Nate Holt's Blog

October 27, 2010

AutoCAD Electrical: Change Default Catalog Lookup Filters

Filed under: Electrical — nateholt @ 7:15 pm

Here’s link to Mark Flayler’s article from the IMAGINiT Manufacturing Solutions Blog… to potentially gain some speed on the improved AcadE 2011 catalog lookup dialog.


October 26, 2010

Tutorial – Mapping schematic components to panel layout – AutoCAD Electrical

Filed under: Electrical, Tutorials — nateholt @ 7:34 am

Here is a step-by-step illustration of how AutoCAD Electrical maps schematic components and part number assignments back to the panel layouts. This just uses an example of a motor contactor to make the point. But the concept will be exactly the same as we apply it to pretty much all control schematic devices.

The example just uses the existing “WDDEMO” project that installs with AcadE. On one of the schematics we’ve gone to the “Icon menu” –> “Motor control” and popped in a motor starter symbol, tag-ID “M427”.

When we pop in the motor starter coil, the Insert/Edit dialog pops up (above). We hit the “Lookup” button to more easily make a part number assignment.

We pick a Siemens part number for a NEMA 2 contactor, hit OK, and the assignment gets pushed out to the MFG and CAT attributes (invisible) on the parent coil symbol for “M427”.

Now, later on, we’re ready to modify our panel layout to take into account our additions in the schematic. We have a blank spot shown above where we’d like to land our new NEMA 2 starter. We pick on the “Panel” –> “Schematic List” command as shown above.

After a few picks we arrive at this schematic listing shown above. This lists all of the schematic components found in our project. The left-hand column shows what is currently found in the panel layout drawings. Looks like “M427” needs to be added to the layout. We highlight our “M427” entry and hit “Insert”.

AcadE finds a footprint representation and attaches it to our cursor. We position the footprint where we want it to land and click. In it goes and get’s marked off of the “list” of schematic stuff not found in the panel layouts.

So, how did it know that this particular footprint went with our Siemens part number selection? This is set up in the “Footprint lookup” database file. A portion of the “SIEMENS” table is shown above. Our part number selection matched in the record that points at footprint block’s partial filename of “SIEMENS/MS-MOTOR STARTERS/14F-A.dwg”.

 The full path to this footprint block “.dwg” file is illustrated in the next screenshot.

This partial path is added as a suffix to the main base path for the footprint library. This is shown in the “Project Settings” dialog above.

Assuming that the target footprint is found, AcadE gets a copy of the block and auto-attaches it to our cursor. We position it and pop it in at our pick-point!

 So, what happens if we have to change the part number assignment on the schematic? Let’s try it.

 Let’s say that our load requirements for motor contactor M427 have increased. We need to bump up our part number assignment to accommodate this change. Our original part number assignment for M427 was for a NEMA 2 starter (and our panel layout drawing already shows the outline for our originally selected Siemens NEMA 2 motor starter part number 14FSH32AE).

So, back on the schematic, we right-click on M427 and select “Edit Component”. This re-displays the dialog shown above. There’s the old part number assignment. We pick “Lookup” and select a larger motor starter part number. We hit “OK” to dismiss the edit dialog.

AcadE updates the schematic symbol with the new part number assignment (on the “CAT” attribute). But it sees that there is an “M427” representation on the panel layout too.


And it auto-opens the panel drawing and changes the part number assignment to match. BUT, it also pulls out the smaller NEMA 2 footprint and pushes in a Siemens footprint for a NEMA 3 starter!

How did it know to do this?

 Back in the Siemens table of the Footprint Lookup database, the new part number selection matched on a different record which pointed at a different footprint block name. AutoCAD Electrical sensed this and auto-swapped-out the panel footprint to keep the schematic part number and the panel footprint in synch.

All this is possible to do in electrical controls design! Just a matter of making sure that there are the proper footprint representations available for the devices you’ll be using and the mapping is set up between them and the part number assignments.

October 25, 2010

AutoCAD Electrical 2011 – Review

Filed under: Electrical — nateholt @ 7:13 pm

Generally positive review… link is here.

October 19, 2010

Tutorial – Terminal Strip Editor (Part 3) – AutoCAD Electrical

Filed under: Electrical, Tutorials — nateholt @ 3:52 pm


Terminal block management: Multi-level terminal strips and the Terminal Strip Editor

Note: access part 1 of this tutorial here and part 2 here.

