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I've been crawling around various wikis and I see mentions of the "arc furnace" as if it were some sort of refinery above the 'refinery' option, but when I try to follow I wind up at error pages, or at 'Basic Refinery.' Was this an old name for the Basic, a discontinued entity, or something else?

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The Arc Furnace is an old name from the beta days for the Basic Refinery. Holdovers can be found in legacy blueprints with basic refineries named "Arc Furnace 1, 2," etc.

It is possible to see in multiple places where it was called the Arc Furnace. In one of the space engineers wiki, the icon for the basic reactor is called Arc_furnace_icon.png

In the fandom variant of the wiki, it can be observed in the edit notes on the Basic Furnace page history

made reference to the new block name of the arc furnace now known as the Basic Refinery.

As well as in Steam discussion

Did the "Basic Refinery" replace the Arc Furnace?

Yes, the 'arc furnace' was changed to the 'basic refinery' and its production stats now make it pointless other than as an entry level item before the proper refinery can be made.

Besides the name change, the basic furnace after the name transition can now smelt more ores like Silicon and Magnesium, whereas before it only smelted Iron, Nickel and Cobalt

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