Mass-synthesizer technology was an umbrella term used to describe machines that consumed and converted raw matter to construct any number of primitive or exotic devices.
Manufactories were human-made constructs that operated on similar principles to mass-synthesizers. Self-contained devices which utilized nanotechnology to convert raw materials into any desired configuration, they could produce weapons, tools, and virtually any other machine imaginable. Standard equipment on lighthuggers, all they needed to function was a sufficient supply of matter and detailed schematics. Even new, advanced technologies which operated on principles previously unknown to human science, like those provided by the Hades Matrix, were not beyond their ability to reproduce.
The use of manufactories and comparable machines by both lighthuggers and planet-based groups was severely curtailed by the Melding Plague. Eventually, even primary factions like the Yellowstone Demarchy were unable to relay on them for producing weapons of war. By 2675, however, new "plague-hardened" manufactories were being utilized by the Zodiacal Light.