The 'One Chip Spinning RGB POV Display' with conversion software.


If you have been on the look out for a project that combines, RGB LED's, a motor, a microcontroller and a ridiculous amount of hot melt glue, then you have certainly come to the right place.

Allow me to introduce the 'One Chip' Spinning RGB POV Display

This project allows you to create (with minimal components) a fantastic customizable display capable of displaying graphics, animations and text. You can scroll your graphics from top to bottom or use it as a scrolling message display, scrolling from right to left.

The project uses just one chip, eight RGB LED's and a handful of other components to paint animations in 'mid-air!' Plus, together with the included graphic conversion software (download link in step 2) you can easily create your own animations because the software creates all the code for you.

So please, read on and enjoy!

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Step 1: Get your required parts and tools.


Before we set out on this venture, you will need both the components and tools.

Parts List:
1x PIC 18f4680 microcontroller
1 x 40 pin IC socket (optional - to house the microcontroller)
8 x Common cathode RGB LED's
24 x 100 ohm resistors (any wattage)
1 x 0.1 uF capacitor (optional)
2 x 100 uF capacitors
1 x 7805 (5 Volt Regulator)
2 x 10k ohm resistors
1 x hall effect sensor / hall effect switch
1 x 5 pin header (to plug in the pickit2 programmer)
1 x small rare earth magnet (to be used with the sensor)
1 x screw in type mains wiring terminator (See last photo - you get these from a hardware store)
1 x 12v motor
1 x motor (any motor that you can destroy for parts - I.E. the graphite brushes)
1 x 12v powersupply (for the motor)
1 x 7.5 volt power supply (for the POV display - can be upto about 18v)
1 x (5.5cm x 5.5cm blank pcb - aka blank copper clad) - this will be used to transfer power to the display
Holt Melt Glue Sticks
Veroboard / experimenters board
Thin enamel wire (see pic)
Standard single core wire (Like they use in network cable)

- Soldering Iron
- Screw Driver
- hot melt glue gun
- Stanley knife
- side cutters
- pliers
- pickit2 programmer
- desoldering tool (solder sucker or solder braid - just in case!)
- computer running windows
- swordfish basic compiler (this is a free download - it compiles the code for the microcontroller)
- POV Image Converter (Software that I have made, download link is included in the instructable)

Now that you have all of that, let's get into the construction.

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jeet5551 month ago

thanks brads for this project i'm successfully make this project here my video

zahamed14 months ago

hello did u guys got any ppt ??

bryan19838 months ago
Hello I uploaded your POV Conversion software and it converts the images even the one you included in it but when I try to get the code it locks up and becomes unresponsive is this an issue you've ever encountered?
billlask-gr9 months ago
can i do this project with PIC 18LF4680-i/p???
bradsprojects (author)  billlask-gr9 months ago
Yes, LF just means that it can work at a lower voltage and i/p just tells you the chip packaging. I think i/p means it is a through hole DIP component.
zuh10 months ago
apology not speak English I'm using a translator...
in advance thank you very much for your input .. well my question the capacitor that is connected to VDD also are putting another capacitor to VSS .. thanks for your answer. well I'll start doing it now
bradsprojects (author)  zuh10 months ago
Hi, you just need to connect a capacitor between VCC and VSS :)
fazal71712 months ago
Can i use a PIC18f4550 because the other 18F4860 isnt available here. Thanks in advance. And this is an awesome project.
denulrix1 year ago
How can you make an imge with text in it for the scrolling text? I've found some software that allowed me to make an image with text in it but it's only in one color. So how did you make that "instructables AND sparkfun PRESENT microcontroller contest" image?

Kind regards
keyser0091 year ago
Hi Brad!

I have an other question. I proved the project but it appears the same image four times on every lap with the PovConverterBigGraphics. How can I resolve that?
keyser0091 year ago
Nice project!!

I have one question. In the schematic, why the sensor hall out is attached to the pin RE2 and not to the pin MCLR to reset the PIC and draw a new image? I don't understand that.

bradsprojects (author)  keyser0091 year ago
You could compare it to resetting your computer. You would never get anything achieved if you constantly reset your computer.

It's the same with this project, the hall effect sensor is connected to RE2 and there is some code that is monitoring RE2 and waiting for it to go high (I am pretty sure it's high...) and when it sees it go high it then runs the code to draw the next image.

shudson71 year ago
Ok here is the link! i'm using it as the display part of a class project in an intro to engineering course. The display reads "UCO ALERT SCOUT WARNING SYSTEM ACTIVE" took some playing around with paint and 8 bit artistry lol.. But eh.. not bad!
By the way.. Enjoyed the philippians comment in the code brother.
shudson71 year ago
It's working! All be it not exactly at its best but well enough to add to my project due tomorrow.. I'll perfect the balancing etc after that :)
shudson71 year ago
Thank you for the quick replies. You have been a great help and this particular project has brought more understanding to me than my labs in class. Now that I am learning how to properly read the schematic it's getting a little easier. I'm excited to see if it works! Thanks again my friend!
shudson71 year ago
Please ignore my question about the pickit 2! I have read all the previous questions and got it figured out.. BUT I do have one major question. I'm confused how the voltage regulator fits in? On the schematic I'm not seeing it tied it..

1. Does the "In" pin take in voltage directly from the power supply and the "out" then go to all the VCC? and
2. Does the board need to be cut between each pin? It looks like on the schematic that it does NOT need to be cut between each pin that the middle ground somehow makes sure the higher voltage doesn't pass to the otherside?

Please help! I think I may have the rest figured out for now. Got one more week before I have to tie it into the rest of my project and present! You're awesome thanks!!
bradsprojects (author)  shudson71 year ago
Hi in answer to your questions:
1) the IN pin connects directly to the +ve connection of the power supply coming in. The GND pin goes to the -ve connection of the power supply coming in. You then have 5v coming out which becomes your Vcc connection. Ground is common to both input and output.

2) the veroboard I have used (otherwise known as strip board) has tracks connected in rows but each track is not connected to the other. so you just need to make sure that you cut the tracks so that the top and bottom legs of the microcontroller aren't touching each other. and also that each side of the resistor aren't touching each other. Have a good look at the progressive photo's to see where the cuts are. Hope it all comes together for you nicely!
msolangi1 year ago
Hey! The software doesnt seem to work .. I did copy the povdata folder into the c drive ... but still it hangs after I click 'Get code' ... BTW thanks for such a great Project!
shudson71 year ago
Sorry for posting a lot. But I was hoping you could tell me what RPM the motor needs to be capable of reaching?
bradsprojects (author)  shudson71 year ago
The RPM of the motor is not so important (I.e. pretty much any motor can handle speeds in the 1,000's of RPM) this project only requires around 25 - 30 RPM to get a good image. What is important is that it can handle the load attached to it. I just bought a 12V motor which was around $10 and it had plenty of torque to handle my project.
shudson71 year ago
Thank you. I'm going to build this and integrate it into a project I'm doing for my college engineering course. I originally was going to use a single stationary display, but this will add 'awe' :) I'm a total novice though so hopefully I can pull it off. I'll post a video once we're done with the whole thing! **** Sorry it is not allowing me to post as a reply.. Its asking for the captcha but not displaying one..? Anyway I will post my project.. Wish me luck!
shudson71 year ago
On the 100 uF capacitors Does the voltage matter whether 25 or 100 etc? Or will any type 100uF work?
bradsprojects (author)  shudson71 year ago
Either of those voltage ratings will work. You just want to make sure you use a value that is higher than the voltage you are working with. E.G. if you're working with 5v then you would get caps that are rated at maybe 16v etc...
denulrix1 year ago
Hi, I love to built this project but I don't know how I have to connect the header :(
I can't find it in your schematic (I'm quite new in electronics) plz help :)

leinahtan1 year ago
Hi there BRAD, i am from the philippines, and building this instructables for my wife. I already did the whole thing although using 18f4620. but i am having problems looking for the hall sensor. I dismantled one part from those PC blower fan, with 6125 written on it, found the data sheet for the right pin out, used it on the POV but in vain. when it passes the magnet the led stay off permanently.

QUESTION: what can be an alternative replacement for a hall sensor, (very difficult to purchase it from my country)

2. How to balanced the whole thing, MINE keeps vibrating as if there's an earthquake a top on my table?

3.If i finally make it work 100%, can i repost the whole thing of course linking to your site to my own BLOG.