Autodesk’s Nathan Eliason hosted a webcast last week that focused on AutoCAD Electrical’s ability to insert, track, and manage terminal blocks / terminal strips in a project drawing set. I helped put the demo together and was responsible for real-time Q & A support while Nathan was “on stage”. 

Also thanks to Doug McAlexander for some of the images and samples.

Part 3

Note: this posting is a brief summary of what Nathan covered in the last 15 minutes of the hour-long webcast. This part deals with using the Terminal Strip Editor tool to assign groups of schematic terminals to triple-level terminal blocks on the panel layout representation.

Okay, picking up from where we left off in part 2 of the tutorial… now let’s do TB-2 for the remaining three 3-phase motors in our design.

Let’s target this piece of DIN rail to hold these terminals. And as a challenge, let’s go with triple-level terminals this time, one terminal to take care of each motor.

Launch Terminal Strip “Editor” as before but now select “TB-2” from the opening dialog.

 Then select “Catalog Code Assignment” tab. We’re ready to assign a catalog part number.

Let’s go with a triple-deck terminal, one terminal block to take care of the 3-phase wire connections for each of the three motors.

Highlight the first terminal row in the dialog list. We’re going to flip this into a triple-level terminal and run all three motor wires through this one terminal block.

Select ENTRELEC again, “MULTI-LEVEL”, and make the catalog selection shown above.

Changing this terminal to be a triple-level terminal expands this entry.

 So, all we did is select a part number that is for a triple-level terminal and the Terminal Strip Editor expands the grid to show the extra two unused terminal positions.

Wait a minute… how does the Terminal Strip Editor know that this particular Entrelec part number is supposed to be a triple-level terminal? Excellent question… this is all set up in terminal property tables in the AutoCAD Electrical catalog lookup database file (below).

Above is the entry for this Entrelec terminal. It is flagged as “3” levels deep.

Back to the demo…

Next we highlight it and the next two terminals (the other two wires for this first motor). We want to include these two wires as the 2nd and 3rd levels of the first 3-level terminal.

Select terminals 2 and 3 using the CTRL key and click the “Associate” button under the “Multi-Level” category of the menu.

Hint: The graphic at the left indicates a multilevel terminal with three levels but only one level is in use at the moment.

Next highlight the selection on the left as shown. Hit the “Associate” button. This will move the two highlighted entries in with the main 3-level terminal.

The first three single terminals are now combined into a single 3-level terminal.

Repeat the process for the other two sets of 3-terminals. Use the “Copy Catalog Number” and “Paste Catalog Number” commands to copy the first terminal’s part number assignment down to terminals 4 and 7, converting each of them to a 3-level terminal.

Selecting “Layout Preview” to check on progress, we see our three triple-level terminals now in place and the other unused terminals now shown spare.

At this point we can go back in to the Terminal Strip tab, highlight one of the spares in each group, right-click, and select “Spare” –> “Delete”.

We could convert the other spares to separator plates, end plates, of end barriers, as-needed, by clicking the “Catalog Code Assignment” tab and looking up the appropriate part numbers.

Hint: Pretty much everything in the icon menu at the bottom of the Terminal Strip Editor dialog can be accomplished from a context-driven right-click menu.  Just select a terminal and right-click to see the menu options.

There it is. The two terminal strips inserted into the panel layout and linked back to the schematics.

Now let’s do some clean-up on the TB-2. We need to add in an “End Stop” accessory at the top and the bottom of this TB-2 terminal strip. Re-launch Terminal Strip Editor and select TB-2.

Add an End Stop before the very first terminal. To do this, highlight the first terminal in the editor dialog. Then right-click on the highlighted entry and pick “Accessories” and then “Insert”.

The “terminal number” cannot be left blank for accessory items, even though this is not really a terminal. Just enter “ES” for its terminal number.

 Enter “ENTRELEC” and part number “0103 002.26” for the “End Stop” … or do “Catalog Lookup” to select the end stop accessory item.

 Exit this sub-dialog by hitting the “Insert Above” button. Follow same process to insert the second End Stop at the bottom of the terminal strip.

Selecting “Layout Preview” we see the end stop accessory items added in to our TB-2 terminal strip. Hit “Rebuild” button to cause the existing terminal strip layout to rebuild and now show the end stops added at each end of the strip.

