First of all, Happy Valentine’s Day to my wife, CoffeeGirl.

    A system of five servos can automate the distribution of reduced metal chunks among the crystallizer's five slots.

A system of five servos can automate the distribution of reduced metal chunks among the crystallizer’s five slots.

Up until recently, the one major obstacle to fully automating a Factorization Ore-Processing system has been the lack of an easy way to distribute reduced metal chunks evenly among the available slots in a crystallizer. When a crystallizer receives items, it simply puts it into the first available slot. When that slot is filled up, then items go into the next one. The problem with this is that crystallizers are extremely slow. One pass takes 15 or 20 minutes of real time  (I’ve seen people say both, but I’ve never timed it). Each pass can crystallize reduced metal chunks from five slots at the same time – but only if there are reduced metal chunks in each slot. So if you’re just pumping items into a crystallizer, you are extending your already nearly eternal wait time. This wait time is precisely what makes Factorization non-competitive with other tech mods’ ore-processing systems, even if you get at least 50% more ore from Factorization.

One way to deal with the crystallizer wait time problem is, as I mentioned two posts ago, to use multiple crystallizers. I would use at least one crystallizer per kind of metal that you want to process. If all you were planning to use was one crystallizer, period, don’t bother. Just cook up the reduced iron chunks and take the hit on your productivity, because your production of ingots will never keep pace with your demand.

The second thing you have to do is make sure that the reduced metal chunks get distributed evenly among the five available slots. No item transport system I’m familiar with is smart enough to do this. Project Red pipes don’t. Buildcraft transport pipes don’t. Thermal Expansion Itemducts don’t. Vanilla hoppers certainly don’t. I don’t use Logistics Pipes, but I investigated the mod as an option and didn’t find anything smart enough.

Fortunately, NeptunePink has been kind enough to provide his own mod with a solution. Before the introduction of servos and sockets, it was possible to use Factorization routers to target the five slots. For this to work each kind of metal processed would require six routers (five to target the slots, one to distribute among the five), and each router would take two ender pearls. Multiply this by the number of kinds of metals you want to process with Factorization and all of a sudden your talking about 72 ender pearls to process iron, dark iron, silver, lead, tin, and copper, to say nothing of gold or other metals. Technically this is possible, but it’s just not worth it when I’m playing survival. By the time I could afford the ender pearl cost, I probably don’t need the whole setup, anyway.

But with servos and sockets equipped with the item shifter extension, all of a sudden you have a solution that, while a bit more expensive in most other materials, requires precisely zero ender pearls. Plus it just looks so cool when it’s operating.

This setup is for one kind of metal, it occupies a 3×5 footprint, and is three blocks high (with a furnace and a chest to receive the ingots, it is four blocks high). It can be extended, but I doubt this would be needed. The way it works is one servo at a time goes past two hoppers and is instructed to inject what it receives into a particular slot on both of the crystallizers.

Each servo passes two hoppers and injects into two crystallizers. This can be expanded.

Each servo passes two hoppers and injects into two crystallizers. This can be expanded.

The other four hoppers are held in place by “Trap” instructions on four of the bottom pieces of rail. When the moving servo comes around the end, it crosses a “Redstone Pulse” instruction, causing the other four servos to be released. They all move forward one space except the foremost one, which now goes on its time around the rail.

A servo finishing its round sends a Redstone pulse to tell the rest to move forward in the queue.

A servo finishing its round sends a Redstone pulse to tell the rest to move forward in the queue.

Each servo is programmed (using a logic matrix programmer) with its own target slot, so all five crystallizer slots are independently supplied reduced metal chunks. Crystallizer slots are 0-5 (starting at the top and going clockwise. I typically put the aqua regia into the top slot, so I make the servos target slots 1-5.

I put aqua regia into slot zero. notice how the chunks are distributed more or less evenly.

I put aqua regia into slot zero. notice how the chunks are distributed more or less evenly among the remaining slots..

Use a logic matrix programmer to make each servo target its own slot.

Use a logic matrix programmer to make each servo target its own slot.

The reason this “taking turns” setup is desirable is so that the five servos remain spatially separated. While it isn’t absolutely necessary, it would be good to use something to make sure that reduced metal chunks are distributed evenly between the two hoppers, but this is easy to do with Thermal Expansion itemducts (round-robin mode). Buildcraft pipes would work essentially the same, since what an item does at a junction is randomly selected. You would end up with a more or less 50/50 distribution that way.

Like I said above, except for the ender pearls, the servo setup is generally more expensive than the router setup. Each servo requires one chest, one socket, two servo motors, two logic matrix programmers, and two blank logic matrices. A blank logic matrix is just a block of Redstone sent through a crystallizer. You get the logic matrix programmers back. The servo motors are the most expensive part of the servo. They take two lead ingots, two pieces of insulated coil, one iron ingot, one piece of Redstone, one piece of Nether Quartz, one battery (which you get back), and one dark iron sprocket. The dark iron sprocket is just four dark iron ingots around a silver ingot.

So the total cost of materials to make five servos and five item shifters, not including the logic matrix programmers and the battery that you get back, is:
150 Redstone
85 wood planks
40 cobblestone
40 dark iron ingots
35 iron ingots
20 pieces of insulated coil (which is made from lead and clay)
20 lead ingots
15 silver ingots
10 pieces of nether quartz.
10 iron bars
5 wood slabs

Servo rail is cheap. Two lead ingots and a dark ingot get you 8 pieces. You need 12 for this setup. The instruction plates are also very cheap.

For comparison, six routers and six machine filters would cost:
60 dark iron ingots
60 Redstone
12 ender pearls
12 silver ingots
6 blaze dust
6 eggs
6 sticks
6 nether quartz
6 books

One final option: it is possible to use just four sockets with item shifters next to four chests to target four of the five available slots. Not only does it not distribute among all five slots, but you have to have four sockets per crystallizer, whereas the servo system I designed uses at least two crystallizers (the more crystallizers, the faster the ore-processing). Also, in this setup, each crystallizer must have its own dedicated heater. Still, if you need a system on the cheap, this one works well. What you need is something to distribute the reduced metal chunks relatively evenly among the four chests (once again, Thermal Expansion itemducts in round-robin mode is perfect), and a repeating Redstone pulse (it can be pretty slow: once every ten seconds or so is more than enough). In this picture, I’m using a Project Red timer to emit the pulse. Place the heater on top of the crystallizer and, as always, pull items out the bottom with a hopper.

Four sockets can distribute reduced metal chunks among four of the five slots.

Four sockets can distribute reduced metal chunks among four of the five slots.

***Update 2/19/14*** Neptunepink told me on the Factorization forum that it is possible to automate the distribution of reduced metal chunks among all crystallizers using one servo, one parasieve per crystallizer, and a bunch of instructions on the rails. I’m going to mess around with this and post about it in the future. One servo for the whole system versus five servos per metal type makes the servo option way cheaper than either the router option or even the four-socket option.

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