Introduction: LED CUBE: Without Programming [How to Build]

Picture of LED CUBE: Without Programming [How to Build]
This is a STEP by STEP guide to making a usb powered led cube that requires NO programming.   I wanted to make a led cube after seeing a video on youtube but with the limited knowledge in multiplexing I devised a way to make one that only required hardware. Below is a video of the final product.

There are no animations as all leds change on there own as they are automatic colour changing led.
As these leds have cheap timing circuits inside them aren't precisally acurate and all go out of time, that is what gives it the random pattern, because it is random!


Step 1: Parts List: Bill of Materials

Picture of Parts List: Bill of Materials

For this instructable you will need:

  • 100 pcs of fast flash 5mm RGB leds found here on ebay:  CLICK HERE -------£8 >>> $14 ish
  • 3mm Acrylic sheet A3 (clear, duh), can be found on ebay:  TRY HERE ----------£6 >>> $11 ish
  • Couple meters of solder, no joke -------------------------------------------------------------£1 >>> $3   ish
  • cellotape if you can't be bothered to glue the case (I confess) ---------------------------Already had
  • 1mm copper rod, about 70 cm -------------------------------------------------------------Found it in a skip
  • A USB cable -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Free
  • Scrap wood to make the jig --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Free
  • Squared paper and glue ----------------------------------------------------------------------------Already had
  • 3.3Ohm 2W resistor----------------------------------------------------------- dunno, look for your self, lazy
  • And a lot of patience ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Price less

Step 2: Research: Auto Fading LED's

Picture of Research: Auto Fading LED's

If we take a look at just one of these special leds, we can see it does this:
  • Fades from red to green to blue
  • Then flashes, red, green, blue, turqois, purple, orange.

This means it has three leds in one; a red LED, a green LED and a blue LED. The timer built into the led is not perfect so there fore the leds never flash completely in sync with one another. That is what gives it the random pattern, because it is random!  See the tagged photo. This led only needs 2 pins as all colour fading happens in the chip ( the black dot ) so you only need to supply power.

Step 3: Constuction: Making the Jig

Picture of Constuction: Making the Jig
The uniformity of the LEDs will either make your led cube look depressingly deformed or  cute3 (cubically). That is why you will need to make a jig to hold the LED's in place when soldering them together.

To make the jig you will need:
  1. 15 to 18 mm of mdf  or other scrap wood (18mm MDF is recomended)
  2. Prit Stick or other paper glue
  3. CM squared paper (got it from an old math book)
  4. A pillar drill or other drill with a 5mm drill bit

First, glue the paper on to the mdf block, the block must be about 100mm by 100mm, AKA 4" by 4"
Next, drill 25 holes 5mm in diameter and about a cm in depth. They should be about  2 cm apart in each direction.
Finaly, clear out the holes of dust.

Step 4: Construction: Making the Layers

Picture of Construction: Making the Layers

This is the most time consuming process!
  1. The first photo shows the red and black; positive and negative, rails.
  2. Insert leds in jig as shown, but all the way round, in all the holes. (see the second photo)
  3. When you get to a corner put the LED's in place as shown in the third photo, note the angle of the corner LED!
  4. When you have finisher soldering the LED's all the way round , the structure will be flimsy. Using spare resistors or solid core wire connect the weeker parts of the rails together making sure that you have not connected the positive and negative rails together ( see the forth, fith and six photos )
  5. Finaly repeat this 3 more times, so you have 4 layers.

Step 5: Construction: Stacking the Layers

Picture of Construction: Stacking the Layers
You will be delighted to here that there is more soldering: Cough Cough (remeber to work in a well ventilated enviroment)
Lead Poisoning Yet?

Now we are going to solder the 4 layers together. To hold them in place in the clear case copper rod is used as it can be soldered on to the different layers. 5 pieces are requires, one in each corner and one aditional one in the power corner.
  1. Put the top layer in the jig ane solder 4 of the copper rods in each of the corners to the negative rail pointing up and away from the jig.
  2. Now solder the fith rod to your worst corner ( ie the worst looking, as it will be at the back)
  3. Get your USB cable and strip it down, solder red and black wires to the positive and negative rail (see the last photo)
Update : Solder a 3.3 Ohm resistor (2W) into the red 5V line

Step 6: Construction: Making of the Display Case

Picture of Construction: Making of the Display Case
Finally Comes The Contruction Of The Display Case

You will now nee to cut out panels of these dimension:
  • 2 pcs of 110mm by 105mm
  • 4 pcs of 135mm by 105mm
Optional: I used some wet and dry to give the bottom part of the case a misted look, remember to mask off the other parts first!

