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FAST Neuron Controller

Part Number: FP-CPU-2000-x

This product is not yet released

This documentation is for a product that is not yet released. Final details may change.

The FAST Pinball Neuron Controller is the central hub of your pinball machine built on the FAST Pinball Modern Platform. It connects your machine's I/O boards via the FAST Loop Network, adds virtually limitless control and lighting options via the FAST Expansion Bus, and even drives modernized classic pinball displays (such as RGB DMDs and RGB 7-segment displays) via the FAST Display Bus. Designed to be mounted in your machine's backbox, the Neuron Controller has built-in support to drive up to 128 RGB backbox LEDs as well as 3 breakout headers to add additional backbox functionality such as servos, steppers, flashers, motors, etc.

The FAST Neuron Controller, and the entire FAST Pinball Modern Platform, are designed to operate in machines with only 48-volt and 12-volt power supplies, thus simplifying and reducing the cost and complexity of your machine wiring. (Other voltages, such as 5 volts to power the LEDs, are generated locally on the boards where they're needed.)

The Neuron controller supports soft PC power control which handles soft power on and shutdown communication with the host computer. It also supports "soft start" for the machine, which allows you to wire a "soft" low voltage pushbutton power switch in the traditional right-front cabinet location without needing any line-voltage AC power in your cabinet.

If you're running your machine's game code from a Raspberry Pi, you can seat the Pi directly into the Neuron Controller. The Neuron will provide power, soft fan control, and soft power on / shutdown for the Pi, simplifying wiring, installation, and reducing external components needed for proper Raspberry Pi operation.

Features At-a-Glance

  • Designed to be mounted in your machine's backbox
  • USB to connect to your machine's host computer
  • Drives 4 strands of up to 32 serial RGB LEDs each (128 RGB LEDs total) for your backbox lighting
  • FAST Expansion Bus adds Expansion Boards with various combinations of LED control, servos, steppers, flashers, motors, drivers, custom mods, toppers, cabinet controllers, etc.
  • FAST Display Bus enables modernized classic pinball displays such as RGB DMDs and RGB 7-segment displays.
  • FAST Loop Network for FAST I/O Boards to control devices and read switches
  • Supports up to nine I/0 Boards with a maximum of 120 switches and 120 drivers
  • Automatically distributes 12v power to connected I/O boards. Derives power for the 128 RGB LEDs from its own 12v input power.
  • "Soft Start" machine power on
  • Raspberry Pi header provides power management, soft start, soft fan control, and a direct serial connection to an attached Raspberry Pi if that device us used as the machine's host computer
  • Supports using any host computer via the USB port (for situations where you want more horsepower than the Raspberry Pi). A PC control header is supplied to allow host computer control (remote power on when the pinball machine receives power, soft shut down, etc.)
  • Only requires 12-volts, option to use a barrel jack or standard header
  • Three breakout headers for additional backbox functionality such as servos, steppers, flashers, motors, etc.
  • One of the breakout connectors can be run to the upcoming Smart Power Filter Board for live current monitoring, bad fuse detection, failed coil detection, driver power monitoring, etc.
  • Battery type is 2032.

Quick tour of the Neuron Controller

Here's an overview of all the ports and headers on the Neuron.

FAST Neuron Controller with ports and connectors labeled

See the links in the Next Steps section of this page for details on what all of these things actually do.

The FAST Loop Network

In a FAST Neuron-controlled pinball machine, I/O Boards (sometimes called "node boards") are connected to the Neuron via the FAST Loop Network, a continuous loop of Cat-5 cables which interact with drivers and switches connected to the I/O Boards.

The FAST Expansion Bus

The FAST Pinball Expansion Bus is a new & modern platform for building interactive mods and adding capabilities to pinball machines. The Neuron controller has two FAST Expansion Bus ports. Most likely you'll use an Expansion Board under the playfield for playfield lighting, servos, steppers, and other playfield devices. (Basically everything except for switches and drivers which are handled by the FAST Loop Network.) You might also use an Expansion Board in a topper, and maybe another if you do some kind of cool under cabinet lighting. (So think about expansion boards adding "local" interactivity to various points of your machine.)

Individual Expansion Boards are connected to the FAST Platform Controller via RJ-45 cables. Many boards have multiple ports to allow for daisy chaining and "fanning out" topologies. (The Expansion Bus is NOT a loop network, so the cables do not need to be connected in a loop.)

Expansions boards have various features and capabilities built-in, but they can also be extended via breakout boards which plug into breakout headers. Breakout boards add additional functionality to the expansion board, such as additional LEDs, flashers, servos, steppers, other drivers, etc.

Here's a conceptual diagram of the FAST Expansion Bus:

FAST Expansion Bus diagram

Mechanical Diagram

All dimensions are in mm.

Next Steps

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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