3x3x3 Led Cube Using a 555 Timer and a 4020 Shift Array IC - No Programming (for the Complete Novice Like Myself)




Introduction: 3x3x3 Led Cube Using a 555 Timer and a 4020 Shift Array IC - No Programming (for the Complete Novice Like Myself)

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 come across the same design on any number of sites. The only entry I could find pertaining to a working 555-timer cube, I found on You-Tube. This actually showed video of a working cube, unfortunately for me though, there were no instructions, but armed with the evidence of my own eyes I knew it could be done! So was worth a go.

I actually succeeded 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 (the IC's). 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 used windows paint, a very painless method, for me.
As long as the proportions for the IC sockets remain constant, then the jpeg image can be pasted into Microsoft word and stretched corner to corner untill the correct size for printing (works for me, I could describe in more detail if anyone is interested)

I built two of these cubes one using all red leds and one using a combination of  green, yellow and red like a traffic light.

There are plenty of instructables on how to etch pcb’s and make the 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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    16 Discussions


    2 years ago

    If I want drive the cube in 9v then which values of resistors and capacitors I should use?

    Please can u say that connection of all anode must be given to same pin of schematic or I can change and give any anode connection to any pin shown in 4020 ic..... I'm confused help

    2 replies

    If I want drive the cube in 3.7 v then which values of resistors and capacitors I should use?

    1 reply

    Why is it that people take shematics from the internet to present as their own without given credit to the original author?
    In this Colin Mitchell.

    1 reply

    Ok, so I have almost "made it". The bottom layer is giving me grief. When I ground it, the other two layers go out. When I send the top and middle layers to ground without the bottom layer they work fine. Consequently, grounding the top two layers leaves the bottom layer actually faintly glowing with the patter of the others.???? I have checked for shorts and double checked connections???? Can't seem to find the cause.

    I also found that a 22uf Capacitor in conjunction with a 200 Ohm resistor produces a nice fast speed. This is with a 9v battery. A 1K potentiometer might be a great choice for adjustable speed. I spent a little time designing a Fritzing PCB for anyone interested in trying it out. Here is the OSH Park link:http://oshpark.com/shared_projects/jP3Ri1Oo

    Attached is the Fritzing image.

    Help if you can???

    Hope the PCB makes this fun project just a little easier for someone!

    3x3x3 Cube using 555 and 4020_pcb.jpg

    IC 4020 reset pin shouldn't connect to the ground with capistor??

    i also made but all leds glowing continuously leds not blinking from start to end it appearing the same can u please help me


    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


    1 reply

    im a beginner in electronics, and yes i did have the same question as you are when saw the diagram. no, the 3 led not in series, they are parallel. the red line indicate the conection of cathode. the 3 leds anode are combine together.

    I've tried the schematic in simulator and its work (the real one is on the way as i proofed it on sim). to help you out, I've captured my simulator.

    3x3x3 led schematic.png


    I have tried a lot and know i have a working blinking led on the 555 BUT i do have nothing from the 4020 (I have also used a 4019
    I follow the connection like ypu did but no result
    16 to voltage
    10 to the 3 of the 555
    8 on the ground
    what can I do to make t work ?

    Thanks Eddy

    2 replies

    Hi, I'm so sorry for not getting back to you sooner, I didn't know you had made a request for help, again sorry. I think you need to connect negative to each level of the cube. It could also be your leds are drawing too much current and are lit but very dim. Again sorry again for my tardy reply.