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3D Printer Manufacturer Gives Kids a Chance to Learn CAD Skills

If you regularly read this blog, then you know that CAD and 3D printing are becoming more and more prevalent in many industries, and that both tools are being used to create innovative plans that could very well change the world. As such, training the next generation of designers, architects, and engineers requires teaching them the computer aided design and 3D printing skills they will need to succeed. Thanks to the efforts of Polar 3D, an Ohio 3D printer manufacturer, and the Boys and Girls club, some lucky kids are getting the chance to start learning those skills as they go back to school.

According to a recent announcement, Polar 3D will be setting up a series of “3D printing labs” at various Boys and Girls club sites across the country, as well as providing training a training guide for the staff who will help the children operate the machinery. The “hands on” training material will be made available through the Polar Cloud, an online platform used by the 3D printing community to collaborate and share data.

Kimberly Boyd, the national vice president of Program, Training, & Youth Development at the Boys and Girls Club of America, noted that underrepresented teens and children often fall behind in science and other STEM skills due to lack of access to materials and training. According to Boyd, Polar 3D’s initiative will provide many children who would otherwise never have the chance to use breakthrough technology or foster their love of design and machinery a chance to learn relevant skills that they can use in the future.

The first Polar 3D printing labs will be installed at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington (D.C.), Greater Cincinnati, and Greater Portland.

Changing Children’s Lives

Given Polar 3D’s obvious intention to improve the lives of children, choosing the Boys and Girls Club of America is a smart move. According to poll of former members of the organization, 57% said that being a member of the Boys and Girls Club “saved their lives.” There are currently 4 million children who are members of one of the 1,400 Boys and Girls Clubs in the United States.

According to one of the company’s founders, William Steele, Polar 3D created its printers and the Polar Cloud social platform with the express purpose of putting them in front of students so that they would be “inspired to think like entrepreneurs.” Polar 3D was founded in 2013 by a former Microsoft executive and a former software company owner, and unveiled its 3D printer at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2015. Unlike most personal 3D printers, which operate on both the X and Y axes, Polar 3D’s printers incorporate a moving build platform that slides back and forth under a spinning build plate that remains in a fixed location. As the platform moves back and forth, the item being printed is created, layer by layer.

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CAD in Healthcare News Update

As we’ve discussed in previous posts, the increased availability of 3D printers to healthcare professionals has led to computer aided design playing an important role in the ability of doctors and nurses to help patients. In this post, we’ll talk about more instances of doctors using CAD to provide next-level care.

St. Louis Student to Receive 3D Printed Prosthetic Arm

Thanks to the combined work of Shriners Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine, high school student Sydney Kendall will be receiving a prosthetic robot arm, manufactured via 3D printer. This will be the second 3D printed prosthetic given to Kendall, who lost her arm in a boating accident as a child. This new arm, the product of a longstanding collaboration between the Shriners and Washington University, has improved functionality over her previous prosthetics, allowing her to do even more daily tasks than before.

The original idea to use a 3D printer came from Washington University engineering students, who thought that printing a prosthetic based on a CAD file could result in an affordable device that provided even more functionality than the standard prosthetic. As it turns out, they were right: while conventional prosthetics cost around $15,000, Kendall’s new arm costs just over $100.

According to one of the scientists at Washington University, the prosthetics’ designers hope that their affordable prosthetic can made available to underprivileged children who may not have access to standard prostheses. Kendall, on the other hand, says she hopes to become a doctor.

NGO Uses 3D Printed Tools to Supply Impoverished Haiti Maternity Wards

Thanks to the efforts of NGO Field Ready, maternity wards in Haiti now have clean umbilical clamps to use when their patients give birth. When members of Field Ready first arrived, they found that doctors and nurses at a Haiti health clinic were forced to use makeshift tools to clamp the umbilical cords of newborns, due to an inability to obtain proper medical equipment. In order to help Haitian doctors better care for their patients, the NGO set up a 3D printer and used it to manufacture working umbilical clamps, finally giving the Haitian healthcare providers access to the medical tools they needed.

