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"I'm a fairly visual thinker. In doing science, I think in terms of pictures of things happening, and then do the mathematics."
- Gregory Benford

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)
  - Archinaut Orbiting Robotic Factory
  - Made In Space To Manufacture Optical Fiber In Orbit

Articles related to Manufacturing
A 'Genuine Nanorobotic Production Factory'
Made In Space To Manufacture Optical Fiber In Orbit
Self-Assembling Bacteria Build A Pressure Sensor
Artificial Spider Silk

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