I've been peripherally involved with Minecraft modding for a few years now, and have decided to make some public record of what I'm doing in case other people find it interesting and want to make use of it.
You see, I have a bit of a different preference for how I like my modded Minecraft to play- I am studying to be a robotics and automation engineer IRL, and as such would like to create a collection of mods that allow every item or resource in the game to be produced automatically with a sufficiently large factory setup. To that end, I am compiling a list of mods that make this possible, and also looking at which mods can be integrated into this set without introducing elements that can't be easily automated- and how to get around those limitations. I've messed around with Forge a bit and have managed to put together a few small proof-of-concept mods myself, so I may end up making some of my own changes to manage things existing mods just don't cover. I'll release them here if people are interested, along with outlining the setup I am using so others can duplicate it, and if there is a lot of interest I'd even consider putting all of it together into a formal mod pack along with the big "factory" world I ultimately want to create.
Criteria For Being 'Fully Automated'
The idea behind this is that every item in the modded world should be able to be produced in a way that is:
Renewable - The supply of that item won't run out, and whatever is harvesting it won't eventually need to be moved to another location.
Automatic - The player does not need to be doing anything or even be present for the item to be made. Similarly, the player should not need a specific level, achievement, etc. for the apparatus to function.
Local - Whether the resource is currently being produced or not shouldn't affect the player or the whole map.
Reliable - The production apparatus should work in any location and at any time.
Scalable - The time and space required to produce a single instance of the item should be roughly proportional to its rarity. Building a giant bank of machines is all well and good, but if those machines only sometimes produce the item desired and other times something else, or have a very slow runtime to get started, I wouldn't consider the problem of how to get that item 'solved'.
These requirements are pretty strict, but the vast majority of Miecraft items can actually meet them with little difficulty, and I find that a lot of the fun I have with this sort of setup is in figuring out how to build a huge factory that satisfies all of them.
Establishing the 'Core'
At the moment I'm engaged in setting up a 'core' consisting of as few mods as possible that fulfill these requirements for all of their own items and also all of the items in vanilla Minecraft.
Some of the things that I know I'll need are:
Reliable On-Demand Item Transportation: Logistics Pipes worked wonderfully for this purpose back in 1.7.10, but at the moment I am deciding between Thermal Dynamics (which is a little light on features and possibly not as scalable), Applied Energistics (which has a steeper learning curve and poses the risk of a very large inventory becoming inaccessible if the network runs out of power), or experimenting with one of the newer inventory management mods I know less about.
General Crafting, Smelting, Farming, etc.: I have currently been using Thermal Expansion for this and have mixed feelings about its speed and feature set; I am currently looking at EnderIO as an alternative.
Mob Spawning and Management: MineFactoryReloaded had a really neat "safari net" system that allowed mobs to be captured as items and moved around; there's an addon for Thermal Expansion that duplicates this functionality but I'm not quite done determining how stable and reliable it is.
Improved Portals: I don't consider requiring everything to be made in the overworld necessary since the other dimensions are infinite in extent, but it'd be nice to be able to extend my item network to other dimensions and also not have to be beholden to the stronghold End Portal.
CraftTweaker: Being able to configure recipes without making a full mod is simply invaluable, particularly for things like nametags and custom loot that lack recipes entirely. I realize that it would technically be possible to use this mod to make everything trivially produce-able by, for instance, crafting dirt into dragon eggs, but this obviously seems a lot like cheating when the thing in question isn't a manmade object that could concievably be assembled.
Some things that are still giving me trouble are:
Enchanting: There are a number of mods that make enchanting more deterministic or provide an alternative to the player using their own levels for it, but the ones that do both seem to focus on producing books to combine with other items. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of mods that provide an alternative to the vanilla anvil. MineFactoryReloaded did indeed have an automatic anvil, but it was limited in ability and in any case has not made it out of 1.7.10.
Ores: A number of mods allow for renewable production of minerals, but none that I know of allow for producing the ore blocks themselves- at least not in a way that allows ores from other mods to be added to them. Now satisfied by IndustrialForegoing's configurable ore spawning system.
Esoteric Mobs: There are a number of mods that add 'wither-proof' materials and take away the global boss-spawning sounds and health bars so automated wither production is actually feasible, but the Ender Dragon can still only be spawned in one place and makes both the dragon eggs and Dragon's Breath troublesome. Additionally, if I want to be able to cart around mobs like items it's going to be difficult to produce charged creepers on demand with little way to reliably control lightning, and some of the custom items villagers produce might be hard to make automatically.
Weather and Time: Much later on, once I have some of these other issues are resolved, I think I'll look into restructuring the time system so that individual areas can appear as night, day, rainy, etc. The global Minecraft time system is pretty resistant to modding from what I've seen, but perhaps another could be constructed on top and the original disabled? It's a long way off at any rate.
More information to come as I investigate the current run of mods.
MineFactoryReloaded had a really neat "safari net" system that allowed mobs to be captured as items and moved around; there's an addon for Thermal Expansion that duplicates this functionality but I'm not quite done determining how stable and reliable it is.
Ores[/b]: A number of mods allow for renewable production of minerals, but none that I know of allow for producing the ore blocks themselves- at least not in a way that allows ores from other mods to be added to them.
I'd forgotten about the existence of Morbs in the Thermal series, yeah.
Another mod that's caught my attention is Industrial Foregoing, which includes an ore-drilling and enchantment system that is simpler but still kind of similar to what I want and seems like it would be able to support addons. If that pans out, I will probably end up going with a combination of IF, the Thermal series, and LogisticsPipes (which I've just noticed is already producing alpha releases for 1.12.2).
Beyond that, I never thought about making an automatic anvil, but now I really want that to be a thing. Brewing stands should probably be automated as well. Another thing that will need to be automated is tree planting, growing, and harvesting. The first two are fairly easy with certain mods and vanilla functionality, but the last one gives the most trouble. The way I came up with doing it in vanilla involves TNT, obsidian, and hoppers. Not exactly reliable or practical.
Recently had the good fortune to work with Industrial Foregoing author Buuz135 to implement a configurable system for that mod's Laser Drill. This effectively solves my ore-mining problem, and has also given me enough insight into how the mod works that I think I might next attempt to make an add-on f my own that makes the enchanting system more predictable and also more automated. Good progress!