A 3x3x3 Led Cube for the Absolute Beginner Using a 555 Timer and 4020 IC - No Programming




Introduction: A 3x3x3 Led Cube for the Absolute Beginner Using a 555 Timer and 4020 IC - No Programming

Seeing a video of an 8x8x8 led cube on you-tube, led me to the instructables website for the first time, now I'm hooked. However, I had or should I say have a fundamental problem absolutely no experience or understanding of electronics. So I am a complete novice!

I have endeavoured to learn the fundamentals and have reached the stage where I am confident about attempting something a bit more complicated than a rudimental breadboard circuit. I therefore decided to build a proper gizmo or thingamabob. One involving the manufacture of home made pcb's and using proper soldering, wow!

For my first build, I decided to attempt a simple 3x3x3 led cube! Which would involve absolutely no programming (I have bought an arduino but it is staying in the box for the time being). I came across a straightforward design involving a 555 timer and a 4020 14 stage binary counter at instructables.


however, no one has built it at instructables, so I trolled the Internet and came across the same design on any number of sites. The only entry I could find pertaining to a working 555-timer cube was found on You-Tube. This video actually showed a working cube, unfortunately for me, there were no instructions, but armed with the evidence of my own eyes I now knew it could be done!

So I decided to give it a go.

to my amazment, I actually succeeded in my goal! so decided to make this instructables to pass it on, see the video at:

I first built the cube using the exact values of components (except for leds, unknown) on a breadboard. I had a problem, it would not work, and I checked all connections, several times, not a flicker from the leds. Being a very simple design with only 4 components (apart from the leds), two of which were pretty much fixed. I started to play about with the capacitance; resistance and I also lowered the voltage. After a lot of trial and error, I finally came up with a working cube using the following values.

Voltage = 4.5volts.

Capacitor = 100uf.

Resistor = 91ohms.

The design of the circuit remains the same and I used 3mm leds.

Note: I don't yet know how to use CAD packages to produce pcb's so I simply used windows paint, a very painless method. As long as the proportions for the IC sockets remain the same, then the jpeg image can be pasted into Microsoft word and stretched to the correct size (works for me).

I built two one using all red leds and one using three colours, green, yellow and red like a traffic light.

There are plenty of instructables on how to etch pcb’s and make led cubes, so these stages have been omitted.

I had a lot of fun building this and have already started my next project, hope you like it as well. Be kind.

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    8 years ago on Introduction

    Does each strip/line has 3 LEDs in series and such 9 strips in parallel ?
    Does Red line indicate actual connection or just for visualization ?

    Can you also post a better picture of the LED cube



    8 years ago on Introduction

    i can replace 4020 ic to any ic?
    sorry my english because im in Viet Nam


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Good work! I'm seriously impressed. I've been working in electronics for over 20 years (embedded systems) and I am still intimidated by the whole etching process. I usually use Eagle CAD and send them off to a cheap prototype house (usually around 30-50 bucks per board depending on complexity and layers). It's expensive and when I mess up (usually always) it's either a painful surgery process or, even more painful, ordering another board.

    Kudos to you!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thank You, I really enjoyed making the PCB.