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LED CUBE (8x8x8)

Built mainly for fun.

As all of the engineering work is based on the final results, the current project starts from its final
state. Actually it started from a blurry idea of its final form. Reverting the process of construction and
starting from the finalized project, we have a cube of 8x8x8 leds that are being controlled by a processor.
The amount of leds used is precisely 512, but we have to deal with errors like burning leds while gluing
them. We also need a board for the leds, and a single board for the processor, if the electronics can be
made small enough, or more boards, one for processor and another few for led-logic. Its almost impossible
to have 512 processor pins to control the entire stream of led-data just with processor-pins.

From my experience, small electronic devices can be built at home with minimum costs, with a small
disadvantage to not be able to fit large electronics on small boards, but thats not really a problem when
were building prototypes.

So, our cube must have a board to fit a surface of 8x8 spaced leds, a board for the main processor, and
some boards for the logic which helps us to expand a few processor signals to 8x8 + 8.

Software tools:
- Eagle, ExpressPCB, POV-Ray (for board prototyping, and 3dsimulation)
- Atmel studio 6.0 for programming the main processor (ATMega1284P)
- Logic analyzer to check for possible errors that may occur

Hardware tools:
- Electronic components (capacitors, resistors, diodes, transistors)
- Cables, wires, sockets, DC power jack,.
- Logic circuits (ATMega1284P main processor, 74HC573 octal latches)
- Other tools to glue all stuff together and to make printed circuit boards(PCB)

Steps involved in building the current project
- Building and testing the Processor board (SBC single board computer)
- Building the logic circuits to expand from 8 rows x 8 columns x 8 levels to 64 led matrix + 8 layers,
- Building the led matrix, on 8 layers

1. Building and testing the processor Board

Were using an ATMega1284P as the main processor. It is a microcontroller working on 8 bits, with a
Harvard architecture, similar to ARM processors, but much lower in resources and with a different set of
instructions. Its running at constantly 20MHz (a low speed compared to others, but very fast for our
project), and it has about 128Kbytes of Flash memory, and 4Kbytes of SRAM memory.

Dev-board prototype, built with ExpressPCB (green is the bottom layer) Bottom-view just after the removal of unnecessary copper

3 Boards actually made, this is how they look like (2 of them)

Testing the board

First test (just a small driver for SSD1289 LCD controllers, 16 bit, LCD is 3.2 in size with touch-screen)

Second Test (a small USART communication between our board and PC, based on IR data, used for PPTs)

2. Building the logic circuits

Our logic circuits are based on 74HC573 octal D-type circuit.

74HC573 provides an 8 bit register, so data that gets to led-cube will be preserved until another data
will be ready. Were using 8 circuits of that kind, to handle a single vertical row of 64 leds. It actually
handles a maximum of 1 row with 8 leds, but switching very fast the horizontal layers, we may say that data
on a single 8 led row may be lighted or switched off anywhere inside the 8 horizontallayers.
Because were using DIP (dual inline package) components, we cant use a single board for all the
electronics, so a 3d spacing was chosen based on multiple boards.

Schematic board for a single vertical row / single 8 bit register PCB schematic

View of the board (POV-ray) Real boards

We need some electronics to control each individual horizontal layer. Each layer is a matrix of 8x8 leds.
So were using the 8 registers to have 8 bytes of data on a single horizontal layer, and we must switch
between these layers to create the illusion that all 512 leds are lighted simultaneously.

Schematics of board holding the entire led 3d matrix PCB for led-matrix

View of the board (bottom layer, POV-ray) Real board

Each row of leds is managed by a 74573 register.
To light differently, all 64 leds in one layer, well have to latch data to each register and after all data is
ready, OE signal is used to make all data visible in the same time-frame.

We have 8 register boards which must be connected to some other board, so signals will pass as fast as

Vertical board schematics Vertical board PCB

Vertical board 3d-view Real board

The vertical board contains control signals differentiated from data signals for all 8 register boards. If
were looking to the Vertical Board PCB, we have in left side, control signals and in right-side the data pins.
The vertical board must fit into another board where layers are being controlled individually by 8 power-

Board prototype for 8 layer control and registry-boards, PCB making process (just after tonner transfer)
it also connects to processor board

Real board

3. Building the 8 layers of 8x8 led-matrix

4. All components

Programming the led-cube

Each layer of 64 leds is controlled by a single power transistor. All led grounds in the layer sink through
the transistor, so transistor was chosen to face the current consumption without failing in a short time.

For a live demo please visit:

For additional informations or questions please mail to