Space Engineers

Space Engineers

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Conveyors: The basics and their uses
By Ocean Guy
Conveyors. These strange things were recently added in an update. How do they work? Why do they exist? What can I use them for? How do I use them?
This guide will (hopefully) answer these questions and provide you with a basic understanding of conveyors and give you som basic ideas on possible uses for them.
Please read this before reading!
Hello fellow Space Engineers! I hope this guide will be of use to you, but please, if you spot any errors in my grammar or spelling, or feel that my wording is a bit strange and could be swapped out for something more appropriate, please let me know in the comment section! Also, if there is something you would like to add, or if you have any questions, write a comment!
Or maybe you just want to type a comment and say hi or have any critique or just about anything, type it out as a comment!

Disclaimer: Puns and bad jokes will hopefully get added as they are made up. As it currently stands, the guide can be considered a WIP due to the lack of puns and bad jokes. Please do forgive me.

Finally, don't forget to rate this guide!
What is a conveyor and a conveyor system?
A conveyor is a block or a tube used to make a conveyor system. These conveyor systems allow items to be accessed from inventories that does not, physically, contain an item, as long as the inventories with the items you are trying to access are connected via a conveyor system to an inventory that you access.
But, what does this mean?

To start, here is an example image of a basic conveyor connection

As you can see, these two cargo containers are connected to eachother using conveyor tubes. This means that they are on the same conveyor system, and you can access both containers' inventories by accessing one of them.

Here, I add a Rifle to the inventory of Cargo Container

Now, I access the inventory of Cargo Container 2

We can see the rifle in Cargo Container from Cargo Container 2, but since we have a conveyor connection to Cargo Container, we can actually move the rifle from Cargo Container to Cargo Container 2 from this screen, simply by dragging it from Cargo Container to Cargo Container 2

And that is the basics of a basic conveyor system.
How do I make a conveyor system?
So, I have shown you a basic conveyor system, but, in reality, you won't just make conveyors in a straight line. In order to make a conveyor system with twists and turns, we need to make things a little more complicated.

First off, let us create a scenario.
You want to build a conveyor system connecting the two cargo containers, but sadly, there is a wall in the way, making a straight conveyor line impossible.

For this, we have to use conveyor blocks.
Conveyor blocks work in the EXACT same way as a conveyor tube, with the exception that they can be linked with conveyors on any of the 6 sides of the block, whereas a tube can only connect on two sides. It is possible to make a conveyor system using only conveyor blocks, and because the items required to make conveyor blocks are often easier to obtain than the items required to make a conveyor tube, you may choose to do so.

So, let us add a conveyor block at the end of one of the tubes

Now, since we know that this block can take connections on all 6 sides of it, we put another conveyor block on top of it, and we do the same thing on the other side of the wall.
This leaves us with a simple gap of one block that we can fill with either a conveyor tube or a conveyor block

So, to summarize:
- Conveyor Blocks can connect to inventories and other conveyor blocks and tubes on all 6 sides of the block
- Conveyor tubes can only connect on the two sides of the tube
- Two or more inventories have to be linked together using conveyors in order to make a conveyor system

And a small tip: The "doors" are what I refer to as the "inventories". Connect one of the doors of a block with the door of another block using conveyors to successfully make a conveyor system.
Also, it should be noted that conveyors do not need power in order to function. As of Update 01.027, conveyors, connectors and collectors now require power in order to function. A conveyor system functions the same regardless of how long the conveyor system might be.
Conveyor uses: Refinery-Assembler connection
So, let's say that we did not put our refinery and assembler on top of eachother and create a natural connection (this connection is present in a lot of the maps, for example "lone survivor").
How do we create a connection between the two entities? We use conveyors.
In fact, the "natural" connection that I mentioned above is, in fact, a conveyor connection!

Here is a conveyor system linking a refinery and an assembler together

And here are a few images showing you how the connection was made

Please note: You DO NOT have to have any tubes at all to create this conveyor connection. Also, the tubes sticking out of the back of the refinery and assembler are merely for clarity, you do not need these and they are excessive. The whole conveyor system can be moved one block closer to the assembler/refinery by removing these two tubes.

How does this connection work? It works in the exact same way as the "natural" refinery-assembler connection; the assembler requests materials from the refinery, and the refinery sends materials to the assembler. Before the conveyor update, all materials were automatically moved to the assembler as they were refined, as long as a natural connection between the refinery and assembler existed.