Field Ready has since stopped operations in Haiti, but its influence still survives. Before the NGO’s arrival, medical equipment had to be imported, usually at a cost so high as to make it impossible. Even though the NGO has left, the doctors they trained are still printing their own medical equipment for a fraction of the cost, using the CAD files Field Ready obtained for them.

Brazilian Toucan Receives 3D Printed Beak

Humans aren’t the only one benefiting from 3D printing in healthcare. Thanks to the efforts of Sao Paolo researchers, a toucan in Brazil has been fitted with a replacement, 3D-printed beak. After an accident destroyed the majority of its upper beak, the toucan was unable to eat, and would have starved to death without intervention. To save it, the researchers used photo telemetry to create a CAD model of a functioning toucan beak, and then 3D printed a replacement for the beak the bird had originally lost.

The beak was then attached to the bird’s remaining natural beak via surgery. The procedure took only an hour to complete, and not long afterward the bird was able to eat normally again.

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Healthcare Professionals

Use of Computer Aided Design in Mechanical Engineering Increases

The use of “additive manufacturing” (also known as 3D printing) and computer aided design stretches back to the early 1990s, when engineering and architectural drafting CAD programs first became widely available to professionals in the field. In recent years, however, the expansion of 3D printing technology has meant that CAD has an even more prevalent place in many industries, with many companies either actively using it to produce products already on the market, or experimenting with ways to integrate it into their normal manufacturing processes. In this article, we’ll take a look at two recent stories about the use of CAD in additive manufacturing by mechanical engineers.

British Engineers Launch 3D Printed Drone from Battleship

Drones, or unpiloted aircraft, have become a hot topic in recent years. Originally used exclusively for military purposes, companies such as Amazon and Google are now actively experimenting in using the technology for consumer applications. As interest in drones grows, so does interest in looking for ways to manufacture them. To that end, a team of engineers from Britain’s University of Southampton recently tested their design for a 3D printable drone by launching it from the HMS Mersey, a UK military ship.

The drone, named the Southampton University Laser Sintered Aircraft (or SULSA) is made from powdered nylon that has been sintered, or fused into a solid object with a laser. After being printed in four parts and combined to make the whole aircraft, SUSLA was able to fly for approximately 500 meters

SUSLA was built as a part of Project Triangle, an attempt by University of Southampton engineers and scientists to create the world’s first printable aircraft. One of these engineers, Professor Andy Keane, predicts that the use of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles, another name for drones) will only increase as manufacturing becomes cheaper and demand rises, and that SUSLA’s nylon frame and overall design will likely serve as inspiration for later designs.

Auto Industry Use of Additive Manufacturing Continues to Evolve

In the auto industry, additive manufacturing is currently a vital part of the prototyping and diagnostic processes of the major companies. As auto manufacturers find new uses for CAD and 3D printing, however, many are now predicting that they will soon become a part of the construction of vehicle frames and other parts, as well.

Some predictions take the future penetration of CAD into the car business even further. According to consulting firm Carlisle & Company, the days of car dealerships and garages 3D printing their own replacement parts are not too far away. Carlisle, which says it has been “interested” in 3D printing for around two years, says that while the use of 3D printing in the auto industry is still in its infancy, the likelihood that dealerships will soon be able to print their own parts from CAD files without the need of middleman suppliers isn’t one that should be discounted.

Q-CAD has long used CAD as a part of its architectural drafting process. Learn more by calling  800-700-3305.





School Uses Architecture to Improve Student Health

There has been lots of talk in recent years about the childhood obesity epidemic (the number of obese children is three times larger today than it was in the 1980s), and how schools can do more to promote healthy habits in kids. In response to the problem, some schools have focused on increased physical education and more mandatory exercise, while others have made moves to alter school menus and do more to encourage healthy eating. One school, however, is using another tool – architecture – to fight back against subpar childhood nutrition.

With the help of a team of public health researchers, a rural Virginia elementary school has redesigned much of its dining area, with all the changes meant to subtly promote more healthy eating habits in kids and turn them away from junk food and poor dietary choices. Changes included adding a teaching kitchen where kids can learn to prepare healthy meals, adding storage space for local fresh fruit and vegetables, creating a school garden, making the kitchen visible to kids so they can watch their meals being prepared, and even a change as simple as redesigning the checkout line so that the children’s line of vision would fall on healthier food options.

