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"[Science fiction] is the one literary medium left in which we have a free hand. We can do any damn thing we please."
- Alfred Bester

Factory Crawler (or Harvester Crawler)  
  A mobile factory which filtered and processed the sands of Dune for the spice, mélange.  

The most precious substance in the Dune universe is a substance called spice, or mélange. It was found only on the planet Arrakis (aka Dune), a planet that was almost entirely desert. It was not possible to establish fixed mining sites, because of enormous sandworms that roamed freely across the surface of the planet. For this reason, mobile, self-contained factory units were dropped onto the surface where spice sands were observed.

Paul stretched up in the seat to peer ahead, saw a rolling yellow cloud low on the desert surface some thirty kilometers ahead.

"One of your factory crawlers," Kynes said. "It's on the surface and that means it's on spice. The cloud is vented sand being expelled after the spice has been centrifugally removed. There's no other cloud quite like it..."

Paul looked down, saw sand still spewing out of the metal and plastic monster beneath them. It looked like a great tan and blue beetle with many wide tracks extending on arms around it. He saw a giant inverted funnel snout poked into dark sand in front of it.

From Dune, by Frank Herbert.
Published by Putnam in 1965
Additional resources -

Since the giant sand worms would invariably come to any source of rhythmical vibration, a carryall wing aircraft was always on standby to remove it. Shai Hulud, the sandworm of Dune, was large enough to swallow a factory crawler as long as a football field whole, with all aboard.

Obviously, we have no equivalent of spice on Earth, but huge mobile harvesting factories can be found in various forms. For example, timber harvesters capable of felling, debarking, debranching and cutting entire trees in lengths for transport, at an average of one tree every thirty seconds changed the logging industry. One could imagine unscrupulous logging companies landing one of these in a stand of virgin timber, hoping to clear as many acres of land as possible before being discovered.

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  More Ideas and Technology from Dune
  More Ideas and Technology by Frank Herbert
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