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"Science fiction operates a little bit like science itself, in principle. You've got thousands of people exploring ideas, putting forth their own hypotheses. Most of them are dead wrong; a few stand the test of time; everything looks kind of quaint in hind"
- Peter Watts

Orbiting Factories  
  Manufacturing centers in orbit around the Earth.  

Several engineers are discussing 1D diamond crystals, and how they are produced.

"...What is it?"

"The result of two hundred years of solid-state physics. For whatever good that does, it is a continuous pseudo-one dimensional diamond crystal - though it's not actually pure carbon. There are several trace elements in carefully controlled amounts. It can be mass-produced only in the orbiting factories, where there's no gravity to interfere with the growth process."

From The Fountains of Paradise, by Arthur C. Clarke.
Published by Ballantine in 1978
Additional resources -

The first efforts to implement (or at least experiment) with creating materials in orbit occurred in the early 1970's, during the Skylab mission (which was launched in 1973). The station was equipped with a materials processing facility that included a multi-purpose electric furnace, a crystal growth chamber, and an electron beam gun. A bit earlier, in 1969, the Russians experimented with welding in space during the Soyuz missions.

Compare to the automated space factories (1988), from Mona Lisa Overdrive, by William Gibson.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Fountains of Paradise
  More Ideas and Technology by Arthur C. Clarke
  Tech news articles related to The Fountains of Paradise
  Tech news articles related to works by Arthur C. Clarke

Orbiting Factories-related news articles:
  - First 3D Printer In Space?
  - Students! NASA Wants To 3D Print Your Tool Design In Space!
  - Jeff Bezos Wants Orbiting Factories (Clarke-style)

Articles related to Manufacturing
Pay For The 3D Printer - NexD1 Kickstarter
Chemputer To Grow Bespoke Drones Through Chemistry
Siemens 3D Printing Robot Spiders
3D Cocooner From Festo Spins Web In Mid-Air

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