OpenGL Shaders And An LED Cube

Back in February at the Hacker Hotel camp in the Netherlands, among the many pieces of work around the venue was a rather attractive LED cube. Very pretty, but LED cubes have been done many times before.

If a casual attendee had taken the time to ask though, they might have found something a little more interesting, for while the cube in question might have had the same hardware as the others it certainy didn’t have the same software. [Polyfloyd] had equipped his LED cube with OpenGL shaders to map arbitrary images to the cube’s pixels in 3D space.

Hardware-wise it’s the same collection of AliExpress LED panels and Raspberry Pi driver board that the other cubes use, in this case mounted on a custom laser-cut frame. Driver software comes from an open-source library round which he’s put a wrapper allowing input through a UNIX pipe. This can take the RGB output of an OpenGL shader, of which he has created both 2D to 3D and spherical projection versions. The must-see demo is a global map of light pollution, and the result is a rather impressive piece of work.

If LED cubes are your thing, don’t forget this recent Hackaday Prize entry.

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.

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540 PCBs Make a Giant LED Cube

Just about anyone can make a simple LED cube. But what if you want to make a 1-meter cube using 512 LEDs? [Hari] wanted to do it, so he created two different kinds of LED boards using EasyEDA. There are 270  of each type of board, for a total of 540 (there are only 512 LEDs, so we guess he got some spares due to how the small boards panelized). The goal is to combine these boards to form a cube measuring over three feet on each side.

To simplify wiring, the boards are made to daisy chain like a cordwood module. However, to get things to line up, each column of LED boards have to rotate 90 degrees. You can see several videos about the project below.

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World’s Smallest LED Cube – Again

There’s a new challenger on the block for the title of the “Worlds Smallest 4x4x4 RGB LED Cube“. At 13x13x36 mm, [nqtronix]’s Cube Pendant is significantly smaller than [HariFun’s] version, which measures in at about 17x17x17 mm just for the cube, plus the external electronics. It took about a year for [nqtronix] to claim this spot, and from reading the comments section, it seems [HariFun] isn’t complaining. The Cube Pendant is small enough to be used as a key fob, and [nqtronix] has managed to really cram a lot of electronics in it.

The LED’s used are 0606 RGB’s which are 1.6mm square, although he did consider using 0404’s before scrubbing the idea. There’s many ways of driving 192 IO’s, but in this case, Charlieplexing seemed like the best solution, requiring 16 IO’s. Unlike [HariFun]’s build, this one is fully integrated, with micro-controller, battery and everything else wrapped up in a case made entirely from PCB — inspired by [Voja Antonic]’s FR4 enclosure technique, and the LED array is embedded in clear resin.

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Building The World’s Smallest RGB LED Cube

What’s the smallest RGB LED cube? A 1x1x1 cube is easy, but it’s a stupid joke and we’ve heard it before. No, to build the smallest LED cube, you’ll have to stuff 64 RGB LEDs into a cubic inch, like [Hari] did with his miniscule LED cube.

A single column of Charlieplexed LEDs. Note the resistor for scale.
A single column of Charlieplexed LEDs. Note the resistor for scale.

One might think that individually addressable RGB LEDs are the way to go with an LED cube this small. Anything else would hide the LEDs behind a mess of wires. This isn’t the case with [Hari]’s LED cube – he’s using standard surface mount RGB LEDs for this build. But how is he connecting the things?

The entire build was inspired by the a much earlier project, the Charliecube. This LED cube, like [Hari]’s uses Charlieplexing to condense all the connections for a column of LEDs to only four wires. Repeat that sixteen times, and [Hari] built himself a tiny, one-inch cube of glowey goodness.

The cube itself was built with a PCB backplane designed in Eagle and fabbed at OSHPark. The LEDs are driven by an Arduino Nano. If you’d like to build your own, or you’re a masochist for dead bug soldering, you can grab all the design files over on [Hari]’s hackaday.io project page.

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Glowing LED Cubes From The Future

Sometimes people don’t believe you when you tell them something. You may have to go out of your way to convince those skeptics. Well, [AlexTheGreat] was having a hard time convincing people that he was from the future. He thought building some cool looking glowing LED cubes would help his story.

Underneath the fancy exterior covering is a cube made from pieces of clear acrylic sheet that are hot-glued together. There isn’t much inside the cube, just an LED, resistor, button cell battery and an on/off switch. A hole in one of the cube sides allows access to the on/off switch. Once all the components are verified to work, the interior of the cube is filled with hot glue to diffuse the light.

LED Cube from the futureThe exterior is thin sheet metal cut into cool shapes and bent around the plastic cube. Like the rest of the components, these metal covers are held on with hot glue. They do a great job of blocking the LED light ensuring it shines out of the creatively arranged gaps. We’re not sure if these will convince anyone that [AlexTheGreat] is from the future but they are certainly darn cool looking!

 

Hackaday Links: February 1, 2015

It’s Sunday evening, and that means Hackaday Links, and that means something crowdfunded. This week it’s UberBlox. It’s a modular construction system based on Al extrusion – basically a modern version of an Erector set. Random musings on the perceived value UberBlox offers in the comments, I’m sure.

[Trevor] sent in something from his Etsy shop. Normally we’d shy away from blatant self-promotion, but this is pretty cool. It’s reproductions of 1960s Lockheed flying saucer plans. We’re not sure if this is nazi moon base/lizard people from the inner earth flying saucer plans or something a little more realistic, but there you go.

3D computer mice exist, as do quadcopters. Here’s the combination. It looks like there’s a good amount of control, and could be used for some aerobatics if you’re cool enough.

Who doesn’t love LED cubes? They’re awesome, but usually limited to one color. Here’s an RGB LED cube. It’s only 4x4x4, but there’s a few animations and a microphone with a beat detection circuit all powered by an ATMega32u4.

A while ago we had a post about a solar powered time lapse rig. Time lapse movies take a while, and the results are finally in.