Resistance Is Futile, You Want This LED Cube

We’re suckers for a good desk toy here at Hackaday, so this 2019 Hackaday Prize entry from [Jack Flynn] certainly caught our eye. The idea is that by using professionally manufactured dual layer PCBs and only surface mount components, you can create a cube that has an LED matrix on each face and all of the electronics hidden within. We’re not entirely sure if there’s any practical application for such a device, but we know we’d certainly like to have one blinking madly away on our shelf regardless.

Before having any of the PCBs manufactured, [Jack] is putting a considerable amount of thought into the design so he doesn’t end up painting himself info a corner (which is of course eight times as bad when you’re building a cube). By importing the PCB files into OnShape, he’s able to “assemble” a virtual representation of the final product to better understand how everything will fit together. He wants to limit the amount of times the cube will need to be pulled apart, so everything from how it will sit in its 3D printed cradle to the placement of breakaway tabs that ensure the internal power switch is accessible are being carefully planned out.

The current design puts the “brains” on the bottom board, with every other panel holding a daisy-chained MAX7219 to drive its own individual 64 LED matrix. Initially the dimensions of the ATmega328p powered cube will be 42 x 42 x 42 mm, with a total of 384 LEDs. Ultimately, [Jack] hopes the modular nature of the design could allow the size of the cube to be increased, or perhaps even take on a different shape entirely.

Generally the LED cubes we see are of the more wiry variety, so it’s particularly interesting when they take on solid forms like this one. Given the nearly universal popularity of blinking LED gadgets, we think this particular project is well positioned to make the leap from one-off hack to a commercial product.

26 thoughts on “Resistance Is Futile, You Want This LED Cube

    1. I love the idea of it being wireless charged but I couldn’t work out if that would be possible through the leds and pcb layer. I’m using small pads on the bottom layer as a landing point for pogo pins to touch to This way I can charge and reprogramme by simply sitting it down on the “pedestal”. No cabling or disassembly required!

  1. Add a loop on one of the corners, so it can hang from a string.
    Have a small motor to spin the loop.
    Add a microphone, so the lights can flash to the music.
    Add a speaker so it can make its own music.
    add Wi-Fi and camera too, (Google told me to write that).
    Add an ESP32, because this is Hack A Day.
    Have LEDs inside too!
    IR transceiver.
    555 timer(s)

    1. While I know you’re being funny, I have consisdered a mic and Bluetooth as a way to sync to music. I think that’ll be in v2 so I can test with the cheaper v1. There’s space on the top and side pcbs to add these extra features .

  2. A game, solid ON LEDs indicate the lines of a maze, a blinking LED indicates a “ball” to move through the maze. Admittedly, non-trivial, but there is a simple use for the interface.

    Alternately use the LEDS to detect the presence of a finger over it, or not to indicate selection. I would quote a link for this but I am too lazy. :8-P

    I have seen cubes as input devices, with the LEDs doubling for buttons, no problem.

    7 sides can be sodered, 8th can be held on with connectors on the 4 sides.

    1. I really like the maze idea. Currently I have a 9dof imu chip in the design. This will give me full orientation of the cube so I was thinking of a kind of snake game where you turn the cube to guide it. I would love to hear more about using the leds to detect input touches as this would be a really nice feature

  3. “which is of course eight times as bad when you’re building a cube”

    and

    “7 sides can be sodered, 8th can be held on with connectors on the 4 sides.”

    Is it just me or are you fellas implying that a cube has 8 faces? Last time I checked a side definitely had 6 faces. Of course they have 8 corners but I don’t think that is what you meant?

  4. I never understand why addessable LEDs (like ws2812) arent used for these cube projects. Seems to me you would have a ton less components and complexity, and youd have full RGB capability of each pixel.

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