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"I realized there was a heavy-duty change coming in biology, and I could write a really compelling novel about catastrophic evolution, punctuated equilibrium."
- Greg Bear

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:
  - The Dawn Of Orbiting Manufacturing In 2020?
  - 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
  - Orbital Manufacturer 'Made in Space' Gets $73 Million NASA Contract

Articles related to Manufacturing
As Big As A Biltong - World's Largest 3D Printer
The Dawn Of Orbiting Manufacturing In 2020?
Orbital Manufacturer 'Made in Space' Gets $73 Million NASA Contract
CNSILK Robotic Spider Builder

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