Pressing [TAB] will open a research catalog with which you can unlock new recipes in exchange for Bytes, which you can collect by researching plants and research items. This also shows the items used to craft said items, which will be made using printers. The four tabs in the catalog show which printer is used to craft the items: From left to right, the Backpack, Small Printer, Medium Printer, and Large Printer.
[research samples and research item examples]
Interacting with research samples, as shown above, will immediately grant you a small number of Bytes, according to how easy the samples are to access. You can also find larger research items that won’t fit inside your backpack, but you can hold them by pressing [F]; these can be consumed inside the Research Chamber.
Using the medium printer, you can craft a Research Chamber, which you can use to gain Bytes by analyzing research items you can find around the planet. Do bear in mind that the research chamber uses a lot of power, so the rest of your machines will work at a slower rate while something is being actively researched.
The first thing you will want to unlock is the Smelting Furnace in exchange for 250 Bytes; this will allow you to smelt resources and metal ore for use in crafting.