To demonstrate this, let's order 10 steel plates from the assembler.

Now, we put iron ore into the refinery.

After a while, we can see that the assembler now holds iron bars (disclaimer: I put the request in after I had refined the ore. If you do it in the order that I explain here, iron will be sent over to the assembler as it is refined, and the value will not be 220, but the TOTAL value of iron sent will always be 220, which is as much as 10 steel plates cost).

Now, we can see that all the iron in the assembler is gone, and it has created 10 steel plates for us.

To summarize:
- A conveyor connection between a refinery/assembler causes the assembler to request materials from the refinery as needed, it does not cause the refinery to immediately transfer materials to the assembler as they are refined. This also means that items that the assembler creates won't automatically move to a connected cargo container, unless the assembler's inventory is full.
Larger conveyor systems and the basics of the collector
What if we want a conveyor system that spans the entirety of our ship/station? What if we want to be able to drop materials into one place, and make these materials move to their designated destinations without any further interferance from us?

To achieve this, I made a little change to our previous assembler-refinery conveyor connection

While this might seem like a huge change, it really isn't. All I have done is created a Large Cargo Container on top of a pillar of armor blocks, and then connected a door from the refinery and one door from the assembler to two different doors of the cargo container using conveyors.

First off, I have ordered 5 Construction Components from the assembler without having any iron in the refinery. The goal of this conveyor system is to make the assembler build these construction components, without us doing anything else other than dropping our items at our designated "drop point".

Now, let's create a place to drop our items by placing a collector on the door at the top of the cargo container.

Now, I have a few items in my inventory: Iron Ore and the Steel Plates that we created in the previous section.

Let's drop these items into the collector by flying over it and simply dropping the items on the ground.

We can see that the steel plates are sitting safely in the cargo containers inventory.

And after waiting for a while, we can also see that a few iron bars have been created and moved to the assembler.

And after waiting a little more, we can see that the assembler has successfully created a construction component and that more iron bars have been moved to the assembler to fulfill it's needs.

And then, after waiting even more, we see that the assembler has successfully created our requested 5 construction components.

To summarize:
- If a conveyor system is present, materials will be taken from any inventory in the system and moved to whatever inventory needs the materials. In this case, the inventory requesting items was the assembler and the refinery, requesting iron bars and iron ore, respectively.
- Items dropped into a collector immediately becomes integrated into the conveyor system and are used as they are requested. If not requested, they move to an inventory not in use. In this case, a cargo container.

Small note: If a cargo container is not present, the items might stay in the collector until it becomes full or until the items in the collector are requested by an entity.
Connectors and Collectors
I have already explained what a collector is, but what is a connector? Also, what is the use of a connector, and how can it be used in conjunction with a collector?

Basically, while a collector collects items, a connector drops items. This is useful in quite a few ways, most commonly when unloading mining ships.

Note: The ejector, which is only available for the small ship, functions in the exact same way as a connector, with the exception of the ejector being smaller.

But, to explain how a connector works, I will show you a basic conveyor system using both a connector and a collector.

This is the system in question

The system consists of a cargo container at the bottom right, a collector on top of a conveyor next to the cargo container, and a conveyor system leading up to a connector positioned a few blocks above the collector.

In it's current state, this system does nothing, as no items are present in the system. But once we add items and enable the connector, items will start flowing in the system.
To enable a connector, simply access it.

Here, we are greeted with a few options.
The first option is the "Throw Out" option, which is pretty self-explanatory. When enabled, all items in the connector will be dropped out (with a small force added) in the direction that the connector is facing.
The other option, however, is the "Collect All" option, which is a bit misguiding. A connector does not collect items dropped into it. When this option is checked, what happens is that the connector will try to grab any items it can find in the conveyor system and add it to it's inventory. These items will stay in the connector's inventory until dropped using the "Throw Out" option or until manually moved.

To see the connector in action, I will enable both of these options and add some stone to the cargo container's inventory.

When doing this, rocks will begin falling from the connector to to the collector at a steady pace.

This leads to a few questions, however.
Why are the rocks flowing so slow?
Can anything be dropped by a connector?

The answer to the first question is fairly simple: Rocks can be stacked, and the connector will drop as much as possible each time it drops something. The connector's inventory is also limited, which limits how many items can be dropped at a time. Also, moving items in a conveyor system is not instant, which causes a bit of a delay between the drops, as the connector has to be refilled before it drops items again. Splitting these rocks into smaller stacks has no effect on the drop speed.

