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When looting/grinding stuff under constrained capacity, it's important to go for the most value per liter.

From earlier work, I know that ingots are denser than either their ore or the components made from them, which makes sense. I also know that steel plates take up less space than antennae components, and so on.

But what components are closest to their ingot forms in terms of density? Those would be the default go-to items for extraction unless there's specific material you need (e.g. taking medical components despite their obnoxious volume because they have silver)?

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If the goal is to maximize ingots gained, the winner is Steel Plates, which only waste 11% of their volume for the volume of iron ingots you receive back.

This is, of course, assuming there are no gravity generator components or canvas on board, both of which are actually more dense than their component parts (in vanilla).

Item Volume (L) Ingot Volume (L) Wasted Space Notes
Bulletproof Glass 8 6.435 20% 100% Si
Canvas 8 15.0265 -88% Space Saver
Computer 1 0.1064 89%
Construction Components 2 1.016 49% 100% Fe
Detector Components 6 2.315 61%
Display 6 2.272 62%
Explosives 2 1.235 38% Mg
Girder 2 0.762 62% 100% Fe
Gravity Generator Components 200 319.74 -60% Co, Ag, Au - Space Saver
Interior Plate 5 0.381 92% 100% Fe
Large Steel Tube 38 3.81 90% 100% Fe
Medical Components 160 2.726 98% Ag
Metal Grid 15 0.418 97% Co
Motor 8 0.845 89%
Power Cell 40 0.422 99% Can't be ground
Communications Components 70 1.513 98%
Reactor Components 8 1.23 85% Ag + Gravel
Small Steel Tube 2 0.635 68% 100% Fe
Solar Cell 12 0.669984 94%
Steel Plate 3 2.667 11% 100% Fe
Superconductor 8 1.374 83% Au
Thruster Component 10 3.96 60% Co, Au, Pl
MR-20 Magazine 0.2 0.146 27% Mg
Tools 20 2.37 88% Easily remade

After Steel Plate, things get pretty bleak, pretty fast. Bulletproof Glass is the best way to salvage silicon, if needed, Construction Components are 2nd best for iron, but after that it's all more than 50% wasted space but the order is: Thruster Components, Detector Components, Displays/Girders, Small Steel Tubes, and Superconductors - all of which are more valuable than your own tools if you're using basic tools. Anything else should only be added if you've got space to spare and at that point it almost doesn't matter what you grab.

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