4. thank you very much for this wonderful creation.
bradsprojects (author)  leinahtan1 year ago
You could use an infrared led and photo-diode instead. The photo diode would be the sensor (which is attached to the spinning board) and the LED would be on the main base of the unit. As it spins, the photo diode will pass by the LED and that would send a logic 1 to the microcontroller to tell it to draw the graphics.

It is hard to balance, I just tied some string the the center of it and hung it upside down. I then applied some hot melt glue to it until it was balancing perfectly :)

You can feel free to post it anywhere you like!
thank you..after hours of looking for that hall sensor, i finally make it work, using another PC fan sensor with 276 written on it. its a dual hall effect just tied the other out to ground and VOILA!!! works.first tried to burn the original scroll text via your scroll the right text...but then when i tried to put other colored text and convert it, the text output are not that clear, i mean the letters are somewhat incomplete sometime at the top others at the bottom...was it the software or the image being converted..

I have practically no idea how you made the original text on the POV software "instructables and spark fun present microcontroller project" image..

what other software possible to use for the scroll right to left...

thanks in advance
kalsara013 years ago
can i do the same thing with pic16f877. if so can i use the same software and schematic?
bradsprojects (author)  kalsara013 years ago
Unfortunately you wouldn't be able to use the software that I have made here.

My software will output code that is designed for Swordfish basic (which only supports 18f microcontrollers)
Hi Brad
i love what you made and i trying to make one the same.
I faced a problem with POV converter software it hangs when i try to convert to hex.
Kindly guide if there is another software to do the same job.
eam1271 year ago
Let me rephrase that, all gnds are connected, and all the vcc are connected? Right? I cant tell on the soldering job pic or the schematic since it doesn't say if they should be. THey should.. right?

Oh i looked at the microchip data sheet and found the pins matched with your schematic :)

THank you so much you have helped me a bunch, you really don't know how much you are helping.
bradsprojects (author)  eam1271 year ago
Yep, everywhere you see a GND, they will all connect to each other (and to ground of the power supply). Everywhere you see VCC they will all connect together (and to the +ve of the power supply.)

Glad I could help :)
eam1271 year ago
So if all my gnd and vcc connections are connected it does't matter if i arrange in my own way on the circuit board? Also i want to make sure for the 5 pin header, only two pins are being sent info(gnd aand vcc) right? WHat are the other three pins for then?
Thank you so much :)
bradsprojects (author)  eam1271 year ago
You can arrange it how ever you like, just as long as they are connected correctly. You do need the other three pins (there are actually 6 pins on the pickit2 but the AUX pin is not used) However the other 3 (VPP, PGD and PGC) are required to program the code onto the microcontroller. These connect to the pins of the same name on the microcontroller.
76543213 years ago
Is there a way to modify this to work with my common anode RGB LEDs? And what is a hall effect sensor? This is definitely gonna be my next project... Thanks for posting
bradsprojects (author)  76543213 years ago
All you need to do to get it to work with common anode LED's is to connect the anodes to Vcc (instead of ground as per the instructable)

Then, I will modify the included software so that the user can select between common anode or common cathode LED's

All I need to do is modify the code so that it inverts the data just before sending to the LED's

As for the hall effect sensor - it is a simple little device that switches from a high to a low state on the output when it senses magnetism. I use it so that the display will always start drawing each frame from exactly the same location each time. I.E. it will start drawing when the hall effect sensor passes over the magnet.
hey !! could you please tell me how to invert the output of the microcontroler before sending it to common anode rgb led's....
bradsprojects (author)  jerome111 year ago
you just need to add xor %11111111 after the data out lines of code.

Just check the image for details.

When you XOR a binary number with a logic 1, it inverts that digit. since there are eight binary digit per byte that we wend out, we need to invert all eight.
eam1271 year ago
Sorry to keep asking questions but..

I get how this project works except i have come down to two problems. First the hall effect sensor you have shown has 4 pins and most have three, is that going to be a problem if i get one with three like the link below? I noticed it just doesn't have the enoble part, is that a problem?

Also, I can't find this terminator anywhere near locally, or online. I know i have asked about this already but is it possible you could mail it to me and i could pay. That is if you have access to them. I have looked at other options such as couplings, could these work?
Thx so much
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