512 LED cube

Get out the soldering iron and clear your schedule, it’s going to take you a while to assemble this 8x8x8 LED matrix which contains a total of 512 LEDs. We’ve looked in on a 3x3x3 cube, and [Chr], who is responsible for this one, has assembled a 4x4x4 cube before, but this one is quite a leap in complexity. It isn’t just physical assembly problems that increase with scale, you’ll need to consider a power supply too since one layer of a 3x3x3 cube would need at 90 mA, but a single layer of the cube above requires 640 mA to light all of the diodes. Multiplexing is handled per-layer, controlled by  ICs which share 8 data lines and are latched by a shift register. This means the display only requires 11 microcontroller pins for addressing. It is striking how well [Chr] explains the design process, and how cleanly he builds the driver circuits on protoboard. There’s a lot to look at and a lot to learn, not to mention the stunning results which can be seen in the video after the break.

[Thanks Vadim]


  1. Scott_T says:

    Neato, I’d like to see conways life game on it.

  2. Alex Rossie says:


  3. Chris Muncy says:


    Can you host your project anywhere else other than Instructables? I love the project but have to flip through 72 individual pages bites and does a huge disservice to a great project.

  4. Don says:


  5. devcoder says:

    @Chris Muncy
    get an account, it lets you view all the steps on one page and download pdf’s

  6. zigzagjoe says:
  7. Bill Porter says:

    Awesome project, I like it. You have to be a master at soldering and programming to make something that cool.

    On a side note, 512 LEDs via 11 I/O pins isn’t impressive. For example, my custom LED Marque of 1024 LEDs is run via 5 I/O lines. Not that I’m trying to be ‘that guy’ on how you could have done it better. What ever works, works, and this guy did a great job. But it’s just not an aspect worth highlighting in the project.

  8. kaaas says:

    lol pong 3d :D

  9. qwerty says:

    Wow! His skills are on par with his patience. I couldn’t see all the video because blue leds hurt my eyes but the result is nonetheless awesome.

    @devcoder. The problem with Instructables and some other sites like that one is exactly that they force the user to sign up. Site owners should realize that they’re not alone: people cannot and should not be forced to mantain a password (or sometimes an entirely different login) for each site they would like to get content from.
    I follow dozens of sites/blogs/forums every day, and when one of them moves content from public to private it ends up in no time in my ignore list.
    The cost for asking the user to login also is not a valid reason as ads can be showed to guests too and there are easy ways to limit traffic for guests while mantaining content accessible: counters/captchas, etc.

    There’s no reason to keep asking for logins (when it’s not needed) so please stop it.

  10. jeicrash says:

    This would be rockin combined with blinkinlights.

  11. vtl says:

    Instructables? Usually i’ll just not end up looking at it then. If hackaday ever sets up a projects/intructional section, I’m sure it’d cripple Instructables within a relatively short time.

  12. Rustybadger says:

    Yeah, I’m with the anti-Instructables folks too. It was great when it first started, but now it’s just annoying– constantly throwing up stuff to try and frustrate you into signing up for an account (and paying them money, of course). Meh.

    Some day, I may come across the perfect project that will induce me to sign up there, but so far, no such luck.

  13. Chris Muncy says:


    Sorry but I’m not paying for it.


    That link only works if you pay for a membership.

  14. biozz says:

    i think this is a great showcase of the power of the arduino!

    @all anti-instructables out there

    its FREE to make an account and it stops all the pain in the ass “sign up!” crap

    HaD and Instructables i believe are friends so i highly doubt that will happen and on top of that instructables is a HUGE community with all different types of people from all across the hobby world
    as a devoted HaD fan for many years it pains me to say this but HaD is small in comparison
    Instructables world rank is 1,367
    HaD’s rank is 11,569 according to alexa.com so it would not cause a “cripple[ing]” impact to anything

  15. Chris Muncy says:

    You have to PAY and get the Pro membership to be able to download the pdf or view the project on 1 page

  16. JC says:

    Amazing project. Wish I had the time or patience to construct something like that…

  17. Hackius says:

    @chris: I don’t have a pay account and I can do those things just fine

  18. CBob says:

    Nothing like a real 3-D display to get my “ohhhh…shiny” going early in the year.

    I can imagine what some RGB SMD LEDs could do….

  19. Reikaze says:

    Very nice!
    It remembers me the holographic screen in Bones.
    I haven’t read the instructurables yet, but it amazes me how on earth he soldered that, and accomplished a nice shaped cube at the end.

    Also, it amazes me how people that have read through pages and pages (books, endless papers, etc) on information to learn about electronics; and still look at a sign up as a hindrance to get knowledge.

  20. david says:

    this + kinekt = hologram? somebody do it!

  21. Chris Muncy says:

    “Also, it amazes me how people that have read through pages and pages (books, endless papers, etc) on information to learn about electronics; and still look at a sign up as a hindrance to get knowledge.”

    Having everything in ONE place, like a book for magazine, is a lot easier than having to flip 30+ pages to read about a great project.

    If I could download the pdf without PAYING I’d never bitch about Instructables again.

  22. Osgeld says:

    instructables haters, you want to know what is more annoying than your laziness? your constant whining and bitching on every single one

    no one is forcing you, and no one really gives a crap about your opinion

  23. herb says:

    nice, but this 2 year old vid shows what could be done with 512 RGB LED’s > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QuVBqeCed04&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL

  24. arjan says:

    Why doesn’t hackaday buy just 1 (one) account on instructables and let everyone use it? I’m sure instructables won’t check for multiple IP’s. Same goes for other paid services like steam.

