Robotics are a valuable commodity produced on planets in EVE Online. A critical component in the construction of tech two gear as well as fueling personal starbases. As of this writing, robotics is the most inherently useful (and thus, valuable) planetary material. I should make clear that they are not the most expensive (the end-tier station parts are worth more) but rather that they have the highest juxtaposition of price and sales volume. It is also produced with only a single planet, making it accessible to casual industrialists.
This article examines some of the issues involved with producing a hot planetary commodity, and discusses the market trends associated with it. It is a sequel to a now-obsolete article involving robotics production, released on Ten Ton Hammer shortly after the Tyrannis expansion introduced planetary interaction.
On Chasing Planetary Profits
Robotics are the hot commodity to make with a planet, right now.
An impressive jump in profits, certainly, but one that will be followed by hundreds or perhaps thousands of planeteers shifting their production from other materials to robotics, in order to capitalize on the high demand and skyrocketing price. This will press the price down, until it somehow finds an equilibrium, and hovers around a particular price.
The lesson here is that if a planetary material jumps in price, it will crash in price ere too long. If the material is easy to produce, like coolant, the crashed price will be low as heck. If the material is difficult to produce, like robotics, it will have a much higher equilibrium price. Just don't count on the price hovering at its high point, and be ready for it to plummet back down after the initial inflation period.
What Robotics Are Used For
Aside from being the most complicated fuel used by POS, robotics are also used in the production of all tech two missile launchers and turrets, every kind of tech two drone, and tech two armor and hull repairers (including remote repair versions). Robotics are also used to make 'Organic Mortar Applicators', an important planetary material used for making POS structures and station parts. These are all pretty important applications, resulting in the high demand now seen on the market.
What Planets To Use
Robotics can all be produced on a single Plasma planet, assuming all of the elements are present in sufficient quantities. Eventually, I expect CCP will do some things to make getting goods from plasma planets more difficult than they are right now, but as things stand pretty much any plasma planet will do. Having multiple plasma planets in the same solar system is ideal, of course.
You can see the robotics production chain in the chart below.
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The key (as with all planetary industry) is to have the harvesters feed directly into a container like a launch pad, command center, or storage facility, then feed that into the processors. That way any overflow does not go to waste.
Discussion of Profit
Depending on what is going on in the planetary materials market, producing some things may actually reduce the total value. Robotics are probably the best (i.e. most profitable) use for any of the materials used to make it. Some materials may be so disused or in overabundance that they sell for below their ingredient value. This is just something to keep in mind when planning things out.
The other thing here is that planet stuff takes up a ton of time to set up, and a good chunk to manage. So stay aware of the opportunity cost. Could you be making more ISK or having more fun running missions, with that same time? A lot more? If so, it may not be worth it.
Like most new markets, the best place to sell robotics is probably Jita, Amarr, or Rens. The price can fluctuate pretty rapidly once the market starts to seek equilibrium, so be careful. As the price trends down a bit, people will start to sell to buy orders, pushing prices down even more. It's a self-reinforcing cycle, and it will only stop when the price hits the floor determined by real demand.
I expect it will still be the most profitable planetary material to make, even after it crashes, because of the high demand mentioned above. Even so, be flexible. It might be better to sell mechanical parts or consumer electronics for a while, or to hoard them for when the robotics price climbs back up, a few months from now when everybody in Jita has long since moved on to a new commodity.
In the meantime, be sure to have multiple stacks of robotics on the market at once, so that you can change your prices to ensure having the lowest sell order, as often as possible. This is much better than having a single stack for sale, that you can only update every five minutes.
Making robotics will be very profitable in the short term, and at least reasonably profitable for the foreseeable, because of the actual demand for it. That being the case, it is probably the best single planet production option that a pilot can pursue. Good luck!