MATERIALS: Basics - Types and Trade - #00010
Everything you need to know to understand materials
My apologies for the bold sub title. There's a lot more about materials, of course. On the other hand, you need to know some basic stuff before doing anything useful with materials, so please read on.
Materials come in three major flavors:
RAW materials. To be harvested on planetary surfaces and to some degrees in resource zones while mining.
DATA materials (contradiction in term, anyone?). Can be found in signal sources, on planetary surfaces, by scanning ships.
MANUFACTURED materials. The most complex in terms of 'where to find'. Missions, Wreckage, Signal Sources...
Now that's the flavors. Now for the grade thing.
Material grades go from 1-5 (raw only from 1-4). These grades describe their rarity. It is much harder to harvest a grade 5 material than a grade 2 material, for example.
Sometimes it can be useful to not harvest some material needed, but to trade (exchange) this material for another one using a material trader.
These traders can be found at corresponding places (date - high tech, raw - refinery/extraction, manufactured - industrial). Unfortunately not all stations do have a resident material trader.
Finding a material trader by not going the 'trial and error' way in the galaxy map is made easy by tools like
INARA.CZ (english spoken website). Inara's 'nearest' function has a 'material trader' tab which lists all material traders around your location (enter it manually on the right hand side, please).
When trading in on materials, you should take into account that in general materials in a row are to be exchanged with better exchange rates than materials of different rows. Always check the exchange rates before trading in. You might make a bargain or a huge loss, depending on your decisions.
Pro Tip: You should start collecting engineering materials at least a week before you start to unlock your first engineer. Simply collect all grade 3-5 debris from ships you destroyed, visit conflict zones in empire and federation systems, drop into a few signal sources and do some missions that offer engineer materials.
It's also a good thing if you go for some hours of planetary surface scavenging - check for a howto in the exploration parts of this website. Have fun!