This Entrelec triple-level terminal symbol has each pair of terminals and associated wire connection data color-coded. This suggestion came from Doug McAlexander to make it easier to visually associate each of the three wire number pairs with its color-coded terminal number.

These terminal symbols are just regular AutoCAD blocks with attributes. You can adjust as you see fit. The default root folder for footprint symbols for your project is defined in the active project.

Right-click on the project name in the AcadE “Project Manager” dialog and select “Properties…” to display the dialog shown above.

October 18, 2010

Tutorial – Terminal Strip Editor (Part 2) – AutoCAD Electrical

Filed under: Electrical, Tutorials — nateholt @ 9:32 pm

Terminal block management and the “Terminal Strip Editor” tool

Note: access part 1 of this tutorial here.

Autodesk’s Nathan Eliason hosted a webcast last week that focused on AutoCAD Electrical’s ability to insert, track, and manage terminal blocks / terminal strips in a project drawing set. I helped put the demo together and was responsible for real-time Q & A support while Nathan was “on stage”. 

Also thanks to Doug McAlexander for some of the images and samples.

Part 2

This posting is a brief summary of what Nathan covered in the third quarter of the hour-long webcast. This part deals mainly with the panel-layout end of things, using AutoCAD Electrical’s “Terminal Strip Editor” tool.

Hopefully this posting can serve as a simple overview / tutorial of this Terminal Strip Editor feature.

Using the Terminal Strip Editor tool

The first part of the tutorial ended with field terminals inserted for these five three-phase motor circuits. The first and last motor wiring go thorugh terminal strip “TB-1” and the middle three through terminal strip “TB-2”.

Fifteen terminals added… but we have not made any part number assignments to these terminals. In the first part of the tutorial, when we added these terminals, we left the MFG/CAT attribute edit boxes blank when we popped them in.

That’s okay. In fact, it may be the preferred approach… just pop in terminals in the schematics and don’t worry about assigning part numbers. Do that later with the “Terminal Strip Editor” tool.

 Here’s how. Let’s first go to our Panel Layout drawing.

What we want to do is insert a physical representation of our “TB-1” terminal strip on to this panel layout drawing, right there near the top of that piece of DIN rail.

In the process of doing this we will actually make our catalog assignments to the terminals of “TB-1”, create a to-scale representation of the terminal strip, and then automatically update all of the schematic terminals with the catalog assignment we picked in the Terminal Strip Editor session.

Launch the “Terminal Strip Editor” as shown above.

The initial dialog lists all of the terminal strip “Tag strip” values found in the project drawing set.

 Pick on the “TB-1” entries and hit the “Edit” button.

The Terminal Strip Editor tool displays the above dialog and fills it with a list of all of the TB-1 schematic terminals found in the active project.

A key missing piece of data is the catalog assignment, highlighted in yellow here. Without this assignment, it will not be possible for Terminal Strip Editor to generate a to-scale representation of the terminal strip.  Instead the Terminal Strip Editor will resort to generic terminal symbols that it uses when no specific part number assignment has been made.

So, let’s make a catalog assignment…

First, highlight all of the terminals displayed in the window. We want to assign the same part number to all terminals in this terminal strip.

Hint: You can use the SHIFT or CONTROL keys on your keyboard, or simply left-click in the row for the first terminal block and drag the mouse cursor to the last terminal block, while keeping the left click button pressed.

Select the “Catalog Lookup” button.

This brings up the normal AutoCAD Electrical catalog lookup dialog, pointing at the TRMS terminals table.

Let’s select manufacturer “ENTRELEC”, type “FEED-THROUGH”, and rating “65AMPS”…

Pick the 0115 228.27 selection shown here…. OR…

… the type-ahead-filtering feature is a nice improvement found starting in AutoCAD Electrical 2011’s catalog lookup dialog. Just start typing the part number in the box here. The dialog will dynamically filter down to the remaining possibilities with each key-stroke.

 Note: Make sure that you’ve selected “Select All” in the MANUFACTURER, TYPE, and RATING columns.

So, at this point we’ve selected the catalog part number for the terminals. The ENTRELEC part number gets assigns to all six of the highlighted terminal rows.

Now select the “Layout Preview” tab.

