by-step guide to build an 8x8x8 LED Cube ever published on the intertubes. It will teach you everything from theory of operation, how to build the cube, to the inner workings of the software. We will take you through the software step by step, both the low level drivers/routines and how to create awesome animations. The software aspect of LED cubes is often overlooked, but a LED cube is only as awesome as the software it runs.

About halfway through the Instructable, you will actually have a fully functional LED cube. The remaining steps will show you how to create the software.

A video is worth a thousand words. I'll just leave it up to this video to convince you that this is the next project you will be building:

I made this LED cube together with my friend chiller. The build took about 4 days from small scale prototyping to completed cube. Then another couple of hours to debug some faulty transistors.

The software is probably another 4-5 days of work combined.

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Step 1: Skills required

Picture of Skills required
At first glance this project might seem like an overly complex and daunting task. However, we are dealing with digital electronics here, so everything is either on or off!

I've been doing electronics for a long time, and for years i struggled with analog circuits. The analog circuits failed over half the time even if i followed instructions. One resistor or capacitor with a slightly wrong value, and the circuit doesn't work.

About 4 years ago, I decided to give microcontrollers a try. This completely changed my relationship with electronics. I went from only being able to build simple analog circuits, to being able to build almost anything!

A digital circuit doesn't care if a resistor is 1k ohm or 2k ohm, as long as it can distinguish high from low. And believe me, this makes it A LOT easier to do electronics!

With that said, there are still some things you should know before venturing out and building this rather large project.

You should have an understanding of:
  • Basic electronics. (We would recommend against building this as your very first electronics project. But please read the Instructable. You'll still learn a lot!)
  • How to solder.
  • How to use a multimeter etc.
  • Writing code in C (optional. We provide a fully functional program, ready to go)
You should also have patience and a generous amount of free time.

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garyb1009 days ago


What a great instructable. Hoping someone can Help me. Started to build this and testing as I go along. Having problems with the multiplexer, 574 chip 3 is mirroring 574 chip 0. Have checked for shorts no shorts, check timing pulses as best I can using a 2 channel storage scope and everything seems ok. Think it has something to do with the timing and the program but no matter how much I check the program I can't find an error. Anybody any idea's please

If the program works for everybody EXCEPT you, then it cannot possibly be the programming.

If chips 3 and 0 are mirrored, the first thing I'd check is the outputs of the 138. Triple check your wiring.

Thanks for your reply. Found the problem. As I said building this as I go along and was using a development board to drive the multiplexer. Don't know why but it is this development board that causes the problem. built my own processor board and all is well. thanks again
ghosts man22 hours ago

hi, i going to make this , plss help if i need help

3alaawi2 months ago
Also, if i were to replace all the leds with rgb leds, would this change anything other than the software side of the project?

This project's cube has 64 anodes and 8 cathode (layer) connections. 72 total connections to be controlled.

The typical RGB cube has 172 plus 8 for a total of 180 connections to control.

So, ya - it's way different.

I mean unless you just use one colour of the LED and just clip off the other connections.

And I seriously wouldn't recommend this as a first electronic project - ESPECIALLY if you are planning to use it as a school project. I have seen way too many people do that, and were it not for me spending many sleepless nights helping those people, they would have failed completely.
Experienced people have trouble building this circuit by hand and making it work - which is why I developed printed circuit boards for it.
That was the only way to bring this from an advanced level project to a beginner/intermediate level project.

Hey, just wondering where I could find your printed circuit board. I've already finished building my cube and am wondering if there is a place where I can buy it

yup, just inbox me for details

oops, 192 plus 8 = 200 connections

ChristophP15 days ago

At first, thanks for this awsome tutorial. Just from reading and trying to understand it, i learned a lot :)

But there is something I didn't get. A LED usually work with 20 mA but in the cube we have a 1/8 duty cycle so the current is around 50-100 mA. This means the shift register has to drive at least 400 mA but the limit are 50 mA. Why aren't there any darlington array in your circuit? Maybe I'm missing somethin or misunderstand it so I would appreciate some help and hints :)

Sorry if the english isn't the best :/

You're thinking of things backwards to begin with. We are basically modulating the LEDs which means LESS current draw, not more. The entire circuit when driving all LEDs constantly draws about 650mA.

kochel171 year ago
This is a good guide.. however the parts list needs revamping. For those of us who have little to no experience in electronics, we don't know what to order unless the name on the spreadsheet matches the name of the part we have to order. For about half of the parts, when I would search the name on Futurlec I would get 0 results. Very frustrating.

the step2 components list still says "terminal pins" which are actually VERY different things from male headers, which is what I assume you meant since those are on the step15 list.

Tell the author of this instructable, not instructable has actual links to the parts.

Thanks so much!


even i the Hitman admits

this is just awesome

SharkN6 days ago

A verry good tutorial but I have just a question now, in the components list u wrote that we need "ribbon cable" and "2x ribbon cable plugs" but what kind of ribbon cable & plugs ? 40 pins 16 pins 8 pins or what?