Now just tape them in place, which is what I did but a glued case would look better.

Step 7: Conclusion: End of Line

Picture of Conclusion: End of Line

If you have managed to complete one you self, CONGRATS you have too much time and I suggest getting a Job or Work experience. Please can you send me some photos, I would like to see them.

If you liked this instructable please Rate and VOTE for it in the LED CONTEST  when voting can begin. Don't Forget to check out my other instructables.

For quite the opposite, CLICK HERE to see my daft punk themed LED helmet

Step 8: Update ! Automatic Turn On

Picture of Update ! Automatic Turn On
This is an optional addon if you can't take not having any programming. It uses and arduino and a LDR to automatically turn on when dark.

Parts required:
  • An arduino
  • A standard LDR
  • A 1K resistor
  • 5X 2N3904 NPN transistors ( or equivalent )
  • Some strip board
  • And some more solder.
Program the arduino with this code:

const int analogPin = A0; // pin that the sensor is attached to
const int ledPin = 9; // pin that the LED is attached to
const int threshold = 500; // Change this to calibrate your sensitivity

void setup() {
pinMode(ledPin, OUTPUT);


void loop() {
int analogValue = analogRead(analogPin);
if (analogValue > threshold) {
digitalWrite(ledPin, HIGH);
else {


Now wire the components as shown in the simple circuit diamgrams below.


KeshavaK1 (author)2017-11-08

Send me program document led cube

KeshavaK1 (author)2017-11-08

How to download program document

KeshavaK1 (author)2017-11-08

Plz send program document led cube

devicemodder (author)2017-08-13

You can also do the dark sensing part without programming by using a transistor like in the schematic i uploaded

Ivy Hazel MaeL (author)2015-11-21

Hi! i just want to ask... can i use a 9v battery? and connect the led lights series-parallel? im not good in electronics though so sorry for my ignorance

daviepubman (author)2013-05-27

Excuse my ignorance, how can you wire up so many LEDs with just one resistor? All the calculators/guides I've seen say one resistor per LED or per array in series. This cube of 100 LEDs must be drawing ~2w?

wobblycogs (author)2012-05-05


Looks like a great project, just a question before I start - I can't seem to find a 3.3ohm, 2W resistor, and just want to check that I shouldn't be looking for a 3.3kohm, or 330 ohm resistor instead?


Hello thank you for your comment, It is correct but try searching 3R3 2W resistor, it is a more common in industry than 3.3r. Also R is short hand for ohms.

try here:

ok thanks

fantastic :-)

Linkster999 (author)2011-11-24

will this piece of plastic acrylic sheet work :

ON Ebay

Sorry also that there has been a 5 month delay in my response. That plastic should work.

Linkster999 (author)2011-11-12

Could u provide me with a link to the Rapid store?

sorry I was a tad late with the reply (5 months) the rapid store is here:

erdosain9 (author)2012-03-13

Should we change something if you use 10mm blue LED? All I want is that light up and nothing else. I do not care that "anime". Does the USB port can power many leds?
Should I use a different value of resistance? Is the resistance where it is placed?

Excuse my ignorance but I do not know electronics. :-)

Thank you very much!

This is a translation of google.

Zikkurat (author)2011-12-23

Is it normal for the resistor to get very hot?
I am using the same RGB Leds as mentioned, the same value resistor, and a Nokia cellphone usb cord; but when I plugged the cube into the computer the resistor got so hot that it melted the shrink wrap that I had placed around it. I am not that familiar with electronics, and was wondering if this indicates that I have done something wrong.

AngelInTheNight (author)Zikkurat2012-02-23

Hey I know this question was older but it means that you're putting more current through it than it's designed for.

Everett_McKinley (author)2012-02-14

awesome job I should make one of these!

indresh.mehta (author)2012-02-06

I've got everything. wanting to make a 8x8x8 cube. which resistors do you suggest? and should i place a resistor at every column in the 8x8 like i would in making a single colored led cube.?
just waiting to supply power. everything else is ready :O

Tycoon5000 (author)2011-10-11

Built a 3x3x3 cube. I cased mine in stained glass though. It turned out great I think. Thanks for the great instructable.

Sorry for the delay.... busy busy busy... uni and all.