Other changes include adding more walking paths and staircases, removing deep fryers, and flexible furniture that allows for more movement when sitting. By making these changes, the school hopes that alterations in the environment kids spend their days in can make a change to many of the unconscious and unconsidered behaviors that lead to childhood health problems.

The Subtle Effect of Environment on Behavior

When planning the changes, the school and its team of public health specialists consulted many studies on architecture, behavior, and the interaction between the two to find as many ways as possible that building design can be used to affect behavior. According to Matt Towbridge, an associate professor at the University of Virginia who helped with the designs, these effects should not be underestimated – the design of a building can do as much toward promoting healthy behavior in children as PE class. When a building is designed to promote healthy behavior, it instills good habits and promotes an active lifestyle, often without the people involved even noticing. Many lifelong habits are picked up in childhood, so using building design to influence those habits positively at a young age is especially effective. In the words of Towbridge, “It’s so much better to help prevent children from becoming obese than to try to help adults lose weight.”

Given the known effect that architecture and landscape design can have on behavior (and that adults are just as affected by America’s obesity problem as children), will other organizations aside from school districts begin experimenting in using building design to encourage positive behavior? While the extent of this movement toward attitude adjustment via aesthetic design is far from mainstream, it may only be a matter of time before more businesses, building firms, and other organizations start using this Virginia school’s example of how it can use space and layout to encourage better habits.

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Teachers with students

Solar-Powered 3D Printer Can Make Glass out of Sand

In yet another example of what can be done through the combination of modern CAD architectural drafting and 3D printing, a German designer has invented a 3D printer which is not only powered by the sun, but which can transform sand into glass. Named “Solar Sinter” (after its power source and sintering, the process of turning powders into solids), this 3D printer is already being hailed as a potential groundbreaking tool that can transform a largely untapped resource, the copious amount of sand in North Africa and the Middle East, into a usable building and manufacturing material.

The Solar Sinter 3D printer makes use of a large Fresnel lens, which actively rotates toward the position of the sun throughout the day to capture the largest amount of solar energy so that it can continue working at maximum efficiency. This lens captures light from the sun, and then uses it to melt sand that has been taken into the machine and shapes it into glass.

The ability to so easily transform one material into another would be impressive enough, but Solar Sinter does more than just create unshaped raw material. Digital designs downloaded from a computer can be programmed into the printer via a simple memory card. Once a design has been uploaded, Solar Sinter can be used to manufacture glass products in the shape of the CAD designs for the products its users need it to make.

A New Architectural Tool?

Solar Sinter was created by Markus Kayser, a German designer who created the machine in 2010 while attending the Royal College of Arts in the United Kingdom. The potential applications of Kayser’s machine have not gone unnoticed by its creator, who not only predicts that the Solar Sinter model could become the cheapest way to manufacture glass within the near future, but also that it could be used as the basis for low-cost desert factories in underdeveloped countries in Africa and the Middle East, where sand is an abundant and free natural resource.

The Sinter’s most important tool, the Fresnel lens, costs only $600, making it less expensive than the majority of parabolic devices used in deserts to capture sunlight. Combined with the fact that the device can easily manufacture products to spec with only an uploaded CAD file and the necessary amount of sand, it’s easy to see how the Solar Sinter could easily become a widespread tool in the inexpensive manufacturing of glass.

There are already signs of positive development in the commercialization of Kayser’s creation. His latest trip to the desert to test the device was sponsored by a ceramics company, and 3D printing specialists and commentators are taking notice of Solar Sinter’s potential. The attention is likely to attract the attention of investors, which Kayser hopes will lead to the Sinter being further refined and developed, with the inevitable goal of it being able to produce more refined and complex designs.

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Sandy Beach

What CAD and Architecture Stories Are in the News?

During the last few years, the news has been full of stories about how architects, designers, and engineers are using CAD drafting and other technologies to create innovations in the way buildings are planned and constructed. As experts in computer aided design for architectural purposes, we’re always interested in seeing the technology applied in new ways. On that note, here are two recent stories about the intersection of CAD and other groundbreaking architectural techniques.

