Since we published our last LED Cube instructable, we have gotten a lot of questions from people wondering if they could use an Arduino to control the cube.
This time, we are one step ahead of you on the "Can i use an arduino?" front :D
The IO requirements for an 8x8x8 LED cube is:
- Layer select: 8
- Data bus for latches: 8
- Address bus for latches: 3
- Output enable (OE) for latches: 1
The Arduino has 13 GPIO pins and 8 analog inputs, which can also be used as GPIO. This gives you a total of 21 IO lines, exactly the amount of IO needed to run the LED cube!
But why write about it when we could just show you?
We hooked the cube up to an Arduino and ported some of the software.
Since the multiplexer array and AVR board are separated by a ribbon cable, connecting the IO lines to an Arduino is a simple matter of connecting some breadboard wires. Luckily, we soldered in a female 0.1" pin header for the transistor lines when we were debugging the first set of transistors. Just remove the ATmega and connect wires from the Arduino to these pin headers.
We connected the cube like this: DATA bus: Digital pins 0-7. This corresponds to PORTD on the ATmega328 on the Arduino board, so we can use direct port access instead of Arduinos digitalWrite (which is slow). Address bus: Digital pins 8-10. This corresponds to PORTB bit 0-2. On this we HAVE to use direct port access. Arduinos digitalWrite wouldn't work with this, because you can't set multiple pins simultaneously. If the address pins are not set at the exact same time, the output of the 74HC138 would trigger the wrong latches. Output Enable: Digital pin 11. Layer transistors: Analog pins 0-5 and digital pins 12 and 13.
We had to go a bit outside the scope of the Arduino platform. The intention of Arduino is to use digitalWrite() for IO port access, to make the code portable and some other reasons. We had to sidestep that and access the ports directly. In addition to that, we had to use one of the timers for the interrupt routine.
The registers for the interrupt and timers are different on different AVR models, so the code may not be portable between different versions of the Arduino board.
The code for our quick Arduino hack is attached.