Here’s what the terminal strip will look like (below). Looking good. The wiring from the motor starter overloads comes in on the left and the field wiring out to the motor safety switches exits on the right.

Hit “Insert” and place it over the top part of the DIN rail in the panel layout drawing.

Hint: You can select an angle on insert setting of 90 to insert a terminal strip horizontally.  The Terminal Strip Editor defaults to a vertical orientation so we can view the terminal text from left to right  to keep from turning our head sideways (!).

There it is (above)… “TB-1”. Six terminals, each one annotated with data pulled from the schematic.

Note: The screen-shot above shows AutoCAD Electrical 2011. But if you are running AcadE 2010 or prior, there is one anomaly in the insertion… both the wire number and terminal number attributes are visible between the two screws of each terminal footprint symbol. You can use the tool shown below to do some adjustment.

As necessary, use this “Hide Attribute” tool under the “Schematic” section of the ribbon menu to carefully hide the wire number attribute on each terminal symbol.

Switching “internal wiring” side of terminal strip with Terminal Strip Editor

Let’s say that we decide to bring the field wiring for TB-1 into the panel on the left-hand side of the enclosure. It makes sense to just move things around and put the TB-1 terminal strip on the left side of the back-plate.

But, there’s one thing we need to clean up. The terminal strip shows field wiring on the right-hand side of the terminal strip.  We really need to flip the wiring from side to side… put the internal wiring from the overloads on the right-hand side and the field wiring leaving on the left-hand side.

 Re-launch Terminal Strip Editor and go to the “Terminal Strip” tab. Follow the sequence illustrated below.

Select each entry in turn and flip the wiring as shown above. Then, when all have been swapped between left and right, take a look at the “Layout Preview”. If it looks good, hit the “Rebuild” button to push these changes out to the panel layout terminal strip representation.

Terminal Strip Editor will automatically go back to the schematics and add some data to these schematic terminal symbols to indicate the swapped internal/external wiring configuration.

There it is! That concludes part 2.

Next time we’ll insert tripe-level terminals with the Terminal Strip Editor tool to deal with the three middle motor circuits.

UPDATE: here are panel-related postings

Tutorial – Basics of ‘Smart’ Panel Layout (Part 1)  
Tutorial – Basics of ‘Smart’ Panel Layout (Part 2)  
Tutorial – Basics of ‘Smart’ Panel Layout (Part 3)
Tutorial – Mapping schematic components to panel layout
Tutorial – Automatic Wire Annotation from Schematic to W/D (Part 1)

October 16, 2010

Tutorial – Terminal Strip Management (Part 1) – AutoCAD Electrical

Filed under: Electrical, Tutorials — nateholt @ 5:31 pm

Autodesk’s Nathan Eliason hosted a webcast earlier this week that focused on AutoCAD Electrical’s ability to insert, track, and manage terminal blocks / terminal strips in a project drawing set. I helped put the demo together and was responsible for real-time Q & A support while Nathan was “on stage”. 

Also thanks to Doug McAlexander for some of the images and samples.

This posting is a brief summary of what Nathan covered in the first half of the hour-long webcast. This part deals with the “schematic” end of things… inserting and tracking terminal assignments in electrical schematics. The second part (to be posted soon), deals more with the panel layout end of things and focuses on the AutoCAD Electrical “Terminal Strip Editor” tool.

Hopefully this posting can serve as a simple overview / tutorial of this AutoCAD Electrical feature.

The above looks simple enough, right? Wire goes in. Wire comes out. Put a number on the little label between the two screws. That’s the physical part and it doesn’t look too complicated…

And above, on the electrical schematic, wire coming in, wire coming out, terminal label in the middle. Looks simple enough. How can this be complicated?

At least seven complicating factors… not to mention the sheer number of terminals that may end up in an electrical controls design.

 Let’s start at the top and look at terminal behavior and terminal numbering supported by AutoCAD Electrical. There are three different types of schematic terminal behaviors supported by AutoCAD Electrical.

Type 1 – Terminal with fixed, assigned number

Here is the first type of schematic terminal symbol… shown here as a round symbol with text. These terminal symbols can be of various shapes… but they are all just simple AutoCAD blocks with certain key attributes. More on this in a bit.


