An auto-fabricator, or simply 'fabricator' or 'fab,' is an electromechanical appliance which uses a combination of 3D printing and miniaturized robotics to produce a given range of products. Auto-fabricators may be civilian models - used in the household or residential general purpose module for simple consumer goods, including some cooking processes - or as sub-units of larger auto-factories. An auto-factory may contain a large number of auto-fabricators, but the inverse is not the case.
Mechanics & Inner Workings
Auto-fabricators generally function like 3D printers with the additional ability to self-monitor and manipulate the piece being printed as required for standardized results. They are fed either with recycled stock or, most often, differnt forms of the Resource Chips which forme the backbone of the Protectorate economy. Protectorate banks convert the digital 'Unit Chip' (UC) currency into different feedstock chips - Carbon-Graphene (CGC), Algae (AC), and so forth - for just such applications. The blueprints for complex consumer goods are licensed from various manufacturers - who often also operate auto-factories for goods too complex for home auto-fabricators - for a subscription fee. Dangerous blueprints, such as those for weapons, are not necessarily illegal, but may draw the attention of local security forces in certain circumstances.
Auto-fabricators are ubiquitous throughout the Cobalt Protectorate, filling the low-end manufacturing (and, when combined with municipal SCWO digesters, recycling) needs of the general public. A home auto-fabricator is as common as a home microwave or intranet terminal and, for models meant to be shared among several housing units, may even supplant some (but not all) dishwashers or laundry machines.