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From the Wikipedia Star Trek Replicator Article:

Replicator technology, even if produced on a larger scale, cannot be used to create complex objects such as shuttlecraft or starships (the production staff felt that being able to replicate entire starships "at the push of a button" would severely impact dramatic potential). However, in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "For the Cause", industrial replicators are used to replicate large components of ships, shuttlecraft, and other pieces of this sort, which are later used in shipyards to construct such vessels. In this manner, as few as 15 industrial replicators are enough to replicate the components needed to build a fleet of starships or to help a civilization recover from a planet-wide natural disaster.

The explication given for this, from this question:

With regards whole ship replication, there are notes in the Next Generation Technical Manual. It states that replication of an entire ship would take too many resources/too much energy.

So, replicating a whole starship in components is no problem but replicating a whole ship in an instant drains on the energy/resources? That makes no sense unless the energy drain to create bigger objects is exponential? Has such a thing ever been stated or given an explanation why it is possible to replicate the whole ship as components but not in a single replication?

Also, the energy issue would only be a "temporary" problem until they find a better energy source, as they've found In Voyager - Threshold (S2E15), where they discover more potent dilithium and are thus able to fly Warp 10.

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    You should know that on this site, the episode Threshold never happened. Actually, I don't know what you are talking about ;) – Edmund Dantes Oct 14 '19 at 12:02
  • We don't know about the power requirements of industrial-scale replicators vs. shipboard systems. It could be that it's impractical to run industrial replicators off of a ship's power supply, and that it needs a major planet or station to have enough juice. – Cadence Oct 14 '19 at 12:10
  • So, there was an unremembered episode nobody has seen in which more energy could be gained. – Shade Oct 14 '19 at 12:11
  • @Cadence I never asked îf it's possible to run industrial replicators of a ship's power supply. Simply why it is possible to replicate a ship in components but not at once? – Shade Oct 14 '19 at 12:38
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Suppose that an oscillating frammistat is only ten feet long and weighs only one ton. Suppose that a typical starships has about a million times the volume and mass as one oscillating frammistat and uses a number of oscillating frammistats in its operations.

Suppose that it takes 100 energy units for a ship's replicator to replicate an oscillating frammistat and it takes on minute to do so. Therefore the power requirements to replicate one oscillating Frammistat would be 100 energy units per minute or 6,000 energy units per hour. If an entire starship has one million times the volume and mass as one oscillating frammistat it should take 100,000,000 energy units for the ship's replicator to replicate one entire starship.

If replicating an entire starship also took one minute the replicator would use energy units at the rate of 100,000,000 energy units per minute, or 6,000,000,0000 energy units per hour. The ship's replicator would using energy one million times as fast, or be using one million times the power, as when it was making one oscillating frammistat. And the replicator may have a limit on how much power it can use.

If replicating an oscillating frammistat in one minute used the limit of the replicator's power, which would thus be equal to 6,000 energy units per hour. At the power rate of 6,000 energy units per hour, it should take the replicator 1,666.6666 hours, or 69.444441 days, to replicate the parts for a complete starship.

That is if:

1) The ship's replicator can run on full power for 69.444441 days straight.

2) none of the starship parts requires using power at a greater rate than 6,0000 energy units per hour.

3) The ship's replicator is not needed to spend most of its operating time replicating oxygen, water, food, clothing, spare parts for the ship it is on.

4) The starship with the replicator is capable of supplying the replicator with a constant full power load instead of having to use most of the power for other things most of the time.

5) All of the starship parts are small enough to be made by the ship's replicator

So it might take the ship's replicator many years to replicate all the parts necessary for making a starship, if it is capable of making each and every part of a starship, and then the parts can be assembled.

So a starship could replicate an entire starship one small part at a time and tow the parts using a tractor beam, and eventually assemble all the parts into a replacement starship, presumably taking many years to do so.

And industrial scale replicators could replicate an entire starship much faster making much larger parts, which can then be assembled much faster.

But apparently nobody makes replicators large enough to replicate an entire starship at once. Possibly such replicators would take as long or longer to replicate an entire starship as it would take to replicate large starship pieces and assemble them, or have other disadvantages.

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It seems to me that a shipboard replicator can replicate any one component, but not all components.

  • Remember replicator rationing in ST:Voyager. This is pretty strong evidence that large-scale replication is not practical for shipboard use.
  • Also consider the size of the replicator, compared to the size of the objects it can replicate.

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