Simulating LED cubes in Blender

The Jyväskylä, Finland hackerspace hacklab-jlk was lucky enough to work on a public arts project for their home town. They had the opportunity to design, build, and install a trio of LED cubes in Jyväskylä’s central Church Park. As such a high-profile project, the hacklab-jlk team decided to take their time and ended up implementing a lot of very cool features for their LED cubes, including simulating the light show in Blender.

The LED cube is similar to all the other LED cube builds we’ve seen before; it’s an 8x8x8 cube controlled by an ATMega328. The Elovalo project, as it is called, is a trio of LED cubes – one using red LEDs, one using green LED, and a blue LED cube each mounted on a pedestal in a Jyväskylä park.

Because the Elovalo is a permanent installation, the team needed a way to verify new firmware for the LED cubes. They came up with a LED cube simulator for Blender that allows them to write a new display function in C and render either single frames or a full animation of the lighting pattern.

A very cool build, and nearly too awesome for a public arts project. We look forward to a video of the complete installation, but until then we’ll make do with the short preview video available after the break.

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The best LED cube build we’ve seen

[Nick] wrote in telling us about the LED cube he built over the course of six months. He calls LED cubes ‘done to death,’ but [Nick] might be too humble. His 8x8x8 RGB LED cube is the best we’ve ever seen.

To start his build, [Nick] built a simple 4x4x4 cube as a proof of concept. The baby cube worked but the fabrication process got him thinking. Instead of building his monster LED cube in layers from the bottom up, he would need to build columns from left to right. After the construction of a jig, soldering eight panels of 64 LEDs, and buying a new soldering iron tip, [Nick] had a beautiful assembled LED cube. The only thing missing was the electronics.

Most of the LED cubes we’ve seen use the TLC5940 LED driver for hardware PWM, [Nick] decided to go with the simpler but more familiar STP16 chip. After hooking up his huge LED driver board up to a chipKIT Uno, the 80 hours of programming began.

In the end, [Nick] built the best LED cube we’ve seen (even though it isn’t the largest) and put together one of the best build logs in recent memory. Because no LED cube build is complete with out a video there’s an awesome demo after the break.

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Flowerboard LED cube

Here’s a neat 4x4x4 LED cube made with an ElecFreaks Flower Protoboard.

A few days ago, we posted a neat new prototyping board made specifically for SMD work. Instead of the usual ‘holes-with-circles’ protoboard layout, the ElecFreaks team decided to go with a flower-shaped pad. This makes it especially easy to deal with SMD components when building whatever. To demonstrate their new protoboard, ElecFreaks built an awesome-looking 4^3 LED cube. Just look at those solder traces.

The LED cube itself is nothing we haven’t seen before, but the construction of this thing is amazing. The entire build is on the Arduino Mega Flower shield, meaning there are no wires at all. Everything, from the resistors to the transistors, is an SMD component. The only problem now is bending and soldering all those LED leads.

This Flower Protoboard is starting to look more and more interesting; check it out in action after the break.

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Voxel Shield makes driving LED cubes easy

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An Arduino can handle running a small LED cube on its own, but if you’re planning on building something big, eventually you are going to run out of pins. For something like an 8x8x8 cube, odds are you will have to turn to shift registers to get the job done. While you could design a breakout board full of shift registers on your own, [Connor] has done the work for you and produced an easy to use Arduino LED cube shield.

He calls his creation the Voxel Shield, and it incorporates 9 SN74LS595N shift registers and an external power plug for all of your LED cube needs. The shield can handle addressing up to 512 LEDs, making it an easy way to drive an 8x8x8 cube or even a 64×8 LED matrix.

It’s a nice clean and compact way to drive a large number of LEDs, so if you have the need, be sure to swing by his site – he has made his schematics and board layout files available to all comers.

[Thanks, Thomas]

ATtiny Hacks: ATtiny-controlled 4x4x4 LED cube has a unique design

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[Tom] recently started experimenting with Charlieplexing, and wrote in to share the 4x4x4 cube he built with an ATtiny24. Similar to this minimalist 4x4x4 LED cube we featured the other day, [Tom’s] version attempts to use the least pins possible to drive the LEDs, but in a different manner.

[Tom] didn’t want to sacrifice brightness, so he decided that the LEDs would have a 1/8 duty cycle. The problem is that the ATtiny’s I/O ports can’t support that kind of current so he needed a different means of driving the LEDs. Rather than employ any sort of shift register to control the LEDs, he opted to exclusively use transistors as he had done in previous projects.

For his Charlieplexed cube to use a total of 9 I/O pins he had to get creative with his design. He broke each level of the structure into two non-connected groups of LEDs, utilizing diagonal interconnects to get everything wired up properly.

It seems to work quite nicely as you can see in the video below. While it uses two more I/O lines than the other ATtiny cube we featured recently, we love the simple, shift register-less design.

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ATtiny hacks: 2313 driving a 4x4x4 LED cube

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[Kirill] wrote in to share his ATtiny hack, a 4x4x LED cube. The 64 LED display is a great choice to fully utilize the hardware he chose. It’s multiplexed by level. Each of the four levels are wired with common cathodes, switched by a 2N3904 transistor. The anodes are driven by two 595 shift registers, providing a total of 16 addressable pins which matches the 4×4 grid perfectly. All said and done it only takes seven of the ATtiny2313’s pins to drive the display. This is one pin more than the chip’s smaller cousins like the ATtiny85 can provide. But, this chip does include a UART which means the project could potentially be modified to receive animation instructions from a computer or other device.

You may have noticed the USB port in the image above. This is serving as a source for regulated power in lieu of having its own voltage regulation hardware and is not used for data at all. Check out the animations that [Kirill] uses on the display by watching the video after the break. You’ll find a link to the source code there as well.

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Largest LED cube we’ve ever seen is still only half complete

[Brendan Vercoelen] is a university student in New Zealand studying engineering. He says his recent gigantic LED cube build, “isn’t very serious” compared to other student projects, but that doesn’t mean it’s not impressive. The original plan for the build was a 16x16x16 tri-color LED cube. After realizing how much soldering that really was, [Brendan] scaled back his design a little to a 16x16x8 cubeoid, but the other half can be attached when the project is complete.

From the cost breakdown, [Brendan] only spent about $550 USD – far less expensive than we expected. The most expensive item was the 4,000+ Red-Green-Orange tri-color LEDs. The largest LED cubes (1, 2, 3) we’ve covered have maxed out at 8x8x8, or 512 total LEDS. Even though [Brendan]‘s build is only half done, it’s still four times larger in volume than the largest LED cube we’ve seen.

The gauntlet has been thrown down. This is the one to beat, folks. Check out a video of the cube after the break.

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