From Zero To LED Cube In Less Than Seven Months

We know that LED video cubes are so last year, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still love to see them. Any project that incorporates over 24,000 LEDs is bound to be impressive, after all. But the more interesting bit about [Mike Cann]’s self-contained LED cube has more to do with the process he chose to get to the finished product.

There are two ways to approach a new project, especially when you’re new to hardware hacking like [Mike] is. One is to jump in with both feet and just see what happens, for good or for ill. The other is is to ease into it with a starter project, to find out where your limitations lay and work around them gradually. [Mike Cann] wisely chose the latter approach with his LED cube project, starting with an LED sand toy. The single 64 x 64 LED panel was a bit easier to work with, and got him up to speed on the care and feeding of such hardware, as well as the code needed to drive it. The video below tells the tale of scaling that project up by a factor of six to make the cube, a process that had its share of speedbumps. Everything ended up fitting together great, though, letting [Mike] get on to the software side. That’s where this project really shines — the smartphone app running the cube is really slick, and the animations are great.

There’s clearly room for new features on [Mike]’s cube, so here’s hoping he can carve out some time to make a great build even better. For inspiration he might want to check out this side-scrolling Castlevania cube, or perhaps read up on the finer points of OpenGL for LED cubes.

17 thoughts on “From Zero To LED Cube In Less Than Seven Months

      1. I’ve been squeezing late nights in twice a week, and thusly I picked up woodworking with hand tools… yes I bought a miter box from the 1940s. No chop saw for me (the drill press is pretty quiet) … But I concur, it was like hitting a brick wall after my little one was born.

    1. Yes and no. Getting actual time at the workbench or computer keyboard gets harder.

      I actually found the first couple years of my daughter’s life to be kind of liberating. I could go wherever I wanted, whenever and not only did my wife not mind she felt I was doing her a favor. Provided that I took the baby along of course.

      I took her to a lot of maker/hacker meetups. I’d either keep her in her carrier or take her out and hold her. Sometimes she would watch whatever was happening and seemed to be interested. Often times she would just sleep. When she got a bit too big for the carrier I still got another year out of her by letting her sit on my shoulders.

      Eventually of course babies turn into kids with too much energy to stay still like that. Take advantage while you can! And maybe all that exposure will steer your kid into becoming a little maker or hacker his/herself. You could have a partner in your future projects!

      1. I’m about to find out if this works for me, too. (Writing this comment on phone from a room in the mother/baby ward at the hospital. Our little one is coming up on 72 hours old this evening.)

        Any tips for a new dad looking to continue to carve out time for fun side projects?

        1. As I mentioned above, late nights are your friend. The first 6-9 months all bets are off I think its better to just help where you can. Since around the 9 month mark I’ve been able to carve some time a few nights a week in my work space. I was doing some metal work, before, welding bike frames together, but that’s loud so I bought a few hand planes and some hand saws and now I’m learning a bit of joinery, building stuff for my daughter to play with… and a guitar for me.

          In a similar vein I could see how you could squeeze in some late night coding/CAD projects and outsource your physical production to a 3D printer or some sort of CNC machine.

          It takes a bit of discipline because sometimes that last thing I want to do at the end of the day after putting her to bed is to go out and saw dead trees. Once you get going, though it feels good and its a release.

      2. ++ to this one.
        I didn’t get the best out of it – taking her to meetups is genius.
        But the first 6 months babyminding an entity that mostly sleeps is a cinch.
        After that it gets harder.

  1. Heat and power consumption become rather important quickly with large arrays of LEDs. Having proper thermal controls in place is paramount. If the boards get hot, you need to drop intensity to prevent meltdown. Nobody likes having their house burned down.

    1. The fact that he was winging it when it came to power consumption requirements with no apparent consideration for the pack’s allowed discharge rate left me a bit uneasy. Could have at least measured current consumption with a multimeter. Hopefully the pack’s chemistry is LiFePO4 for the sake of safety.

      That said, the cube looks great. I wasn’t aware that people were implementing accelerometer/gyro data in the graphics routines for these led matrices. What a cool idea!

      1. meh. He was still learning. I’m surprised he didn’t get a few brownout-triggered crashes with 64 leds but dead sure he understood power consumption by the end.

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