Take a look at WARSpace spaceship building process. Shipyard is available for download at www.warspaceonline.com..
Shipbuilding is one of the key features of this game. Ship capabilities depend directly on a ship design. Adding more parts doesn't always make a ship better. Just a bigger gun or a thicker hull armor won't bring a victory in a battle.
All parts are connected by joints. Joints can only be placed at specific places called connection nods. Connection nods represent not only the place where the parts can be connected but also a type of a joint used.
This building system allows a player to build a ship with a high level of symmetry which affects positively ship maneuvering capabilities. It also simplifies a building process by dropping out precise part positioning. For example, using keyboard shortkeys and a mouse a player is able to add about thirty thrusters to a ship in less than a minute.
Since this game uses real time Newton laws physics, keeping center of mass close to geometrical center of a ship is very important. A non symmetrical ship causes a need for contr maneuvering while performing a maneuver. Although it is done automatically, a ship wastes power and fuel which can be limited at a time.
Another important part of a building process is power management. A player always needs to check on power consumption and production levels. It's impossible to maneuver, fire and charge a shield at the same time. Adding more power generators makes a ship heavier and more vulnerable. Power generators have a very small amount of hit points, thus can be destroyed easily.
Thrusters give speed in exchange for fuel. Since it's impossible to cover thrusters with armor, the only level of protection that is left is shields. Unfortunately, shields don't last long under heavy fire. Thrusters are the only parts which are used in a great number. Adding a lot of thrusters keeps a player from losing a battle if a couple of them got destroyed.
It doesn't mean that a player has to spend hours to build a ship. It only means that there is no limit for perfection.