This is my standard smelting station, for both iron and copper plates. It also works for stone bricks, though. Steel Smelting is very similar but has the first furnace for iron feeding directly into another for the steel smelting.
The inserters grab ore from the cargo wagons and store it in a chest. This is just a buffer to compensate for irregularly arriving trains. Another inserter then grabs the ore from the chests and dumbs it onto a belt. Per wagon, per side of the rails, the belts are merged into one. Thus for four wagons you end up with eight fully compressed belts of ore. Before the ore goes into the smelting area there’s some belt balancing of course.
The unloading station uses a relly nice feature of the filter stack inserter! Just build a constant combinator, connect it to all the filter stack inserters with wire, check the little box next to the “set filters” option and the filter for all the inserters will automatically be set to whatever signal the combinator outputs. You can tell what the filter inserters are set to by the tiny copper ore icon on top of them.
This way I can make sure the station for copper smelting will only take copper ore from any trains coming through.
[While I was writing this I suddenly realized this makes my ore sorting station completely f**king obsolete, I could just send all the mixed trains directly to the smelting stations and the inserters would only take their respective ores, UGH!
Now for the smelting area itself. It’s basically just eight lines of ore, eigth lines of furnaces and then eight lines of plates, each. Because furnaces only output onto one side of the belt, there’s some belt wigglyness halfway down the line to put all the plates from the top half onto the other side of the belt. They also output onto underground belts because this will help with belt compression, for some weird game mechanic reason. All the furnaces are moduled and there are lots of beacons in between the furnace lines.
Here are some iron plates, for a change!
I’m sure there are better layouts that use less modules/beacones for the same throughput. But these are a bit of a compromise. I usually put this blueprint down in a roboport network connected to my main base. And then I wait for the bots to deliver the modules and beacons as they are being made.
At this point in the game I usually don’t have a huge supply of modules and such. So I wanted a layout which provides decent throughput, even without all the modules put into place yet. Once it’s fully moduled some of the furnaces are probably superfluous, but I never bother deconstructing them.
The plates are then delivered to my loading station. It works similar to the unloading station, except it merely uses normal stack inserters instead of the filter ones.
There’s a blueprint string for the smelting station after the cut: