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A three-dimensional (3D) light-emitting diode (LED) cube is a box — usually formed with wire or plastic — that uses colored LEDs. Most 3D LED cube units run on a red-green-blue (RGB) color channel, and these colors need to be combined to form other colors, such as purple, orange and teal. A microcontroller is used to control the LEDs. By making the LEDs go on and off in a sequence, the cube is able to produce light effects such as fading or waving. Aside from this, a 3D LED cube generally is used as a decorative element with calming effects.
The majority of 3D LED cube units, and the majority of LEDs in general, run on an RGB color channel. This means that, without mixing colors, the LEDs can be turned red, green, blue and usually white. To obtain other colors, such as orange, red and green will have to be combined — blue can be added, but this normally is used to change the orange’s shade. LED color channel is important for users, because they will need to know how to mix RGB base colors to get different colors, as opposed to channels such as cyan-magenta-yellow-black (CMYK), which would require different color combinations.
To shut the lights on and off, a microcontroller typically is paired with a 3D LED cube. In its simplest form, the microcontroller is able to turn the LEDs on and off; more advanced microcontrollers can access the different base colors. The most advanced types are able to mix the base colors and save LED sequences. Despite the complexity, each microcontroller is integrated into all the LEDs, so users can turn off all or some of the lights at once.
By turning certain LEDs on and off in a sequence, the 3D LED cube can display different light effects. For example, the LEDs can fade in and out, they can make a wave or they can light up in the center and then go outward. These effects generally are saved in the microcontroller, if it has the capability to save sequences.
While many people find the 3D LED cube interesting, it usually does not serve a practical purpose for owners. It mostly is for decoration and to help owners relax by watching the light patterns, though it also can be used to light up a dark room. Developers may get practical usage out of this, because it allows beginner and intermediate developers to learn how to make a microcontroller, how to control LEDs and how to form them into a workable cube.