Instructables
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.

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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zeevy2 days 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

3alaawi7 days 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.

3alaawi7 days 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
pankaj7771 month 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 wrong........how 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.......

topwin6.jpgtop2.jpgtop1.jpg

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.

i set all the fuse bits according to inscrutable but still the font is going wrong.....i will send you the video of cube plz will tell me how to solve this.

thank you,

Not just to make sure the fuse bits are right, but also to make sure everything is uploaded in the right order. If you upload the EEP before the HEX, then it erases the EEP. ALSO - this happened to me more than once - download a new copy of the EEP. I had mine get corrupted before.

sir eep is also working........i am sending you the video of my cube please check what is the problem in letters.

can't see the video - says it's still processing.

However, I will re-state that unless you are using AVRDude and/or AVRDudesse, I can't help you. I will not spend 5 days of troubleshooting only to find out it's some incompatibility with your program. Until we eliminate your software as a possible source of the issue, I simply cannot warrant investing the time in this issue.

sir one last time only see the video and suggest me what to do now..... i upload it on you tube please see it......and i only upload the text msg portion in this video.......

That really tells me nothing. If you want to make a video that I can use, upload my code onto your cube and video the ENTIRE Power On Self Test.

http://www.instructables.com/files/orig/FCO/FZ0P/H...

the complete codes are on my page here:

http://www.instructables.com/id/CHRs-8X8X8-LED-Cub...

ok thanks sir

i will try this also

and i will send u another video.......

Well, it tells me little more than you very likely have your 138 wired wrong. it looks like the outside edges of your cube are running down the middle.

zeevy made it!12 days ago

With:

3mm diffused blue led with 17 to 19 mm lead length

74HC164

BD139

80PIN IDE cable

No RS232

WP_20140926_004.jpgWP_20140929_001.jpgWP_20141008_007.jpgWP_20141008_008.jpgWP_20141009_002.jpgWP_20141009_004.jpgWP_20141009_007.jpgWP_20141009_012.jpgWP_20141011_001.jpgWP_20141011_006.jpgWP_20141011_007.jpgWP_20141011_010.jpgWP_20141011_011.jpg
zeevy zeevy12 days ago

Programmed the ATMEGA32A with raspberry pi GPIO SPI ( with avrdude )

Programmed the ATmega32A with a $3 USBasp using AVRDude.

Then I expanded on this design and added music trigger input.

Black Edition Base.jpgCIMG2875-2.jpgScan_Pic0038.jpgCIMG2850.JPG

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQkfUhMzaI4

MR ZEEVY THATS VERRY GOOD.I THINK YOU RA GOOD OF WORLD OF LED ...

zeevy17 days ago

I am going to use 74HC164, do i need to change the wiring to the cube or rotating the cube 90 degrees will just work?

This project doesn't use shift registers at all. Very little in this project will pertain to yours.

Hi thanks so much for the great post! And so kind of you to continue to reply to comments after three years :)

I'm just wondering if you could please expand on the transistor problem you had? I'm very much a beginner... just wondering, given the chance again, what steps you would follow to a) select the correct "single transistor" solution, and b) how you would go about diagnosing the initial problems you had?

e.g. i suppose a multimeter could tell you the current going in to base vs the current from collector to emiter? Or the datasheet on your choice of transistor would tell you the current to expect? ... Just wanting some general thoughts on the issue I guess, perhaps i'm too much of a beginner to make this a specific question :)

If I understand the problem... a transistor "takes a small current in to base to enable a large current from c to e" and that relationship is a ratio (i.e. increase in to base = multiplied increase from c to e), is the problem you had that the "multiplier" (for want/lack of a better word) from the IO current going in to base, was still not sufficient to handle the current needed for the layer going from C to E? Thanks for your help, Simon

I use single 2N2222 transistors for each layer. I explain how and why in several comments in this instructable, and again in mine.

I'm fairly new to this but I'm making a 4x4x4 cube based of your instructable. I've soldered two layers together with no issues. Checked all my leds before and after soldering each layer. And then check each again after soldering the layers together. I got to my third, soldered it on, and that's when I started have issues. My tail end I stuck my negative on and went to test the first led which wouldn't light up. I then checked all the others, all of them work. So I took the one non working led "unsweated" it and rechecked it off the cube, and it worked again. So I soldered it back on and checked it again. It still wont work. I checked, double checked, and triple checked to make sure I didn't solder any of the anodes to the cathode. None of them were touching. I'm not sure whats up. Any ideas why it won't work on the cube?

If it's just one LED, it may simply be defective. This can happen by heat damage, or right from the factory. Just replace it.

wdariusw27 days ago

Hi everyone! Very nice instructable. I made that cube but i have some issues and do not know how to fix it. There are some ghosting in a test.hex program. And in the first effect seems to be all layers inverted, empty layer goes from bottom to the top. Sorry for my bad english :) Here my video link, please help ! Thanks ! :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I81OQtPZEco

You seem to have several issues, but the first one seems to be that you may have used PNP transistors rather than NPN,

No, i really used NPN transistor (BCX41) that can hold 0.8A current.. When i write full program, there are some effect that working fine. Maybe half of them.

Then you got your cathodes and anodes backwards on your LEDs.

No, i tested, all anodes are in the vertical positions and goes straight to the latches. Cathodes are in the horizontal position. And why some of effects works like it should be then ? Will upload whole video with main.hex tomorrow... Checked everything few times and can't find mistake :/

It will help me if you load MY code from my instructable and make sure you video the whole power on self test, and a few animations.

http://www.instructables.com/id/CHRs-8X8X8-LED-Cube-Revisited-with-improvements/

Here..Totally something wrong..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BauoCYa64EY

Your transistors appear to be the wrong kind or something because it looks like the layers are all on, and only going off when they are supposed to be active -but something is seriously wrong with your layer control - and one output in the 7th row over seems to have it's second output shorted to the second input - so every time it goes high, that whole plane lights up

Found one trace broken, also replaced all transistors tu MBBT2222A and now everything works perfectly except "text effect". Instead "INSTRUCTABLES" it comes squares..

you didn't upload the EEP file or your EEP file is corrupt. You must upload the HEX first, then the EEP. If you upload the EEP first, the HEX will wipe it out. I have seen the EEP file get corrupted on the system many times because of read operations replacing the files etc. Re-download the EEP, and re-upload the HEX, and then the EEP.

Yes , i uploaded eep first..will reupload it later. And last question. Can I change text incoming direction? Because now it goes from left to the right , not from end to the front

Tiimmee1 month ago

hello,
last weekend i finished the cube and it looks awesome. But i have a problem and i hope someone could help me. When many LEDs in one Layer are set to HIGH, the LEDs are shine very dimly.
The cube is in use with a 5V 2A Power Supply which should be more than enough.

Especially in the beginning you see that when one full layer is on, the LEDs are really dark. Also there is some sort of ghosting at one layer, dont know if this has something todo with each other.

At least, thanks for this great instructable!!!!

It won't let me view the video, because it say it's private - however I am familiar with your issue. Your transistors are in backwards. Yes, the cube still works, because the transistors are now in an emitter-follower configuration, but they will not handle the larger loads without dropping voltage. So basically, turn your transistors around, and it should be fine.

Thank you, this solved the problem !!!!!

Now all LEDs shine bright and the ghosting is away.

No problem. You aren't the first one to do this....LOL !

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