To answer the second question, let's try it!
(Note: make sure you remove as much of the stone as possible from the system, otherwise it will take a while before these items are dropped, due to the fact that the connector drops items in the order they are in the cargo container).

And the result:

It works, and it is dropping the items simultaneously! This is due to the fact that the items are small enough to be moved into the connector's inventory at the same time, and thus dropped at the same time.

This system in particular will not be particularly useful when you are trying to do a lot of things, but I merely wanted to demonstrate how the connector worked. The system can be useful for, say, ammo or fuel restocking.

Reminder: As mentioned earlier, both connectors and collectors require power in order to function, just like conveyors.

The main use of a connector is to move items from one conveyor system to another, and that is also this sections summarization. However, in the next section, I will show you how this can be made into something more practical!

--Connectors as of Update 01.036--
As of Update 01.036, connectors have a new function. This new function is similar to that of a merge block; two entities connected via a connector shares their inventories with eachother, and you can access the different components of the other entity from the entity you are controlling.

If you are confused by this explanation (the text above is confusing me as well, so don't worry), I will give you an illustration using screenshots.

Here is a Large Cargo Container attached to a platform. On top of it, a connector has been placed.

And here is a small cargo ship, with a connector attached at it's back.

If I fly this ship over the cargo container and align the connectors with eachother, they will start glowing yellow, just like a landing gear that can be locked.

And as you might have expected, pressing P will lock the connectors, connecting them.

Let's see what this has yielded us. In addition to being able to monitor and move items from the other entities conveyor system, we also have access to it's control panel. From here, I can swap on or off any machines present on the station. However, I can only move items to my ship if they are present in the large cargo container, as there is no conveyor connection present from the cargo container to any of the other inventories on the station.

You might notice that all of the entities that aren't a part of our ship have their name in orange.

Unlocking the connectors will break this connection, and we no longer have access to the other entities's control panel.

In the following sections, I will explain how connectors can be used as ejectors to move stuff around.
Practical uses: Mining Ship
One of the most practical use of conveyors, connectors and collectors that I have found so far, is to build mining ships and to quickly unload the mined ore and immediately start refining it.

To do this, we first need a mining ship.

On this ship, I have already installed the conveyor system, so let me show you how it works.

First, a conveyor block is connected to one of the "doors" of the mining ship's drill.

Conveyor tubes are connected to this conveyor block and leads to a conveyor block placed next to a thruster.

A few twists and turns are added to avoid the conveyor system from being in the way of the thrusters. The conveyor system leads to the back of the ship.

And there, at the back of the ship, we have a connector. Note: At the time when this was originally written, the ejectors were called connectors. This has now changed, and the block I use here is now called an ejector.

Now, make sure that the "Throw Out" or/and the "Collect All" option of the connector is set to Off, otherwise it will spit out any ore we collect before we get back to our station.

Now, I have mined a bit of stone and iron with this ship, and I wish to offload it.

To do this, I simply move my ship to the collector placed on the large cargo container that we made in section 5. (In order to better move into the right position, you might want to put your connector at the front of the ship. If you have put the connector at the back, like me, I suggest always using the third person mode (enabled by pressing V) when moving to the offloading station. Also, hold the ALT key and move your mouse so that you can see your ship from different angles).

Now, with the ship in the correct position, let us begin offloading the ore.
To do this, set both the Collect All and Throw Out option of the connector to On.

And voila! We are offloading ore. However, the offloading process is extremely slow, and I personally suggest using more connectors in order to speed up this process.

To see what happens, this image shows that the stone is first moved into the large cargo container, and then moved to the refinery and refined.

Remember that you can leave your ship while offloading the ore, as long as you have the inertia dampeners on and you make sure that you have enough fuel in your ship.
Known issues & solutions
There are a few issues that I have discovered when working with conveyors, and I will list them below. These issues are most likely bugs that are present due to the fact that conveyors are very much a work in progress.

If you have a problem that is not solved by the solutions below, and if you are sure that you have connected everything in the correct way, please, let me know and I will add it to this list.

1. Conveyors do not move things automatically, even when the things in questions should be moved automatically.
An example of the above problem is that a connector might not grab things from a cargo container, even if both Throw Out and Collect All are checked. I have found that this is more likely to happen if cargo container is full. To solve this, move anything from the cargo container to the connector manually (you can do it from the cargo container's interface), and the things should start moving to the connector.

