My adventures with a LED cube

It all started a few weeks ago when I decided to build my own LED cube. The decision was easy, but the realization won’t be that trivial. After some research I had to find out that there is more that I must learn than that I already know. I plan this post to be the beginning of a series of articles in which I’m going to present the steps towards a working LED cube and the small pieces of knowledge I gained throughout the process.

Blue LED cube

What is a LED cube? Like you can see on the picture above, an 8x8x8 LED cube consists of 512 small lamps (LEDs) arranged in a 3-dimensional structure with 8 layers, 8 columns and 8 rows. There are many good things about a LED cube:

  • It looks cool, you can program it to show any kind of 3-dimensional animations, which is even cooler.
  • You cannot just buy it at any corner (however, you can buy DIY kits which contains everything needed, you just have to assemble it), which makes it a special stuff in your room.
  • It’s far from impossible to build by hand, so it’s perfect as a hobby project, even for a beginner like me.

If you Google it, you can find many videosof working LED cubes and some pretty good build instructions. I always wanted to build one, all I was lacking is determination, but a few weeks ago I took a deep breath and ordered a bunch of LEDs and a microcontroller from China on Ebay.

As a beginner, even if you follow the build instructions very closely, you may find yourself in trouble at some point without some basic electronics and programming knowledge. If you’re going to diverge from the blueprints in the build instruction, because either you got slightly different parts, or you think you can come up with a better solution, or you just want to educate yourself, you will need some understanding of what’s going on. All the previous statements apply to me.

Since I’m a software developer, I’m not afraid of the microcontroller programming part, but the electronics stuff. The last time I was dealing with electronics problems was in a forgettable academic course back in my BSc studies accompanied with a 10-hour seminar course where we toyed with a microcontroller and an oscilloscope. Besides that I faintly remember some guy named Ohm and his law from high school physics course. Not much.

So I started educating myself on the topic, I spent my last couple of weekends with Googling around and browsing Wikipedia. I decided that I’m not going to just let this knowledge fade away, but keep posting some articles with my findings and progress reports of my LED cube here in my blog. So stay tuned!

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