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Factories are a way of automatically making and/or selling items.
Once you get conveyor belts, you can start creating factories.
If a conveyor belt is placed next to a fruit tree, or any other plant that drops its output into adjacent spaces, the plant will favor dropping its fruit onto the conveyor belt. If the conveyor belt leads into a machine that operates on the fruit, you have a factory! A popular early strategy is to create Pie Factories by putting conveyor belts next to rows of Apple Trees (or Pumpkin Plants), running the conveyor belt into a Pie Maker, and then having a conveyor belt output from the Pie Maker to stack the pies somewhere nearby.
If the output from the factory leads into a Sales Portal, the factory will continuously make money. This is a great way to make increasing profits and progress in the game.
Mining Factories - Metal
To get a good supply of metal, place mining machines at the head of a factory. The mining machines will create metal ore. Set up an Auto-Smelter along the conveyor belt to change the ore into ingots. The ingots are very useful for Blacksmithing and for creating a wide range of tools and technology.
Mining Factories - Gems
The gem-mining factory is one of the best ways of making a lot of money. Use gem-miners as the input of the factory, and feed the raw gems into a Gem Cutter Machine to make them into jewels, increasing their value, before selling them. To max this out, cross-train a Jeweler in Engineering to make Gemcutter Upgrade Modules; these will craft together with your Gem Cutter Machine to upgrade the cut of gem it produces.