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.

 
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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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wdariusw4 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

Tiimmee18 days 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 !

pankaj77717 days 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.

EpicTaco2411 days ago

Hi there! I am a highschool student building this for my senior project and I was just wondering if you guys had any tips that might be helpful!

READ EVERYTHING especially all the comments!

manas205021 days ago

i am downloading the hex and eep files but the downloaded file are with .tmp extension.

just rename them during or after they are downloaded.

hi, I cant download the sch. files. Can someone send me the sch. files... jthoben@aol.com

jonesa222 days ago
hello,I am basically aeronautical engineer,and am interested in these type of projects.So don't take it as silly question as i am new to electronics.I want to know that for running this led cube do i need to connect it to the PC all the time?

You need a PC and an ICSP programmer for the ATmega32/32A/32L to program the chip, but the demo animations are there already. I have code with additional animations on my "revisited" instructable, as well as a better cube construction technique that allows you to make near perfect cubes every time. Once the code is in the microcontroller, it runs standalone unless you specifically want to send cube frames to it over the serial port.

No, you need to program the ATmega initially, but after that the cube is fully stand alone.

ctuagent27 days ago

Hy!

Somebody could send me a circuit plan? Maybe in pdf, if you cold!

Thanks!

The schematics are in the instructions...

I saw it, i think pcb plan...

Geekaton1 month ago

is the controller you make in it essentially a small computer?

Yes, a microcontroller is just a mini-computer that does a dedicated task. It can run tens of thousands of lines of code, and even do complex processing, sensing, and data acquisition. It can be programmed in C/C++ or Assembly Language code. Here's something I wrote that expands upon the subject in relation to radio control: http://electricrcaircraftguy.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-power-of-arduino.html

Thanks a lot! if you want to have a look heres a timelapse of me making mine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTZJOy70rrc

KrunoslavH26 days ago

HI, my cube is ghosting. How do i fix that? I have pull-ups

Make a video of your cube (preferably running my power on self test) and post a link to the video so I can see what's happening.

You can get my modified code here:
http://www.instructables.com/id/CHRs-8X8X8-LED-Cub...

There is no ghosting in the power on self test, but when it comes to the real animations it starts ghosting.

I still need to see a video of both. Just shoot it as best you can with whatever phone/camera you have and youtube it.

Please - if you have an iphone / smart phone, remember to hold it sideways when making your video.

Here is the video. You can see it the best in the text animation, the fish etc.

I'd love to see a copy that you make when you aren't having an earthquake. I don't need music, I don't need youtube to "stabilize" it (makes it 10 X worse) and I want to see the ENTIRE power on self test...the self test was revealing more than the animations, but you showed so little of it, it's hard to tell what it's showing. Please shoot it again using the ENTIRE self test and a couple animations - and please DO NOT let youtube "fix" your video.

What, you don't like watching tiny videos with 2 huge black bars on either side? :D

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