Follow TV Tropes


Mobile Factory

Go To


A place of building, the act of creation forging etc. A place where raw materials enter and exit as a finished product (or in a more modern sense a component for another "finished" product).


Ambulatory, the ability to move, requiring coordination, actors (such as muscles), power, and sometimes a direction.

Combining the two creates a object that could do neither function very well, but does both just well enough to justify the cost. In fiction, at least; real-life seems a little slow on the uptake. Most often seen as military machines, they are also quite handy in colonization efforts, or really anything that needs stuff and is willing to put-up with a wandering stuff maker.

Watch out, though; if Von Neumann is to believed, this would be a handy way to travel the stars without FTL, and in fiction this probably means very large concentrations of Grey Goo.

This one particular vehicle is usually seen as a Military Mashup Machine or Mook Maker Starship. However other varieties exist.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Dark Empire: World Devastators are spaceships made to be mobile resource harvesting, processing and construction centers. They land on a planet and start ripping up the environment with tractor beams, processing the raw material into automated fighters and other collection craft, both destroying and building at the same time. Given enough time and a planet with the right minerals, they can even manufacture more World Devastators.
  • Albedo: Erma Felna EDF: The EDF's biggest capital ships are factory-carriers, part of their function is providing industry to underdeveloped planets. These factory-carriers actually end up influencing the nature of the second ConFed-ILR war. The Confederation's EDF has its own economy separate from the civilian economy while the ILR military is dependent on private industrial clans who, in turn, risk a recession unless they have a war to produce for.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Animation 