Dubai to Build First-Ever 3D-Printed Office Building

The United Arab Emirates has had its share of major construction projects in the last few decades, but one of its newest construction projects will be unlike any of the ones that have come before. In partnership with engineering firm Gensler, Thornton Tomasetti, and Syska Hennessy and Chinese 3D printing company WinSun, the UAE will build the world’s first 3D-printed office building, which will serve as the temporary headquarters for the staff of Dubai’s Museum of the Future, and will be constructed in front of the museum’s main structure.

The project is one of the most advanced 3D printing building project ever; even the building’s furniture will be 3D printed. The printer used in the project will stand 20 feet tall, and will produce thin layers of reinforced concrete, gypsum reinforced with glass fiber, and fiber-reinforced plastic. The layers will then be assembled on site, with construction set to begin in October.

The Museum of the Future is a fitting place for such a project. An exhibit of all things cutting edge and futuristic, the museum hosts several 3D printers, and is meant to celebrate the groundbreaking inventions that have allowed the UAE to develop so quickly, and which will allow it to continue to push forward.

Company Proposes Future of Eco-Friendly Structures

Speaking at the recent REAL 2015 conference, Emerging Objects cofounder Ronald Rael spoke of his company’s latest efforts in the realm of using 3D printing to innovate the construction industry. In his words, he spoke of using 3D printers to build structures out of materials that were “durable, affordable, inexpensive and ecological.” Elaborating further, he spoke of a future where buildings were constructed from material such as rubber, paper, salt, and other resources that could be obtained easily, and then transformed into building material by 3D printers, greatly reducing the eco footprint of construction projects and recycling waste material that would otherwise fill up garbage dumps.

Giving one example, Rael spoke about how his company was experimenting with putting discarded tires through a process by which they are cryogenically frozen, and then turned into a powder which can then be used to create 3D-printed objects. Citing the number of 300 million tires thrown away every year, at least 20% of which go into landfills, Rael proposed that the millions of tires thrown away every year could instead be used to create building material.

In addition to rubber, Emerging Objects is also experimenting with turning discarded paper, such as old newsprint, into a 3D-printable substance which can be used to create insulation, and on finding uses for the 70 million tons of paper waste produced in the U.S. every year.

To learn more about Q-CAD’s architectural drafting services, contact us today at 800-700-3305.

Stack of Tires



Barcelona Engineering Institute Pioneers Groundbreaking Construction

It has students and faculty from over 35 countries. Its personnel specialize in everything from architecture, to ecology, to digital manufacturing. It claims to have the most advanced laboratory for digital production of any university in the region. And it has done work investigating building sites from Brazil, to Croatia, to Taiwan. The Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) is a Barcelona institute of higher education specializing in training students in next generation construction and landscaping techniques so that they can solve persistent problems faced by countries looking to build inhabitable structures, and it has made presentations at events such as the Vienna Biennale in 2008 and the Solar Decathalon Europe in 2010. But one current project by some of its students may be the most impressive thing it’s done yet.

As part of a project that has been named In:Sand, IAAC students Anusha Arunkumar, Kunaljit Singh Chadha, and Yessica Gabriela Mendez Sierra are studying ways to develop “nano scale understanding of material behavior to shape, control, and design landforms.” In other words, the team of students is working on methods that combine binding agents to sand, one of the most abundant materials in the world, in order to control how landforms are shaped, hopefully leading to being able to control the development of terrain in order to make it more suitable for habitable structures while protecting it from future desertification.

The team tested several binding agents, including corn starch, wax, and oil. But they ultimately settled on sodium thiosulfate, which easily loses water and forms a supersaturated solution in a test tube when heated. The result: small, structurally stable constructions made from sand, whose organic fractal shapes resemble ant mounds.

As a further step in their efforts, the students also build an architectural-scale 3D printer, which makes constructs from a mixture of sand, dust, and a selection of binding agents. Following directions from a user input station or a CNC machine, a robot arm sprays the mixture into the desired design.

A Future Built from Sand?