  25. Pedro says:

    This is a really awesome project. I’ll have to get round to making one of these some time.

    Here’s a mirror of the project.


    I signed up for Instructables when it first started, so I have a ‘Pro’ account for free.

  26. Acido says:

    WOW! Great what he says about MCUs: “I went from only being able to build simple analog circuits, to being able to build almost anything!” That was exactly what i thought when i made my first “contacts”.

  27. Haku says:

    I can download the PDF versions of the projects from Instructables including the customizable ones (ie without the other user comments etc.) and haven’t paid a penny to them. It may be because I signed up for an account over 2 years ago, but it doesn’t give me access to the pro forums, not that the forums there interest me, I only keep the account because it allows me to view all the steps on one page.

    I do completely sympathize with the Instructables haters – the site is designed to promote people’s projects, why they should make non-members view the projects one-page-at-a-time is a dumbass thing to do, it reminds me of the tech news articles I sometimes linked on Slashdot, 10 pages just to read a 20 paragraph news article because they want you to look at all the adverts and their other crap on each of the 10 pages.

    @Osgeld, you seem to give a crap about their opinions, or else why would you be complaining about them so much?

  28. Osgeld says:

    I get sick of seeing them every article hosted on instructables, its insulting to the creators that put a lot of effort into their projects

  29. zigzagjoe says:

    Then here’s a mirror: http://zzj.itf-inc.com/downloads/Led-Cube-8x8x8.pdf (4.4mb)

    I have a grandfathered account also… would never pay for it, that’s for sure.

  30. zigzagjoe says:

    Also, rapidshare/megaupload/hotfile/filefactory – all of those should die in a fire. Just saying. Mediafire is the only one I’ve used worth a damn.

    I’d sooner pay instructables and other random sites than I would pay them.

  31. Michael says:

    I’d love to see a 3d version of snake being played on this one.

  32. peet says:

    thank you so much for the pdf link!
    would love to see these links in the comments for every project linked here.

    fuck off instructables!

  33. Daid says:

    @biozz: May I point out that there is no arduino used in this design at first. It’s only shown at the end that it is possible.

  34. sneakypoo says:

    Damn, just thinking about how to code all those patterns make my brain hurt, a lot. Major kudos for going the extra mile on the patterns as it seems other cube-projects often stick to just a few.

  35. medwardl says:

    Smaller leds in groups of 3 for color and a heck of a lot more of em and I can see this as rudimentary real 3d display.

  36. biozz says:

    no i can do all of that just fine with my unpayed account
    still shows the power of the arduino

  37. biozz says:

    or you can use RGB LEDs
    but there not cheap

  38. chr says:

    Thanks for all the comments!

    You asked for Conway’s Game of Life.. well here it is: http://www.instructables.com/id/Led-Cube-8x8x8/step70/PC-Software-Effect-4-Conways-Game-of-Life-3D/

    As for the Instructables discussion, I have a reason for you to create an account. My Instructable is entered in the 2nd Annual Epilog Challenge. If you create an account, you can vote for me :D

  39. Denim says:

    Come on, now one with 10x10x10 as RGB :-))) 3000 wires … Will do something similar. But based on ws2801 – communication over spi or twi ;-)

  40. Denim says:

    … Sorry, forgot to mention in my post before: Plus PWM

  41. markus says:

    Previous comments mentioned 3D Pong and Conway’s… But how about a 3D game of Space Invaders?

  42. Osgeld says:

    3d pacman

    I also have a project in the laser cutter contest, but just found out it got one of 3 first place positions in the jobby contest (yay) so now I will have a bitchin lantern / head lamp for emergencies and a kewl little tripod to wrap around the leg of my table to post more videos (on instructables)

    so those of you who visit here and there and voted, thanks!, chr I wish you the best of luck in winning the Epilog challenge and if you win can I hit you up for some engraving sometime lol

  43. medwardl says:

    @ 2$ each RGB LED’s would indeed be expensive. But if you could get them in the really tiny size and add more in the spaces it could make a neat display not sure what I would use it, for maybe an arcade game.

  44. Rob says:

    Can’t help but think that this wouldn’t be too hard to scale WAY up, to something like a foot between each light. Do it with acrylic cubes with multiple LEDs inside. Expensive making 512 little cubes, but it could be a really cool effect.

  45. walt says:

    F U instructables! Thanks for the warning HAD.

  46. pvar says:

    Hey, LEDs are cool, LED matrices are way more cool and LED cubes rule!!

    I thing I should port my game for a 3D version of the hardware. “Need for Space” on a LED cube!!



  47. Scott_T says:

    There you go!

  48. Daid says:

    73 pages of instructables? That’s it. Stop shitting on us. No, wait, let me stop raining this shit on us.

    I’ve made this lovely script, calling it “Instructabliss”, that gets all the different pages from an instructables, and makes it into 2 large single page. There are a few bugs, like the ads are missing (I wouldn’t mind keeping those in, they do generate the revenue to keep the site running) missing stylesheet (headlines close together) and javascript not working (image galleries not work). But there is no nagging about signing up anymore, and everything is on 1 page:


    There is a link to the source at the bottom so you can improve on it or host your own version of Instructabliss.

  49. Chris Muncy says:

    Fantastic! Looks just fine for me. I think I’ll take some time and look at a Chrome extension possibly?

  50. Daid says:

    Another possibility would be to use greasemonkey and make a javascript that fetches all pages when you are viewing any of the instructable pages. But my javascript foo isn’t that high. And putting it to use would also be harder then.

    http://userscripts.org/scripts/search?q=instructables&x=0&y=0 seems like there are a few already.

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