    Film — Live-Action 

  • The Culture: The largest spacecraft, called General Systems Vehicles, are capable of building entire fleets of starships inside themselves if they're so inclined. In fact it's said that a single GSV would be able to rebuild the entire Culture by itself if necessary.
  • Dune: Harvester factories sucked up spice-laden sands, separated out the spice with a centrifuge and store it. It's also depicted in the 1984 film adaptation. There is a practical reason to justify this complexity though: spice is only found where the infamous Arrakis Sandworms travel, and any worm which senses motion in its territory will move to attack it. Hence, the harvesters need to be mobile so they can be lifted off to safety with their very valuable haul at the first indication of Wormsign.
  • Forges of Mars prominently features the Speranza, a continent-sized starship from the Dark Age of Technology. The mere act of launching it into space from the surface of its Magos' forge world crippled said forge world beyond repair, and the vessel is so mind-bogglingly advanced that its ability to supply whole armies with weapons, ammunition and armored vehicles from its internal factories becomes a minor sidenote at best.
  • The Lost Fleet: The Fast Fleet Auxiliaries are starship-sized machine shops that exist to create fuel cells, munitions, and spare parts for the warships that escort them. Keeping them protected and supplied with raw materials is a perennial problem for the fleet, as without them they can't possibly make it back home.
  • Spacecraft 2000 to 2100 A.D.: The PC1 191 Gourmet was a giant insect-like spaceship that melted asteroid ore and separated out the metal residue for storage. The AC3 Stag Beetle used a "disassembler" field to do the same thing.
  • Star Wars Legends: EVS Construction Droids are walking factories that tear apart buildings on one end and reassemble them at the other. They're not strictly military, though there's that one time Rogue Squadron hijacked one and went on a Kaiju-style rampage to evacuate a section of an enemy city before it could be Kill Satted. But that definitely wasn't the intended purpose.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Andromeda: The Andromeda Ascendant can harvest raw resources from asteroids and rebuild her supply of drones and missiles.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): A number of ships in this series qualify, either as a facet of being a Military Mashup Machine (Galactica has its own on-board munitions factory, while Pegasus goes one better and has the capacity to build entire Vipers), or in a more direct fashion (the Tylium mining ships presumably refining what they extract, the cylon resurrection ships and the Resurrection Hub presumably replenishing their stocks of the various models as required, etc.)
  • Red Dwarf is a mining ship, although it's not usually seen doing any actual mining. The ramscoop at the front collects all the hydrogen it needs for fuel, and considering the disaster there's no real reason for them to care if they have a full load of ore or not.
  • Stargate Universe: The seed ships travel the universe building Stargates and placing them on habitable worlds
  • Star Trek: Voyager: The crew uses their Matter Replicator to replace the shuttles they frequently lose. Eventually they even designed a new shuttle class.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech:
    • Yard-class Warships are mobile shipyards to repair, refit, and build starships and inter-system craft. The two types, the Faslan and Newgrange, are both over a kilometer in length. The Newgrange performs a Mega-Maw Maneuver to expose the drydock, with its entire nose assembly splaying open like a modern ferry. Only a tiny handful of yard ships remain, as they were juicy targets during the 300 year long Succession Wars which also largely destroyed the means to produce them.
    • Clan Ghost Bear figured out how to pack up an entire factory and transport it between planets. They can't be used on the move, but it gave the Ghost Bears a big leg-up compared to the other Clans who invaded the Inner Sphere. They then traded knowledge of how to build such factories to Clan Sea Fox, which refined it until they could pack a fully-functioning production line into a Warship. This allowed them to become an entirely space-faring nation and give up needing permanent settlements on planets.
  • Hc Svnt Dracones: Any ship with omni-slots can be equipped with a lv. 1 manufacturing center. Big enough to craft most personal gear. There are also Geomats, battleship-sized resource extraction complexes combined with mobile factories, capable of printing entire cities as they go.
  • Robotech II: The Sentinels RPG: the SDF-3 is noted to have a complete mecha factory located deep in it's bowels.
  • Traveller: Ships with fuel processors can refine raw gas giant atmosphere into usable fuel, while ships (manned or unmanned) with mining equipment harvest and process ore from asteroids. One can even put full-fledged factory systems on ships, and some colony ships do so, though factories work better when permanently stationed on or in orbit of suitable worlds.
  • Twilight Imperium: One race can move their shipyards, and in fact starts with three of them in their home system.
  • Warhammer 40,000 mentions numerous factory ships of varying sizes in its fluff, although none of them have ever appeared as playable models in the game proper.
    • Back during the Great Crusade, every expedition fleet was accompanied by at least one Mechanicum factory ship responsible for producing basic war materiel for the Space Marine Legions (and by "basic" we mean anything from boltgun shells to entire 80-ton battle tanks). Their output was never enough to make their assigned fleet self-sufficient, though.
    • Eldar Craftworlds certainly count, with most being at least moon-sized and housing everything that's required to supply an entire civilization, including their fleets and armies.