The ICAA students aren’t the only ones who think that molded sand has a significant place in the future of architecture. Designer Magnus Larrson proposed a similar project while still a student, theorizing that by solidifying sand with a special type of bacteria, barriers could be built in the Sahara region which would prevent desertification. With the threat of areas being swallowed by a desert sea prevented, those areas behind the barriers could then be used as the site of housing projects that could hold thousands of people.

While these sand-construction projects haven’t reached the point where they are yet building full-size structures, the results so far have been promising. If the ICAA project takes off, it will be yet another example of how the combination of computer aided design and groundbreaking additive manufacturing technologies are transforming architecture and construction.

Want to learn more about how CAD is applied to engineering and architectural planning? Contact Q-CAD about our CAD services today, at 800-700-3305.





Caribbean Beach (1).jpg

Chinese Girl Gets World’s First 3D-Printed Replacement Skull

In yet another triumph of using advanced CAD and 3D printing, doctors in China have saved the life of a little girl by giving her a replacement skull, created via 3D printer. The three-year-old girl, who her doctors refer to as “Han Han,” suffered from a rare condition known as congenital hydrocephalus, which caused her brain cavity to become filled with fluid and her head to swell to four times normal size. In a procedure that the doctors termed, “whole brain shrinking plastic surgery,” Han Han’s head was drained of fluid, and three titanium mesh skull implants were created to replace the entire top section of her skull.

The condition that Han Han was suffering from, congenital hydrocephalus, is present at birth and can be caused by genetic abnormalities or traumatic events to the fetus during development. When someone suffers from the disease, their brain and spinal cord become surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which leads to abnormal swelling of the ventricles, a condition that puts the brain in danger of serious damage from the abnormal pressure. In Han Han’s case, this lead to her head weighing more than the rest of her body, and prevented her from being able to lift her head from her pillow without great difficulty.

According to one of the doctors who treated her, Han Han would not have survived to the end of the year if she had not received the revolutionary treatment she received at the Second People’s Hospital of Hunan Province.

As Han Han grows, the titanium mesh plates that now make up the top of her skull will become surrounded by bone, strengthening her head and leading to what her doctors expect will be a full recovery.

Medical Miracles through CAD

Over the last few years, the medical use of 3D printing and using CAD to create replacement parts for the human body has become surprisingly advanced. The first uses of the technology were used to create hearing aids and replacement bones, and many doctors predict that it will soon be used to create replacement skin and even human organs.

Han Han’s case is not the only recent case of 3D printing being used in radical ways to change the life of a child, either. In 2014, five-month-old Gabriel Mandeville was given a stunning new treatment in which part of his brain was removed and replaced with a 3D-printed replica. The young Mandeville was suffering from epileptic seizures, which were interfering with his cognitive development and putting his life in danger. Doctors were forced to perform a hemispherectomy, or the removal of an entire hemisphere of the brain, in order to stop the seizures. In order to protect the child’s mental development, they installed a replica of the portion of his brain that was removed, created via 3D printer.[i]

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Human brain X ray -top view



Companies Find New Uses for 3D Printers

Many companies are finding exciting new ways to use 3D drafting and printing technology to create new products, streamline the manufacturing process, or better connect with their audiences. In today’s post, we’ll talk about how three different companies have all used 3D printers in different ways to break new ground for the technology.

Ford Opens Ford 3D Store

Ford has announced that it will be opening the Ford 3D Store, becoming the first automaker to offer customers 3D digital images of its vehicles for consumer use. Ford and Turbosquid will be making a library of over 1,000 vehicle images available for download, allowing hobbyists to create            1/32nd scale models through their 3D printers.

The company already uses 3D printers as part of its prototyping process, but this new initiative is a step toward using the growing ubiquity of consumer-grade 3D printers to build brand loyalty with its customers. This could prove to be a fortuitous move by the company: According to Juniper research, there were 44,000 desktop 3D printers sold in 2014 alone; by 2018, the number of desktop 3D printers sold should reach more than one million units. As the devices become easier to use and pre-fabricated plans for 3D printable items (such as Ford’s new model-accurate replicas) become available, the demand for desktop 3D printers is likely only to grow.

Models currently available include the new Ford GT, the F-150 Raptor, the Shelby GT350R, the Focus ST, and the Fiesta ST.