Its very good, much simpler than mine and produces a faded outline of the led grid from the inside.

Also great use of the jig in the foreground :P

Linkster999 (author)2011-11-10

i mean to say how many sheets of acrylic plastic did u order of of ebay ?
and what did u use to cut it ?

Only one A3 piece of 3mm clear acrylic. You can buy the rubberfeet from Rapid, maybe radio shack they are for the bottom of enclosures. To cut the plastic

I used a laser cutter from (college). You might by able to use a band saw or a score and snap method but im not really sure.

Linkster999 (author)2011-11-10

just another question how many shets didi u order off of ebay ?

Linkster999 (author)2011-11-10

hey jw where did u get the self adhesive feet ?

sambo2711 (author)2011-07-21

Do you have any idea whereabouts I could buy the copper rod? I did a quick Google, with no success and hoped you would be able to help. Thanks!

You could Use braizing rod / wire, I got mine from my college, I hope this helps.

Do you think these would do the job? Thanks!

If you can solder it and it conducts electricity yes. You might have to go down to the store with a multi meter, or a 9v battery and look for sparks but I wouldn't like to say in case it can't

Okay, thanks. I think I'll just get them and try; they're only £3 so it's not a massive waste if they don't work. Thanks for your help.

MikkoK1 (author)sambo27112011-08-12

Did those rods work?

sambo2711 (author)MikkoK12011-08-13

Yes, they did.

Linkster999 (author)sambo27112011-11-10

ok heres an image as well

Linkster999 (author)sambo27112011-11-10

Okay im in the same boat that u were in Could u tell me if these will work ?

eXtremeSomething (author)MikkoK12011-08-13

It must have worked as they are still watching it in dark room somewhere, hence the lack of responce

Zikkurat (author)2011-10-28

I just started making one of these, and I was wondering what to do with the ends of the last LED (the middle most one) in each layer. The ends of all the other LEDs in the layer are soldered to those of the the next LED, but the middle LED is the last of the line and is not followed by any others. Do you solder the ends of the LED to the Corresponding LED on the next level beneath it? Do you just cut the ends and leave them?

Hello, sorry for the delay in my reply. you can cut off the legs of the middle most one, or you can be clever and try in reinforce the structure by soldering the legs of the middle most led to another place on that rail, on the same layer

(ie, follow that track of legs back along, till the leg of the middle led can reach)

Could u reply to my question asap please, id like to know before i buy copper brazzing rods

I don't see why not, but you might not be able to get it hot enought to solder to. I would like to think it conducts electricity but im not sure. Try it an find out.

These shoult conduct as they are copper ill ask at the store for a voltemeter test


Linkster999 (author)Zikkurat2011-11-09

Im in the process of getting materials jw if brazzing rods will work

max1zzz (author)2011-10-05

Damn, i just blew my money on copper tape and supercaps, i want one of theses! but i want to get a load of 555's and control the led's with those, as soon as i have money im gonna do this :-)

cabbagehats (author)2011-08-30

liked this a bunch and took your wiring but instead stuffed it all into a raccoon skull. Now I have a USB 2.0 raccoon skull.

Well do feel free to make an photo instructable too inlighten us all. And it would be your first instructable, I can't wait to see it !

it has been done.

this guy is heating up some and I put one of the resistors on that came with the LEDs. I put it on the negative and the supplier said that the resistors for rated for 12Vs. Is this too small?

netphreak (author)2011-08-09

Why did you put the resistor on the positive rail? Everything I've read says to put resistors on the ground rail.

Every think you've read? Well you can put in on either rail as long as there is 1 resitor ( of the stated value ) in series with the whole led cube.

TheAstronot (author)2011-07-23

Woo Hoo. I made a 3x3x3 by following your directions and it turned out awesome. I have it running off of batteries 4aaa and a scavenged battery holder from something. Cool thing is it has two settings one where it's a constant current so it performs like yours all randomized and the other where it sends a pulsed current and it flashes all the leds in unison and all colors at the same time very strobe-tastic. I didn't plan it that way just a happy accident. I'm going to take video of it and have a few pictures if your interested.

Well done. Are they all in unison for the first few sequences, Is that were you cut the power for a few mili second to reset them. Or is it just a weird phenomena when using a pulsed input? I can't wait to see the pictures.

cmielke (author)2011-07-16

The smoke is from burning flux. Lead will almost never reach the point where it becomes airborne.

About This Instructable




Bio: I make things because its fun and I like the challenge.
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