    Video Games 
  • Albion contains a partial example; the starship you start out on is a mining-ship, designed for strip-mining an entirely planet — but it's not as mobile as it seems. By design, it's supposed to simply fly to its destination, land, and then convert itself into a self-perpetuating factory-complex capable of turning an entire, resource-rich world into a dry ball of slag, while shipping the finished and refined resources home to Earth.
  • Battlezone (1998): The Recycler is a floating (or tracked, in the sequel) mobile factory. In the first game, it will land on a geyser, and unfold its construction bay, allowing it to build units -= the more advanced Factory and Armory mobile factories are built from the Recycler. If the base is attacked, the factories can pack up, lift off, and drive away. Battlezone 2's Recycler is less mobile, as once it deploys, it cannot be undeployed (in the vanilla game — some mods allow it to undeploy).
  • Dawn of War has the Necron Monolith. It starts a match quite immobile, a mostly-buried black pyramid, but it produces every other Necron unit in the game, and when fully-upgraded it emerges to become a slowly-floating epic-level murder machine, that retains its unit-production capabilities even in combat.
  • Donkey Kong 64: The base of operations for King K. Rool is a ship that houses a BFG and produces its own mooks in its bottom.
  • From the Depths: Unless designed otherwise nearly all factory type designs are a type of moving vehicle. This also a common option for capturing territory in the campaign mode. Clear the area then send in a mobile factory to build up a base and some defenses.
  • Grey Goo (2015): The Hand of Rhuk, the Beta's Epic Unit, is a vehicle that can produce any other land unit (including, inexplicably, Commando footsoldiers). This is useful for stocking up its hardpoints, and in one mission, supplying your cramped and teeny base with hardware. While the Grey Goo itself splits off combat units from a "mother blob" that migrates from resource deposit to deposit.
  • Halo Wars has the Elephant, which is a mobile barracks.
  • Homeworld: The Mothership was originally designed as a Colony Ship, so it actually made sense for it to be able to manufacture things, but when Kharak was destroyed it was repurposed to build warships for a guerrilla war. In later missions the Mothership builds carriers with their own factories to supplement its own. There are also mobile refineries, which extract usable elements from ore brought in by Asteroid Miners.
    • In Homeworld II a new Mothership is built to defend their new homeworld from the Vaygr, Planet Looters who have their own motherships and carriers. In some missions the homeworld warps in shipyards that can build bigger ships than the Mothership can but are less mobile on the tactical map and less armed.
    • The ground-based prequel Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak has carriers, which look like nothing so much as aircraft carriers on wheels (or hovering for Kiith Gaalsien), that have production facilities that can construct new LAVs and aircraft from salvage.
  • Hostile Waters: Antaeus Rising: The carrier Antaeus has a large number of nanobots that can create a helicopter, tank, or a few similar things in about a second. You can only have a dozen or so tanks/helicopters/whatever active at a time but when you lose one you can replace it very quickly. There was originally a whole series of these carriers, but all but two were destroyed years ago, and two were deliberately sunk to the bottom of the ocean, just in case they were needed. When the activation signal came, only the lead ship Antaeus responded.
  • Jak 3: The KG War Factory endlessly produces robots of the former Krimzon Guard. Granted, why they didn't use this machine in the previous game to put the whole city on lockdown while trying to take out the Underground when they were finally making a real impact, is completely unknown.
  • Mass Effect has what is called "minifacturing", a generic term for all manner of miniaturized computer-driven manufacturing devices. They are similar in concept to a modern 3D printer, but capable of vastly more fine and complicated construction. These are relatively ubiquitous in the setting, the widespread technology making old factory construction models economically obsolete for making small, commonly used objects, leading to a distributed manufacturing economy instead. Most objects that are capable of being manufactured are sold as licenses with "Fabrication Rights Management" limitations on how many can be created from a given license purchase. Fitting with the "mobile" part of this trope, most interstellar ships will have mini-fabricators on board for producing replacement parts, or in the case of military vessels, weaponry and armor. Going even smaller and more mobile, Omni-tools are a variation on this, being Super Wrist Gadgets with built in mini-fabricators which can forge any number of small objects and shapes. This is primarily used for things like field repairing equipment, but with the right software it also makes an effective Emergency Weapon by flash-forging a one-use Blade Below the Shoulder.
  • Nintendo Wars: In Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, the only way to employ Seaplanes is to construct them in Carriers.
  • Sins of a Solar Empire: Capital ships can produce strikecraft.
  • Space Empires lets you build these eventually, though your mobile shipyards will never build as quickly as your planets (and especially your Dyson Spheres) do.
  • Star Ruler allows for mobile shipyards to be built. By designing a ship with a mining laser, storage, refineries, and a construction bay, and they will be able to mine asteroids to produce the material for its ships. It's easy to create Von Neumann ships using this - order a ship to mine an asteroid, with 10 ships in its build queue. Keep repeating the order with every ship it builds, and after an hour there will be several hundred ships.
  • StarCraft: Most large Terran buildings are able to lift off and land elsewhere, though add-ons are immobile and detach if they do so (and can reattach). Protoss carriers are also capable to manufacturing interceptors.
  • Stellaris: The "Federations" DLC introduces Juggernauts, massive ships even bigger than the previous DLC's Titans with two Wave Motion Guns, hangar bays, and a pair of shipyards that can build smaller ships.
  • Supreme Commander's Fatboy is able to construct military units as well. (For those keeping score, that makes the Fatboy a Submersible Land Battleship Carrier (it has a landing pad) that can construct its own support force. And it mounts heavy-duty shield generators. Though it's so enormous it occupies most of the shielded area, leaving little room for its support force.) The Fatboy can also construct builder units, which can build more Fatboys. Very slowly. As well as all of its carriers building aircraft, Supreme Commander also has: the Tempest, a Submersible Battleship that constructs smaller ships, although it can't travel on land; the Cybran Megalith, a Spider Tank that can build select Cybran land units, and the Aeon Czar, which is a flying mobile factory and Airborne Aircraft Carrier armed with a Wave-Motion Gun, flak cannons, AAM, and depth charges.
  • Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos: One of the Night Elf faction's gimmicks is that the majority of their unit-producing structures are Treants that can use the "Uproot" command to get up and ponderously walk around. They can't perform their unit-producing role in this mode, but it helps a Night Elf player relocate if necessary, and it lets the Ancients fight in close combat too.
  • Westwood Studios: A staple of the Real-Time Strategy games is the Mobile Construction Vehicle, a big lumbering ground unit that can deploy into a Construction Yard capable of building an entire military installation from scratch. It was first introduced in Dune II before being imported to their Command & Conquer series.
  • X 3 Terran Conflict: The Xtended Terran Conflict mod has the T0 Mobile Production Ship(s). There are 5 variants of it, each of which produces a different type of ware; energy cells, food, technology (microchips, drones, etc), ore / silicon refinement, and military tech production (weapons, shields, missiles). All the of the ships are highly modular and can be configured to make different types of wares in seconds. The M7C carrier frigates could mass-produce advanced Attack Drones on command; they were automatically repaired on-board and came pre-equipped with weapons, making them popular for patrols versus the logistical nightmare of full-sized carriers. They return as official ships in X3: Albion Prelude, albeit functioning as standard mini-carriers rather than as mobile Mook Makers

