One can never have too many LEDs…but we won’t let that stop us from trying. This project brings together nearly 25,000 full-color LEDs in a mesmerizing, self-contained interactive cube, with the small-and-mighty Raspberry Pi 4 — the Altoids of computers — running the show. Possibly the most ostentatious project we’ve attempted!

3D PixelDust

The flowing pixel sand demo uses an accelerometer for a mesmerizing motion effect.

The grains of sand trickle down and move across all six panels making this physics toy unlike anything else.

An Unusual Guide

IMPORTANT: We’ve assigned this guide a rare “Advanced” skill level recommendation. Not that it’s especially deep or technical, but we must admit it’s expensive. Most any day we would celebrate learning through rookie mistakes…but here, one mis-step like connecting the wrong power supply could ruin hundreds in parts. It’s best for folks who’ve cultivated patience and thoroughness through experience.

This build is also unusual in that it’s non-linear, with several steps cycling between 3D printing, soldering and wiring, and installing and testing code…it’s not simply one after the other. This is to allow testing and troubleshooting at the earliest opportunity, while everything’s out in the open, to help avoid lengthy setbacks later (see “patience and thoroughness through experience,” above). And starting with the 3D printing allows multitasking…you can get started while electronics are in transit, and do some initial board and code testing as printing gradually proceeds.

Before committing, skim through the guide to see what it all entails.

Care and Feeding of Your Cube

This is one of our most ambitious DIY projects, with a lot of big-ticket parts and fine tolerances, and you’ll want to take good care of it. The LED matrices are designed for digital signs and not really for handheld use. With rough handling, individual LEDs may get sheared off along the edges and corners. The rest of the matrix will still work, there will just be blank spots and you’ll be a little sad.

Therefore:

  • Lift the cube with both hands flat against the faces, not along the edges. Gently pass it from flat palm to flat palm.
  • Use something like a plastic spudger tool to carefully open the cube, do not claw at it with your fingers. A guitar pick or old credit or transit card can work just fine!
  • Resist the overwhelming urge to spin the cube with fingers on opposite corners.

Parts from Adafruit

Wintertime can be rough in the city. The sky is gray. The weather is unpredictable. So slough off those seasonal blues with some Times Square razzle dazzle from this...
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Wintertime can be rough in the city. The sky is gray. The weather is unpredictable. So slough off those seasonal blues with some Times Square razzle dazzle from this...
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You can now create a dazzling display with your Raspberry Pi with the Adafruit RGB Matrix Bonnet. These boards plug into your Pi and makes it super...
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The Raspberry Pi 4 Model B is the newest Raspberry Pi computer made, and the Pi Foundation knows you can always make a good...
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The LIS3DH is a very popular low power triple-axis accelerometer. It's low-cost, but has just about every 'extra' you'd want in...
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2 x Power Distribution Bus
7 x 6mm diameter solid brass
1 x USB-C to USB-A Cable
Black Woven Right Angle USB C to USB A Cable - 0.2m long
1 x M2.5 Black Nylon Hardware Kit
M2.5 Black Nylon Hardware Kit
1 x M3 Black Nylon Hardware Kit
M3 Black Nylon Hardware Kit

Parts Sourced Elsewhere

1 x Neodymium Magnets
1/4in diameter x 1/8in thick 1D42 – Quantity x48
2 x 5V 3A USB Battery
1000mah USB Battery
1 x USB-A to DC Cable
USB to Barrel Jack 5V DC Plug 2.1 mm Power Cable

You Will Also Need

  • Soldering iron and related paraphernalia. There’s very little soldering required, but non-zero.
  • Basic maker tools like pliers and small screwdrivers (for DC power screw terminals).
  • A plastic “spudger” tool for prying open the assembled cube, or a makeshift equivalent (guitar pick, old credit card), perhaps sanding one edge to better feed into narrow slots.

This guide was first published on May 04, 2022. It was last updated on 2022-05-04 10:43:22 -0400.

This page (Overview) was last updated on May 15, 2022.

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