Key characteristics of this “Type 1” terminal symbol:  it carries an assigned terminal number value; it maintains the wire number through the terminal; it carries a “terminal strip” assignment; it can carry a part number assignment.

Type 2 – same as type 1 but forces wire number change through it

Here is an example of the second type of schematic terminal. Same as type 1 but this one triggers AutoCAD Electrical to generate a wire number change through it. The type 1 terminal simply maintained its attached wire number through it – wire number coming in was the same leaving. Here, for type 2, it changes

Key characteristics:  it carries an assigned terminal number value; it triggers a wire number change from one side of the terminal to the other; it carries a “terminal strip” assignment; it can carry a part number assignment.

Below is a “worst case” version of this second type of terminal. There are five wires tied to the four wire connection points carried on the terminal symbol.

Note that AutoCAD Electrical has generated four unique wire numbers. Why not five? This is because two of the wires come together at a common wire connection point on the terminal symbol. These two wires do not actually “to through” the terminal and wire the number does not change between them.

Type 3 – automatically takes on wire number that passes through it

This terminal type takes on a copy of the connected wire number as its displayed terminal number.

Key characteristics:  it automatically carries a terminal number equal to the wire number that passes through the terminal;  it maintains the wire number through the terminal (not like Type 2); it carries a “terminal strip” assignment; it can carry a part number assignment.

 Note in the example above it’s a bit cluttered. We have the wire number shown on the type 3 terminal but we also have the wire number shown on the wire itself. Is there a good way to suppress this default AutoCAD Electrical behavior regarding wire numbers tied to type 3 terminals?…


This project-wide setting (below) can be set to suppress wire number text from appearing on a wire network that has a “wire number” type terminal somewhere in it. The wire numbers on these networks are flipped to layer “WIRENO_HIDE” which is then marked “frozen”. What remain are the wire numbers shown on the wire number terminals (and any wire numbers on networks without any wire number terminals).

To enable this project-wide mode of operation, right-click on the active project in the AcadE “Project Manager” dialog and make the selection as shown above. This does not take effect until wire numbers are inserted or freshened on the project’s drawings.

 Note: this feature works on “normal” wire numbers only… it does not move “Fixed” wire numbers to the WIRENO_HIDE layer. To hide a “fixed” wire number, use the “Hide” Wire Number command or “Hide Attribute” command.

The three different behaviors of terminals (wire number, terminal number, and whether terminal breaks the wire number through it) are controlled by the terminal block name and presence or absence of certain attributes.

 The two terminal number symbols are essentially identical except for the 3rd character of the block name. If the 3rd character is a “0” then the wire number does not change through the symbol. If it is a “1” then this causes the symbol to trigger a wire number change through it.

Schematic Terminal selection – via Icon Menu pick

So how do I select my terminal type and terminal shape so I can insert these things into my schematics?

The three different terminal types are selectable in various shapes on the icon menu. Here is how to launch the icon menu from the “Schematic” section of the ribbon menu…


… and then picking on the “Terminals/Connectors” main icon brings up the page below for selection of the individual terminal symbols.


The first column above shows just “dumb” terminal representations. These are not tag-able or extractable into reports. The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th columns show terminals based upon wire number, terminal number, and terminal number that triggers a wire number change through the terminal symbol.

Demo example

Let’s try it on this schematic below.  Three 3-phase motor starter circuits are shown. For each of these motors, let’s add some square terminal symbols between the overload symbol and the left-hand side of the field disconnect switch.

Launch the schematic Icon Menu and drill down to the square terminal with terminal number in screen-shot below. Pick it and pop it in right on the upper phase wire of the first motor circuit.

The square terminal pops in and breaks and reconnects the wires. The existing wire number re-centers itself. An edit dialog pops up.

Here, enter “TB-1” for the terminal strip “Tag Strip:” name. Enter “1” as the terminal “Number:”.

 Now, to save time, hit “OK-Repeat”. This keeps us “in the command” and let’s us pop in the 2nd square terminal immediately (instead of having to reselect from the icon menu).  With each “OK-Repeat” selection, the dialog pops up with the previous selections except for the “Number:” entry. It auto-increments to the next available terminal sequential number.  After the 3rd terminal insert, exit the dialog with “OK” instead of “OK-Repeat” and the command will exit its “looping” and return to the AutoCAD “Command:” prompt.