  • Schlock Mercenary: Most large warships have "fabbers" capable of manufacturing anything from ammo to Drop Ships. Tagon's Toughs seemed to alternate between ships that don't and do have fabbers until they got a small fleet in Book 15. The Post-Dated Check Loan and Touch-And-Go had fabbers; the Kitesfear, Serial Peacemaker (originally one of the PDCL/Petey's dropships), and Bristlecone didn't. By Book 19 their Powered Armor has integral fabbers that can rebuild themselves into small spaceships given time and material.

    Real Life 
  • This is basically what factory ships are. They serve as bases for whole fleets of smaller fishing boats that deliver their catches to the factory ship to be processed and frozen on board, then transported to shore to be sold.
  • Russia is developing Nuclear Power Station Barges for heat, power, and/or desalination. Assuming that electricity and fresh water count for factory production.
  • Relief vessels often have enlarged fresh water production facilities and kitchens. Some of the more sophisticated ones have machine shops and even medicine production facilities.
  • The Soviet retreat behind the Urals in World War II, the largest industrial migration in history, is about as close as we have ever come to this trope in real life. Entire factories were literally uprooted, stuck on railway cars and sent East to protect them from the invading Germans.
  • During its war in Afghanistan, the U.S. Army deployed mobile 3D printing labs for fabricating equipment.
  • German Type XIV U-boats were designed to function as mobile resupply depots for other U-boats, and carried a huge cargo hold of preserved foods, fuel, and munitions. The ships were also equipped with bakeries to give docked U-boats fresh bread made on-site; a great morale boost for crews stuck eating nothing but canned food for weeks or months at a time.