The crew tried to look interested but he sprung this bit of financial legerdemain on them during Sundae Sunday. It was hard for him to compete with ice cream and whipped cream. So he slammed one huge fist down on the table. Bowls and utensils jumped. Sandoval snagged her sundae in mid-air and gave a dirty look.
"What ... are we bringing to trade? The Jormgann barely speak any basic and if you recall we had a hard time anticipating what to even bring them other than raw metals ... which we learned about after we got there. They don't chop let alone treat that maneel wood for their good health," Beagley the trade master muttered.
The Jormganner were primitive by most standards, the problem was they were learning fast. they had moved from flintlocks to metal cased rifles before the Profit Rockit arrived and mastered sprung steel. By the time they returned they might have fusion powered campfires.
"Easy peezy. I bought a hold full of raw metallic cartridges. We'll find out what they want when they get there and fabricate it on the spot," Captain said finally diving into an incongruously small sorbet he had ordered.
Beagley paused and wiped his mouth. "That ... could work ... "
To put it simply, why carry one cargo when you can install a fabricator and carry any cargo? Odds are even a rust bucket freighter has higher technology than the planets they visit. That probably includes production technology. To put it another way t's like the Dutch bringing a blacksmith ashore in Manhattan and producing ironwares for the Lapinock, not just lugging a box of trade goods.
A fabricator allows you to adjust for market fluctuations or planets having technological breakthroughs (or just buying them from a previous merchant). It lets you exploit markets you might not know existed when you set out.
It lets you counterfeit coins.
What where did that come from? But yes ... On the lawful side some backwater planets might pay a ship captain to fab currency for them. Currency does cost money to make after all. It's about a $1.5 billion dollar a year industry in Europe alone. Printing it on a higher tech system would save the government money and let a ship make money without you know ... making money.
A drawback to fabrication on the spot is license fees. Sure there's a lot of good shareware plans out there for three dee printing and sure there will be some that such and then there's the licenses you actually want to pay good money for for people who may not get a lot of shipments of goods but do know high tech. Those licenses have fees (and are copy protected I'm sure.) Having a fabrication engineer onboard can often pay for itself (in my Tesla stories Mr. Tivk is a fabrication specislist and a darned good one).
It may seem odd but 90% of a cargo's value might be contained on a couple of sticks of storage devices. If you're worried about cargo mass or volume or whatever having bulk materials you process on site is a mass a/o volume savings right there.
Of course a software virus can't eat your cargo of tractors and rubber hoses.