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FAST Friends Newsletter: November 2022

Another busy month has flown by! If you've been reading this newsletter for awhile, you know we always say that. But it's always true! We've been working on so many exciting products for the past few years that are all starting to come together just now, and we're giddy with excitement for them getting out into the world.

The month of November, for us, was putting the final touches on our new boards: The FAST Neuron Controller, the Smart Power Filter Board, the Cabinet I/O board, the Playfield Interchange Board, several different models of Expansion Boards (0201, 0071, 0081), various Breakout Boards, redesigned lighting boards ... We can't wait to see all the amazing things you build with them!

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This is the web version of an edition of our FAST Friends newsletter, our monthly-ish email newsletter sharing the latest in the FAST Pinball world and from our extended family of pinball makers and builders.

Neuron Controllers are coming in December!

We dedicated quite a bit of space in last month's newsletter talking about the upcoming release of the FAST Pinball Neuron Controller along with our complete next-generation modern platform.

Many of you have been patiently waiting for this release since we ran out of stock of our previous generation Nano controllers and starter bundles earlier this year.

We are excited to share that we're on track to release the Neuron and several new supporting boards in December! We will have starter bundles available too (along with power supplies) as well as several new boards that make the latest FAST Modern platform shine!

We're doing everything we can to get these boards into your hands for the end-of-year holiday break garage tinkering time!

Neuron documentation is starting to come together

Launching a next-generation platform is a lot of work! Creating a great product involves countless hours of board design, writing the code and firmware which runs on them, and handling the global logistics of manufacturing and parts supplies. But the coolest products in the world aren't any good if no one knows how to use them.

So to us, writing documentation, tutorials, wiring guides, and programming examples is just as important as building boards, and at FAST Pinball, we pride ourselves on having the best documentation in pinball!

To that end, we've begun publishing new and updated documentation for the FAST Pinball Neuron platform. You can read what we have and follow our progress every day as we publish more and more, and we already have a lot out there, including:

First steps with your Neuron

We published the first "unboxing" guide to the FAST Neuron Controller which walks you through the board, connecting power, and sending some basic commands from your computer.

"What goes where?"

The first guide in our all-new 30-part (!) series on Neuron-controlled pinball machine wiring walks you through how the various FAST Pinball boards fit into your pinball machine and how you can build a machine that is safe and reliable.

AC input & PSU wiring

FAST Neuron-controlled pinball machines only require 48V and 12V power supplies. We have the guide which shows you how to hook them up. (And which explains where the 5 volts went!)

Soft power-switch wiring

One of the great features of the Neuron is its integration with a solid-state relay solution which let's you build a pinball machine with a power switch in the traditional location without needing AC power in your cabinet.

How to choose a power supply for your pinball machine

We've resold power supplies that we like for pinball machines in our FAST shop for years. In that time, people have often asked us why we picked the power supplies we did, or they've found their own PSUs and asked us if they were okay to use.

Just like everything in pinball, it turns out that's a complicated question to answer! (And just saying "it depends" is not too helpful!) So this month we published a new learning guide called, "Choosing the right power supplies for your pinball machine."

In this guide, we step through all the important things you need to know about what makes a power supply appropriate for use in a pinball machine, including topics like:

  • Type of supply (switching versus linear)
  • Voltage & Current
  • Why the appropriate "failure mode" is critical for your 48-volt supplies
  • Understanding inrush current
  • Fan or no fan?

This was a fun guide to write, and even if you just buy the power supplies that we sell, you'll be smarter about the science and electronics that power your dream creation!

MPF support for the latest FAST hardware

We know that almost everyone building a pinball machine with FAST Pinball hardware is using MPF (the Mission Pinball Framework) as their game software, so we've also been working hard on MPF's FAST Platform interface so everyone can get the most out of their new FAST hardware with MPF.

I (Brian) wrote the original FAST platform interface code for MPF way back in 2014. Jan Kantert took my initial code to the next level with his MPF software engineering work in the ensuing years, and then Anthony van Winkle reengineered the FAST platform code over the past couple of years. Now it's come full circle back to me, and I've been working on the MPF code for FAST hardware for the past month or so, getting support added for our new FAST Expansion boards and other new products.

All of this new FAST Pinball platform code will be merged back into the mainline MPF repo once it's complete. In the meantime, you can follow along with the latest MPF developments for FAST in the FAST Pinball MPF repo: github.com/fastpinball/mpf

Still on my todo list (which I plan to start this afternoon), is to write the guides which explain how to configure MPF to work with the latest FAST hardware. All of that will live on our hub page for users of MPF and FAST, at fastpinball.com/mpf.

In the future we'll extend the FAST platform for MPF to support all of the advanced capabilities of the FAST Modern Platform, including power draw monitoring, advanced flipper modes, support for more types of serial LEDs, audio interface control integration, MPF computer soft start and safe shutdown, and a slew of other awesome features. We'll also continue to contribute and give back to the broader MPF community. (For example, we spent three weeks rewriting the MPF installers which help everyone, not just FAST users.)

So look for that to continue, and we'll look forward you all to continue building fun and amazing creations on the FAST Pinball hardware platform.

Be well, Happy Thanksgiving, and happy pinballing!

Brian, Aaron, Dave, & Eli

Documentation Feedback? Requests? Confused?

Hi! I'm Brian, and I'm responsible for the documentation at FAST Pinball. If you have any feedback, requests, corrections, ideas, or any other thoughts about this documentation, please let me know! You can email me at brian@fastpinball.com. Thanks!

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