Thanks for answer

zjustus19 days ago
varooj.pink20 days ago

Hi every body.

could you please send the full version code for arduino. tnx

which resistor is used in 9th pin of atmega 32 for reset the atmega?

trifon161 month ago

Awesome project. Thanks for this great intructable!

Hi After I finished the cube and run it .it be so good with a small problem that the first row play but still light Most of the time.

PLZ help me in this problem

godofthunder8 months ago

Hi,could you solve a mystery for me,on one of your schematic layouts,i am trying to figure out what wire goes to what pin from the sv1 to the 74HC574N chip i have the numbers 7 to 14 on the sv1 but the chip in which to wire too has the numbers in a way i can't work it out,the data line has D0 to D7 but the chip is marked 1D to 8D,as on your other schematic of the main programming board i see all the connections,if you follow what i am getting at,so could you help me and tell me what number of the sv1 pins go to what number pins on the 574n chip or do me a diagram please so i can finish my board,and move on to the cube e-mail address is

D0 goes to 1D, D1 goes to 2D, D2 goes to 3D and so on. I Realize that it is probably too late, you posted this six months ago, but just in case it answers the question for others. Also, don't forget that D0 gets connected to EVERY 74HC574 1D input.

Hi, I have since built the circutry and the cube,? But now I am stuck on the programing part, as I have nevver used command promt before, as the coding on this instructable isn't covered in detail onhow to write code, so my project is on hold now, I even tried searching for a tutorial on using command promt, but as of yet not found anything to help me, I now have a useless cube because of this not being covered in better detail, but thank you for your reply anyway, it would be good if someone did a tutorial on instructables on how to use c-coding, thanks again.
hi supertech,
i have received the ecxell chart for your wiring ect,just one thing bothers me,if you look at the first board with all the 574n's on it and look at the header pins you have the orange wire first,that goes to output enable,secondly the next wire/s (green).which would be pin number 2 ( D0 ) this wire is seen on your board connecting to header pin number 7,so what i am saying is the chart you have done tells me it connects to pin number 9,sorry if i sound dumb,but not sure on the configurations you have set out,could you solve this for me,thank you for your time as I'm sure you must get allot of queries with your design,thanks again...........Dave.

Firstly, this is CHR's design, not mine. I simply expanded on his design.

Next, the orange wire IS NOT the first wire on the header, it's the sixth.
There are 5 blue wires first, then the orange wire is the 6th, THEN it gets into the green wires.
Remember, when you are looking at a microchip, pin 2 is next to pin 1, but when you are looking at a header, pin 2 is above pin 1.
Then of course you have to remember which pin is which when you flip over the board because it will be mirrored in at least one way.

So, in looking at the bottom of the board, the HEADER is pinned like this
and the colours are (B=Blue, O=Orange, G= Green)

The chart you are looking at is 100% accurate and reflects this completely.

If looking at the wiring on the board is confusing you, stuck to the chart. That's why I made it. If the chart says ATmega32 pin 1 goes to header pin 3 which goes to 74HC138 pin 1 - then that's exactly how it's connected regardless of what you may interpret the wiring on the board to look like. The chart is also a guide to check your work with a continuity meter once you have completed your work.

Remember, if you aren't able to build the circuit in the end, but still very much want to complete this project, I do have printed circuit boards available.

TO DOWNLOAD THE .SCH FILES, just change the extension after downloading them to .SCH, then you can view them in any schematic editor that works with .sch format.

Awesome Instructable!! I NEED HELP though Please! In the schematic for the AVR board, the transistors that go to the layers have resistors hooked up to the ground layers, and those resistors are hooked up to VCC. Is that correct or was that a mistake in the schematic. They look like pull up resistors, but since the layers need to be grounded in order to light them up, what is the purpose of those resistors? Nothing was said about them in the instructable.

1324itouch1 month ago

Thanks so much for this instructable! I made the cube using arduino and got the code to run perfectly with the cube. I am just wondering if it would be possible for you to post the full code you have running on your cube for arduino. I know you have arduino code already posted, but I'm asking for the whole code with all of the animations rather then just the few you put on the code. Thanks so much!

Panda611 month ago

Hi Help me pls, I have some column wrong, what it could be???

zeevy2 months ago

Hi, Want to build another cube with led sink driver STP16DP05, with PNP transistor for layer drivers ( using SPI interface )

since STP16DP05 has active low output, what will be the best way to invert the cube contents in software

3alaawi2 months ago
I see you listed three prerequisite knowledge requirements (im excluding the C code). Do you mind giving suitable links for guides/tutorials on these to the level that is required for this project. I want to go against your recommendation and build this as my first electronic project :D
pankaj7773 months ago

hello sir thanks for your guidance i made it......but in my cube
font is not showing right......the middle part of cube is off and both
side is running when text run.(stringly2 effect) and other text and
animation n bitmaps are run can i solve this.......

i also program .eep file in atmega eeprom and able to access it but not getting proper text msg.....&.and animation

i am programming the controller with universal programmer topwin6

i am sending the images please check the fuse byte.....

plz tell me what to do now.......


I can't say about the program you are using because we don't use it.

Maybe you should try using AVRDudess. It's a Windows GUI for AVRDude.

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