2. The assembler does not take refined ingots from the refinery when ordering an item in the assembler, even when a working conveyor connection is present between the assembler and the refinery.
This issue is quite self-explanatory, and it often makes itself present if there are ingots present in the assembler when the conveyor connection is established. To fix this problem, move all ingots present in the assembler back to the refinery. If there are no items present in the assembler and this happens, move something into the assembler and then put it back into the refinery.

3. Ore put into a connector that is in turn connected to more than one refinery will not equally distritube the ore between the refineries.
This might not be a bug, but rather it might have something to do with some other factor that I have not figured out yet.
Regardless of what causes this behavior, it is not possible to do this. To solve this issue, you have to rebuild your system a bit by not making direct connections to the refineries, but rather let connectors drop the ore into collectors that, in turn, are connected to the refineries.
Here's an example of how such a system might look:

The End
That's all, folks!

I hope that this guide has made you better understand the basics of conveyors and their basic uses. As I said in the first section, don't hesitate to comment if there is anything you wonder or want to say! Don't forget to rate, and happy mining!
This section of the guide serves to inform you when information has been changed and what information has been changed. Whenever something in the guide changes, I will note it in this section.

19/4 - 2014: Guide created.

21/4 - 2014: Sections created: Known issues & solutions (issue #1, #2 and #3), Changelog. Small changes in the sections "How do I make a conveyor system?" and "Connectors and Collecotrs" to empathize that conveyors do not require power in order to function.

22/4 - 2014: Fixed a typo in section 2 and reworded a part of the section.

23/4 - 2014: Removed incorrect assumption that the travel distance is a factor when it comes to conveyor behaviour. Added information to section 3 stating that a conveyor's length does not matter. Fixed typo in description and reworded the description.

25/4 - 2014: Changed section 3 so that it correctly states that conveyor systems now require power to function, as of update 01.027. Changed section 4 so that it now correctly states that a "natural" assembler-refinery connection is a conveyor connection.

28/4 - 2014: Changed a false statement in section 6 regarding power requirements.

5/5 - 2014: Fixed a minor spelling error in section 8.

27/6 - 2014: Edited the 5th section to explain the new use of the connector (from Update 01.036). The mining ship section has also been clarified; it now states that the block used in the screenshots is the ejector, not the connector.

12/10 - 2014: Fixed a minor typo in the first section.
Onii-chan Isakur Apr 20, 2022 @ 7:23am 
ooooh I've never prayed tis gmae
yelsew352 May 20, 2020 @ 11:34pm 
This guide is a throwback and a half.
Leif Erik Ronnback Aug 13, 2017 @ 10:20am 
Great tutorial! Can you do one on life support systems? ie. Air vents.

Metacortex Apr 5, 2017 @ 1:41am 
Thank you very much for this tutorial.
Ecdysiast Sep 2, 2016 @ 10:14am 
One thing I would change, in the first demonstration for collectors and connectors, you said that the connector is on top of a conveyor, and not a conveyor block
Pixxel Wizzard Apr 18, 2016 @ 8:25am 
Wow, great tutorial! Thank you so much for your time and effort! :)
Ocean Guy  [author] Jun 3, 2015 @ 6:18am 
@Flatfoot Considering that my multiplayer experiences are based on games with 2 or 3 players, I've always opted for the option that looks best (windows and tubes) or the option that's cheapest (tubes, where applicable).

Tubes may or may not slow down a server, if many are used. I am afraid that the reflective nature of conveyor tubes is not an aspect of this guide, so you might need to look elsewhere for such information.
Flatfoot Jun 2, 2015 @ 9:23pm 
Is there any useful data on which is more preferrable to use between conveyor tubes and conveyor blocks?

I've read somewhere that the reflective surfaces of the tube cause sim speed lag and an abundance would slow down a server.

I think that this also applies to glass and other reflective blocks.

So in online games; when would you recommend using tubes over blocks?
Andyverse May 26, 2015 @ 9:38am 
@Crytis, i think your problem is that you havent got any power in your station, was nice to help you, see you again :D
Ocean Guy  [author] Mar 14, 2015 @ 7:03am 
@Blazed You wrote both Collector and Connector in your message. My "solution" is relevant regardless of which one of those you are talking about.