Pepsi 3D Prints a Potato Chip

Like many other companies, Pepsi is looking into ways that 3D printing can be used to innovate production and manufacturing of its products. But, whereas companies like GE are printing plane parts and electronic components, Pepsi has announced that it is using 3D printers to make something entirely different – food products.

As part of an initiative launched by Pepsi’s CEO, which has doubled the company’s research and development budget, the company has begun testing the development of new food products, including new “deep ridged” potato chips that were first created with a 3D printer. If the company’s tests with 3D printing chips proves successful, it could mean a future where other similar food products are created, at least in their design stages, with 3D printing technology.

Lunchbox Electronics to 3D Print Light-Up Lego

Lego blocks have been popular for decades, thanks in part to innovations in their design. Branded play sets allowing kids (and adults) to assemble settings and characters from their favorite movies and TV shows have helped Lego remain relevant with generations of consumers, and even led to multiple video games starring Lego versions of popular characters. And now, Lunchbox Electronics has launched a Kickstarter campaign that could lead to another new development in the history of Legos: light-up bricks.

According to the information on their Kickstarter campaign, Lunchbox plans to use a LulzBot TAZ 3D printer to create a line of light-up Lego sets. By embedding a custom-made circuit board into a Lego brick, Lunchbox’s designs allow for the creation of Lego sets with working lights and electronics, adding a whole new dimension to the traditional Lego building experience. While imagination is certainly an important part of play, being able to build Lego cities and structures with working lights is an exciting development for Lego enthusiasts, who have responded accordingly: As of June 13th, the project had raised over $28,000 of its $30,000 goal, with 11 days still left to raise even more.

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3D Lego

Will Europe 3D-Print a City on the Moon

In a previous post, we mentioned Amsterdam’s ambitious plan to use autonomous 3D printers to create new bridges over the city’s historic canals, a story that demonstrated just how impressive computer aided design has become. But recent comments by the European Space Agency that it wants to 3D-print an inhabitable space station on the far side of the moon shows that even more impressive feats of CAD engineering are theoretically possible.

3D Printers … in Space?

NASA and space travel have been back in the news recently, thanks to the New Horizon spacecraft’s arrival at the edge of the solar system and its flyby of the celestial body Pluto. Other space agencies aren’t letting the publicity go to waste, either, and the European Space Agency (ESA) used the opportunity to discuss its own ambitious future plans for space exploration. In particular, the agency’s Director General, Professor Johann-Dietrich Woerner, unveiled plans for the creation of a series of 3D-printed buildings to be assembled on the dark side of the moon, leading to the creation of an inhabited moon village.

Obviously, this ambitious project would be quite challenging. It would first require the creation of an enormous 3D printer capable of creating the necessary structures and which could work in lunar conditions, and then transporting that machine to the far side of the moon, depositing it successfully so that it could begin work—all before a single person could inhabit the new base. Aside from the challenge of completing such a project, and the international bragging rights of being the first to put a base on the moon, why would the ESA invest the resources such a massive endeavor would require?

According to Woerner, the moon base plan was a reaction to NASA’s stated goal of creating a base on Mars. As far as the Director General is concerned, building structures on Mars and populating them is both something that is outside the reach of his agency, as well as a project that shouldn’t be undertaken without first testing the idea on a closer, more manageable celestial body. Additionally, building a station on the far side of the moon would create opportunities to install telescopes and other observational equipment that would have a unique vantage point from which to view the cosmos, possibly revealing new information that could lead to new scientific breakthroughs.[i]

A Cosmic Challenge for 3D Printing

While a European space base on the moon is years or decades away, at the earliest, the fact that the project is being mentioned in public with such earnestness shows how seriously the ESA is taking the idea. Inhabited buildings on celestial bodies have long been a dream of scientists and science fiction writers alike, but only in the last decade or two have they become a serious possibility, thanks in part to advances in computer aided design and 3D modeling programs. It doesn’t take an expert to understand how complex an operation this project would be. That the ESA thinks it is feasible (not to mention that NASA has similar plans for building structures on Mars) shows the amount of faith that the engineers working at space programs across the world have in CAD and 3D printing.

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