I recently I have moved up into higher wspace. My PI setup remains at the farm, along with the that of my corporation members and several alts. But I can no longer easily visit to move around planet goo. Thus, I am thinking about how to get optimize the PI income I can get, subject to the constraint of visiting as little as possible.
ConstraintsI have the skill to use five planets. (I do not feel that spending 20 days to get a level V farming skill is worth it. My main is less than a year old, and my alts are low skilled. There are more important uses for my skillpoints.) I have Command Center Upgrades IV. So these are the constraints on my PI setups.
Currently, I make P1 goods on all planets. I make P2 goods on two planets, using the P1s from two others. (The P1 outputs from my fifth planet are handed off to a corp mate to make P2s). I run extractors for 24 hours and 45 minutes. Having a schedule of about a day means that I need to reset them every night, which I do most nights (occasionally I forget or am busy). The 45 extra minutes gives some leeway. Also, 24h45m is the largest time increment for extraction that I can use before the PI programming uses 30 minute blocks. I don't want 30 minute blocks because I have to cancel production fairly often to reset.
In terms of my time, it is almost trivial to reset each extractor on any logged in character. This might take a minute per character (for 5 planets) if I do it fast. If I linger and move around extractor heads, maybe 5 minutes total. And there is often slack time playing EVE anyway, for example when travelling or mining, or sucking gas. It is not trivial to log in PI alts to reset extractors. Often the main account is busy. Certainly you can never use slack time to do it. And in any case a login takes a minute or two. But still this is a pretty minor amount.
The substantial time taken doing PI is due to two things. First, if you have to move goods up or down to orbit, you must access the POCO, and that requires being in the system. Flying to a remote wormhole entrance can be very costly, and even a few jumps adds several minutes to a process which is short enough that the extra minutes are costly. (Actually moving the goods up or down if you already in the system is almost trivial.) So, my PI plans require no storage of goods in orbit. If you are reading this and thinking about setting up a farm where you live, moving goods up/down is easy and this will not constrain you. So you can use the POCO as additional storage for your PI installation.
The second substantial timesink in PI is unavoidable by everyone: you have to actually fly to the POCO and pick up goods. (You can drop off goods too in this step.) Obviously this requires presence in the system. It is this step that I am seeking to reduce in frequency to a minimum.
Now that my new constraints are clear, we can analyze several designs for extracting PI goods. Since all PI starts with extraction, let's look at that first.
R0 Extraction PlanetImagine a planet that is optimized only for the production of R0s. (R0s are the lowest-level resources, created by extractors.) With an advanced command center, there is enough power to run the following PI setup:
2 extractors, 9 heads each
Each extractor outputs directly to a launchpad. Doing a pickup is easy, just move the R0s into orbit then go there with an industrial capable of holding 20000m^3.
Planets in wspace seem to average about 1m R0s extracted per 24 hours, using 9 extractor heads. (This is what I see in my farm system. I expect it is valid across wspace, but don't know.) So, this setup will create about 2m R0s per day.
R0s are very bulky. Each one is 0.01m^3; so we see that the production of a single day is 20000m^3. That fills up your storage. So, you'd have to tend a planet like this with a trip every single day. Needless to say, nobody does this. (Read on.)
Before we go on though, let's figure out how much this production is worth. The R0 market is thin (exactly because hauling such massive volume to and fro is a loser), but the prices we see range from about 0.75 ISK to about 8, with perhaps 4 being average. Assuming 4, we can see that our daily production is worth about 80m ISK, or about 2.4 billion per month. Even going with the worst good (0.75 ISK), we find the value is 450m per month. These values are much more than one can actually earn doing PI; what they reflect is the difficulty of moving bulky goods to market. If you really carried 2m of any R0 good to the market per day, you'd crash the market for that good. But it is interesting to see how the economics play out. (Just making this computation makes me want to bring a bunch of R0s to market.)
P1 ProductionImagine a planet that is optimized to produce P1 goods. The planet has 9 installations: extractor (10 heads), storage, 6 BIFs, launchpad.
Each BIF processes 6000 R0s per hour, producing 40 P1s. Thus, 7 BIFs would be required to process the full output of an wspace extractor. Generally I use 6, either because that planet has lower concentrations of resources, or I am not running the full 10 heads. Also, since I plan to build in a storage facility per extractor to buffer, having a bit of extra production will often not be wasted. In any case, let us assume that each planet is getting 240 P1s per hour.
Each P1 is 0.38m^3. Thus, a day's production of P1s is 2189m^3. Thus after four and a half days, a launchpad is filled up with roughly 26000 P1s. Then I must fly there in a ship that can carry at least 10000m^3, and move them.
I can improve on this by building a second output launchpad. Route three of the BIFs' outputs to this launchpad, and the other half to the original launchpad. Then I can go about 9 days between visits. It requires 20000m^3 to carry off the goods.
If I cannot arrive in a timely manner, I can still run for about a day. This will fill the R0 storage.
P1s have a wide range of sale prices, from a low of about 100 ISK up to one that sells for 600 ISK. Several better ones sell for around 400 ISK. So assuming I produce the more valuable ones, my production on a pure P1 producing planet is around 69m ISK per month. 5 such planets produce 345m ISK -- more than half a PLEX.
P2 ProductionCan I improve on the P1 production planet? Yes. The P1 production design has a small amount of spare power and a lot of spare CPU. If I run only 9 input heads, I can add 3 AIFs, and still fit within the power limits of a level four command center. Hopefully the 9 will still keep my 6 BIFs busy; I am assuming that they will. And the AIFs will produce P2s. Call it a P2 production planet.
On each P2 production planet, I bring 10000 P1s each time I visit, and put them down on the launchpad. The three AIFs are used to manufacture P2s from this input along with the P1 that is being extracted locally. The P2s produced are put back on the launchpad. Per hour, each AIF inputs 40 each of both input P1 types, and produces 5 P2s. 5 P2s are smaller than 80 P1s, so they fit on the launchpad. As time goes on, the volume stored on the launchpad slowly decreases. Locally extracted P1s are being taken from the launchpad at exactly the rate they are being produced. So there is neither a P1 buildup or shortage.
How long can a P2 production planet go without being attended? Well, compared to the P1 production planet, I have not changed the production leading to the P1 launchpad: it has three BIFs feeding it. So that launchpad will fill in the same 9 days as before. These locally extracted P1s will be exported normally; they are the input P1s to some other P2 producing planet.
What about the P2 launchpad? After 9 days, all 10000 of the imported P1s are exhausted. The launchpad has 3240 P2s on it. These are the net outputs from the P2 production planet.
What happens if I do not remove goods in a timely manner? I can still run for about 2 days. This will place about 2000m^3 of P1s on the P2 launchpad. The P1 launchpad is already full, so the system will back up and fill up the R0 storage.
P2s have a fairly wide range of output values, from a low of 2200 ISK to a high of 12000. The better ones average about 8000; using this as our value, we compute a production of 86m ISK per planet per month. For 5 planets, that is 430m ISK/month.
Can I improve on this? Not without changing what installations I am running. At least not in money terms -- money is only increased by running more installations. But I could push out the visitation time a bit, by bringing more inputs, and transferring some to the P1 storage, then drawing them from there. (I leave this as an exercise to the reader.) Although some gains could be made, I find the process fussy because it requires another expedited transfer, so I am not going to advocate it here.