Using Fence Insert for Incrementing terminal inserts

That was easy, but maybe a bit tedious. Let’s use a different approach to insert nine “TB-2” square terminals on the next three motor circuits.

Start the “Icon Menu” but do it from the “Multiple Insert (Icon Menu)” button shown here. Pick the square terminal from the Icon Menu, just like before…

… but you get kicked into a “Fence” crossing mode. Draw a fence crossing all nine wires of the three motor circuits below.

A square terminal pops in at the very first fence crossing point with a wire. We hit “OK” to keep this one.

The normal Insert/Edit Terminal dialog pops open. Enter “TB-2” for the terminal strip’s “Tag Strip” name and enter “1” as the very first terminal number. Hit “OK” to exit the dialog and move on to the next.


The initial terminal is now inserted at the first fence crossing point. It has the tag “TB-2” and starting at terminal “1”.

Now, for the remaining eight terminals, we can just pre-select “Keep all, don’t ask” and turn off the “Show edit dialog” option. Hit “OK” and let it rip.


And there they are!

Managing next available terminal for a given terminal strip

To finish up, let’s insert three terminals on the bottom motor. But let’s tie them to the next available terminals on “TB-1” (not “TB-2”).

Use the “Multiple Insert (Icon Menu)” like last time and select the square terminal again. Draw a fence through the bottom three wires for the last motor circuit.

 The first terminal pops in and dialog shows up. We want “TB-1” but it defaults to “TB-2” which was the last terminal strip we worked on. Flip it to “TB-1” in the lower part of the dialog.


The moment we select “TB-1”, the dialog pre-fills with appropriate information related to this terminal strip. A key piece of data is the next unused terminal number, “4”, automatically filling in to the “Number:” edit box.

 We just hit “OK” and let the three incrementing terminals pop in. So there we are… all five motor starter T-leads have the terminals popped in between the starter overload and the field safety switch.

Wait, what about catalog part number assignments ?!!

We didn’t assign catalog part numbers to the terminals… could we have?, yes. But it sometimes may make better sense to just pop them in and later, at the panel layout stage, make those assignments. This is pretty easy using the “Terminal Strip Editor” tool.

Check out Part 2 for this.


Nate Holt.

October 10, 2010

Tutorial – Using Excel with AutoCAD Electrical – (Part 5 – PLC I/O desc addr updates)

Filed under: Electrical, Tutorials — nateholt @ 7:57 pm

 (Part 5 – Updating drawing PLC I/O Description and Address text from Excel)

This is the 5th installment of the Excel / AutoCAD Electrical tutorial. The first four were:

  • Part 1 – Copy existing project drawing set, export “To Spreadsheet”, edit in Excel, update drawings “From Spreadsheet”
  • Part 2 – Ability to not only push edited attribute values from Excel to the drawing set, but do “block swap” as well
  • Part 3 – Enhancing the editing capabilities by adding your own custom attribute columns to an existing Excel sheet and having these work with the “From Spreadsheet” update tool
  • Part 4 – Editing wire number assignments from Excel and then pushing the edits back into the project drawing set

In “Part 1” we did some simple drawing updates based upon schematic component info held in the “COMP” sheet. But there are sheets for seven other categories of terminals, PLC I/O, wire numbers, and panel components.

5th Installment – Updating drawing PLC I/O Description and Address text from Excel

Repeating here what we did in part 1 of the tutorial, this is how we initiated the dump of key data categories of our active AutoCAD Electrical project out to an Excel spreadsheet.

After the dump above creates the Excel spreadsheet, we open up the PLCIODESC sheet (or SHEET1 if selected the option marked in yellow above). Here’s part of the PLCIODESC sheet (below). There is one row for each I/O point of each I/O module found in the schematic project drawing set.

We can edit the I/O address for each point or we can add in up to five lines of description text for each I/O point, right here in the spreadsheet.

Below is an example where we’ve replaced three “SPARE” I/O points with actual description assignments.

We can enter up to five lines of text for each I/O point.

Then, on the update “From Spreadsheet”, this data will find the proper I/O module (using the “handle” and the “drawing name” link as described earlier) and update the appropriate description text attributes on the I/O module.

Note: See “Step 4 – Trigger the Excel –> Drawing update” in the Part 1 of the tutorial for complete step-by-step of this “From Spreadsheet” update sequence.

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