Building an LED cube powered by Arduino (part 1)

Published on: February 5, 2012
Comments: 2 Comments

A few weeks ago I was thinking it had been a while since I’ve done something with physical computing. I had created a mobile application that controls my BTicino domotics system, as you can see pin this video. Then I created a mobile remote controller for a physical maze game, which you can find out more about in this video. After some thinking and looking around on the internet, I came up with this idea to build an LED cube to display some cool animations.

There a basically two well-known solutions for you when you want to indulge yourself in physical computing and some real-world fun and games: Arduino ( and Phidgets ( The biggest difference between the two is that with Phidgets you can buy plug-and-play circuit boards that are ready to go. You just connect them together and hook them up to a main controller board, which usually runs on a USB connection with your computer and you’re set to go. Phidgets is very easy to use and I highly recommend it if you want to get started with this type of applications, since you don’t really need to know much about electronics to get started. The downside is that it doesn’t run stand-alone (unless you buy the super expensive SBC stand-alone board which runs a full Debian OS).

The advantage of using Arduino is that it does run stand-alone and it is even not that hard to get the chip out of the circuit board and onto a prototype board which you can build into any application you like.The biggest downside to Arduino is that you have to have at least some basic knowledge of electronic components and wiring. I don’t really consider this to be a downside, because you can make whatever you want, but it does make it a higher threshold to get started with it. Another downside is that the programming is a bit harder to do, especially for this LED cube type of application, since you will not be using the standard programming interface you might be used to if you’ve been doing some Arduino programming before. Having never touched a soldering iron before, I decided I liked the challenge and chose the Arduino approach to create a stand-alone version which I can easily reprogram if necessary.

Before I get started on telling you how to build such an LED cube, let me quickly show you the end result:

Now, this will be a multi-part blog post spread over the next couple of weeks, since there is a lot of information to share on this. But I can already say that some credits have to go to the author of this post for getting me started on the project. Even though there are quite some mistakes in the post and it has been made more complex that necessary for my purpose and intention, it provides a good starting point. So, keep tuned for the first part of the build…

In the next part I’ll guide you through the components you’ll need to complete this project

2 Comments - Leave a comment
  1. juju says:

    very interesting.
    keep up this awesome tuts :)

  2. derek knox says:

    Very cool project. I have an idea or two for a project with Arduino and this just sparked some new ones. Great work.

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