I’m really playing this for automation. I enjoy setting up assembly lines. If I could get a decent VR version of Factorio, I’d play that instead, but this is what I’ve got.
Never the less, I think my approach saves time most of the time. Off the top of my head, the situations are:
- Lines that involve multiple machines. These always save me time, because I don’t bother doing this unless it’s clear I’m going to be doing a lot of hand carrying of materials from one machine to the next.
I’ve got some pretty extreme examples of this. Ore processing, dust consolidation, and electronics are the major ones. Ore processing is obvious, since it involves 4-5 steps for almost everything and it’s something you’re constantly doing. Dust consolidation drove me crazy with how tedious and common it was before I could afford the chest regulators that make automated consolidation possible. Electronics often involves 2-3 steps to get the target circuit once you’re up to Extreme (EV) circuits.
Ore processing and dust consolidation is a single assembly line that involves at least a couple of dozen machines fed by a single unified conveyor belt, and emptying on to an output belt that returns all products to the input belt to be examined again. The belts make no assumptions about processing; each machine filters for what it needs. Thus I can dump an ore block into the macerator and know I’ll get full centrifuged / electrolyized dusts from it. It also auto-purifies the miscellaneous impure dusts delivered by train.
There are images of it in the screenshot board.
This category includes the assembly lines for plastics, which always involve a couple of steps. Demand for evertything but PTFE is pretty constant, as polyethylene makes machine hulls, pipes, and surface mount electronic components, polychloride makes plastic circuit boards, and epoxy makes epoxy circuit boards. It would be a nightmare to have to constantly re-purpose a chemical reactor every time I wanted more of any of these.
As it is, if I want another stack of tiny plastic pipes, I just grab a stack of plastic ingots from the solidifier, configure the nearby extruder with the shape I want, and pop them in. No need to make ethanol, covert ethanol to ethylene, and then covert that to polyethylene, it’s all automatic.
- Dedicated machines that duplicate existing machines, but at most only have an input and output buffer. I do this if the machine has a required liquid / gas input, like chemical reactors, or if the existing machine is inconveniently far away and I’m going to need it often at its present location.
The only real “5 minutes, once a week” machines that fall into this category are assemblers with more unusual liquid inputs. The molten redstone one, for example, is really just for making Advanced rails. Still, it takes me less time to make these once and forget about them, than to fiddle with purging the inputs of a general purpose machine.
- General purpose single-block machines, usually with input and output buffers. The metal bender, wire mill, lathe, etc. I use these constantly, and I’m usually dumping 3-4 stacks of ingots into them at a time. They don’t feed anything. Generally they don’t need to be reconfigured because they don’t have liquid inputs. The main one I have to re-program is the metal bender, which is usually in mode 1 (plates), but sometimes needs other modes to make rebar, standard rails, or double-thickness plates.
- The ore drills. These do take considerably more time to set up than just going out and clearing the vein by hand. Partly because of the drill setup, but also because it means running a rail out to a distant site, and that’s time consuming.
The main argument for them is that they’re 3x as productive as mining by hand. It took me a long, long time to find even one tungsten deposit, so getting 3x as much from it is important. That the drill produces a lot of byproducts from small ores and nearby veins is just gravy.
That, and I find mining by hand incredibly boring, and setting up a drill isn’t a mindless task.