LED CUBE: Without Programming [How to Build]




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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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.

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    74 Discussions


    Question 4 months ago on Introduction

    I want to build a 12v led cube with White leds 2.3 volts in serie of 3leds with 120 ohm resistor.
    But can i use the frame as negative
    So i connect all negative to the frame?


    1 year ago

    Send me program document led cube klkeshava@gmail.com


    1 year ago

    How to download program document


    1 year ago

    Plz send program document led cube


    1 year ago

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

    Ivy Hazel MaeL

    3 years ago

    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


    6 years ago on Introduction

    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?


    7 years ago on Introduction


    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?


    2 replies

    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: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-3-Ohm-2W-Metal-Film-Power-Resistor-2-Watt-3R3-W-2x-/120626455638?pt=UK_BOI_Electrical_Components_Supplies_ET&hash=item1c15e5a456

    ok thanks


    7 years ago on Introduction

    will this piece of plastic acrylic sheet work :


    ON Ebay

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    7 years ago on Step 5

    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.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 5

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


    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


    7 years ago on Introduction

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