The process of automation is probably the most important aspect of Factorio and is truly what the game is about in a general sense. The core of automation starts with the use of Mining Drills, because they can mine resources for you automatically without you having to refuel them as long as they have electricity. Furnaces smelt the raw resources into intermediate products which can be used to craft items. Assembling Machines are the final part of the system since they will automatically make items for you as long as the required ingredients are provided to them. There are more details about each of these things below...
Electric Mining Drills
Electric Mining Drills are more self-explanatory and simple than the Assembling Machines. The Electric Miners have a mining speed of .5 per second, and a mining power of 3. The mining power comes into play because different resources have different mining hardness, so some might mine a little slower than others. The drill is 3x3, but covers a 5x5 area that it can mine from. The drills will mine any resource under them (Iron, Copper, Coal, Stone), and output the mined item onto the tile in front of it, whether it be a belt, chest or furnace. If you have it outputting onto a belt it will also put the items on the close side of the belt if the belt is running perpendicular to the miner
If you have it mining onto a belt that is running in the same direction the miner is facing, then it works like the Inserters do when placing on a belt moving away from it. If the miner is facing right or down then it outputs the items on what would be the bottom side of the belt. If it is facing left or up then it puts it on what would be the top side. Here is a picture to demonstrate it further (picture below):
Two other quick things to touch on for miners; The Electric Miners have 3 module slots, so you can put Speed Modules or Efficiency Modules in them if you want. It will be explained later in the guide under the Modules section as to why you can't put Productivity Modules in the miners and some other things as well. The last thing to mention is that even though the mining area of the drills is 5x5, you can put them right up against each other and they will work fine. The mining area will just overlap so the resources will be mined out quicker since part of it is being mined by two miners at once. So you would space them out if you want slower more even mining, or if you want to fit more miners in an area for more output, you can stick them right next to each other, it will just mine the resource patch out quicker.
Now that you have a sufficient power setup for a while, it is probably a good time to get a bit of automated smelting going so you don't have to keep running back and forth between the burner miners/smelters you set up at the beginning.
It is very important to automate the smelting or refining of Iron and Copper ore and then later the refining of Iron into Steel. These are your three base resources used in some form or another for nearly everything in the game. Obviously stone and oil and such are used too but not as abundantly. So with this in mind, it is very important to have a setup for both the Iron and Copper smelting that is expandable in several ways for the future. What do I mean by "several ways"? Well not only will you be adding on more furnaces as you get farther into the game to satisfy the needs of the factory, but later on once Electric Furnaces are available for you to build, you might want to upgrade all the furnaces to those and they require more room. Stone and Steel Furnaces are 2x2 tiles in size, whereas Electric Furnaces are 3x3, so if you don't leave room to expand correctly then you will end up having to tear down the whole smelting setup to accommodate the Electric Furnaces.
Before you make your smelting facility, I suggest doing some quick Research first to make it easier. A lot of methods for setting up the smelting will require belt Splitters, Long Handed Inserters, and perhaps even Underground Belts. So getting two quick Researches will unlock these items. You will need Logistics 1 (which also unlocks Fast Inserters), and Automation 1 (which also unlocks Assembling Machine 1). These only require Red Science Packs, which are very simple to make, so just craft the needed amount by hand and throw them in a Science Lab. Once you have Researched those two categories, you are good to go!
Here are a few pictures of different setups to show you what some might look like based on the explanations above. You are welcome to copy these or use them as guidelines, whatever you see fit.
This setup has the Iron and Coal merged onto one line and then split before the furnaces and sent down the outsides of the setup, while having the finished Iron Plate placed onto one line in the middle.
Advantages: Uses less Inserters, and no long handed Inserters. The Iron Plate is dropped onto one line for easy use further into the factory. Also uses fewer belts.
Disadvantages: Limited throughput of both Iron and Coal since they each only get half of a belt and then are split in half. This becomes very important later into the game when half of a belt of Iron is just not enough to keep up with what the factory requires.
In this setup instead of having the Coal and Iron on one line, it is on two separate lines and sent down the middle rather than the outsides. As you can see, the Iron is also exported onto the outsides rather than the middle.
Advantages: More throughput capabilities for both the Iron and Coal because they aren't sharing a line, and also aren't being split before hand.
Disadvantages: Uses more inserters since you need long handed inserters to pick up from the second line of either Coal or Iron. Also uses more belt since the Coal and Iron are on two different belts rather than sharing one.
There are many more ways to set up a smelting area besides the two shown above. The ones shown are fairly common ways to do it, and demonstrate different ideas and pros/cons to different methods.
As mentioned above, Assembling Machines are the actual things that will be making all your items automatically. All they require is the proper ingredients to be fed into them, usually with Inserters. There are three different levels of Assembling Machines in vanilla Factorio, and each level crafts things faster than the last, and can also craft items that require more ingredients. The level 2 and 3 machines also have slots for modules which can be viewed in the Assembler's GUI menu (by left clicking it). These will be explained later in the guide.
Below is a table that shows the main differences between the Assembling Machines.
||Level 1 AM||Level 2 AM||Level 3 AM|
|Ingredient Slots||> 2||4||6|
|Module Slots||0||> 2||4|
One thing to note is that the Player's manual crafting speed is 1, so the first two Assembling Machines are actually slower than crafting something by hand. They do make up for it by doing it automatically and infinitely if they are provided with the ingredients to do so. The last Assembling Machine is actually 25% faster than the Player's manual crafting speed.
There are a few other things to mention about these Assembling Machines. The first thing to note is that the level 1 machine cannot use liquids in recipes, whereas the other two can. This shouldn't be much of a problem though, because by the time you need to make something that requires a liquid (like Electric Engine Units), you probably won't be using level 1 Assemblers anymore. Lastly, it should be noted that Assembling Machines can only hold two finished products in its inventory slot. So for example, say your making Gear Wheels, and don't have an Inserter grabbing the finished Gears from the Assembling Machine and putting them into a chest or onto a belt, the machine will only let the Gears stack up to two in the finished product inventory slot.
This is just something to keep in mind before you try using the machines themselves to store the finished products.
Now that you have completed the three main components to automation, the next logical step is the Science and Research part of the game. You will need to research new technology in order to get machines and equipment. The process of getting some basic
Science Pack production setup will be covered in the following section.