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  1. #1
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    Mazak VQC 15/40 Retrofit

    Hello everyone! First time poster here. This thread will be a log for retrofitting my Mazak VQC 15/40 mill. Hope you guys follow along and enjoy the show. I'm also looking forward to getting some tips and suggestions along the way so feel free to jump in at any point!

    So I'll start off with a little back story. I've been working at my family's machine shop for almost a decade now and all we had were CNC lathes, no CNC mills just an old Bridgeport knee mill. Being an engineer I've always wanted to make my own creations but having only access to CNC lathes I always felt limited. So for a number of years now I've wanted to get my hands on a CNC mill. I eventually came across an old Mazak VQC 15/40 on an online auction site. Not much info was posted about the machine on the site but I figured if the controller was dead it wouldn't have mattered as I was planning on retrofitting anyways. I just hoped the machine was mechanically sound and knowing Mazak's reputation I don't think that was to much of a worry. I went ahead and bid on it and crossed my fingers. Luckily the bidding didn't go to high and made out with what I think was a good deal. That was back in November.

    When it arrived at our shop I was able to take a close look at what I got myself into. At first glance the machine looked really well put together; a nice solid design. That being said though I don't think the previous owner has the word "cleaning" in their vocabulary. I don't think the machine was cleaned in a day of its life. It was caked with coolant and chips everywhere. So I knew I had a lot of scrubbing ahead of me. Check out the photos to get an idea.

    The first problem we ran into was getting the machine into the shop. For whatever reason the z axis wasn't lowered onto wooden blocks and was left in the highest position and measuring the height as best we could we knew it was going to be a tight fit through the door. I looked around on the web to see if and how to lower the spindle manually and couldn't find anything. So I took off the covers on the spindle to get a better look. I noticed a brake on the z-axis ballscrew and tried to manually release it by pushing and pulling on the flanges but no luck. We decided to give it a shot and see how much we're off by. Long story short we had to take a piece of weather stripping off from the top of the door and remove 3 tiny hex screws that held the grill over the spindle cooling fan and then it just barely slide into the door way with the forks of the forklift skidding on the ground. I found out a way to lower the spindle manually so I'll do a short post about it when I get a chance so other's won't be stuck in the same situation I was.

    Once I got a close look I was able to make a plan and set goals on what I wanted to get done.
    So the plan:
    • Remove all the panels so I can thoroughly clean the base of the machine and all the critical components (linear rails, ballscrews, etc).
    • Sandblast the panels and repaint them to give the machine a fresher appearance.
    • Fire up the machine to see if it even works and fix whatever needs to be fixed (hopefully nothing).
    • Retrofit the machine with a new controller.


    Here are some photos before I started to take it all apart. I don't know why I didn't take a wide shot of the entire machine or of the pallet changer.

  2. #2
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    Re: Mazak VQC 15/40 Retrofit

    Here are the remaining photos from Day 1. I began to take panels off from around the tool changer magazine. It is here that you can see how bad the coolant and swarf is caked on to everything. Lots of fun ahead!
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails IMG_0208.jpg   IMG_0209.jpg   IMG_0210.jpg  

  3. #3
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    Re: Mazak VQC 15/40 Retrofit

    Here are some photos from Day 2. I took apart the tool changer magazine to get a thorough clean. I'm amazed that this thing still functioned (assuming it was still functional) with so much filth everywhere. There's also a photo of the over machine with some of the panels removed as well as the pallet changer. Not much going on here just removing panels and cleaning.

  4. #4
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    Re: Mazak VQC 15/40 Retrofit

    Photos from Day 3. Took off the x-axis way cover and discovered a heap of swarf sitting on the servo motor. These chips got in everywhere! They'll find any nook and cranny and just pile up inside. The photo is after I removed most of the chips away. I started to explore the pallet changer and just felt overwhelmed with the amount of cleaning needed to be done. As they say... one step at a time. In another photo you can see some good progress on the base of the tool magazine coming along quite nicely. I used purple power to clean all the dried up coolant. It does a good job at cutting right through that gunk.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails IMG_0229.jpg   IMG_0230.jpg   IMG_0231.jpg   IMG_0232.jpg  

  5. #5
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    Re: Mazak VQC 15/40 Retrofit

    Photos of Day 4. I took off the main enclosure panel from the machine. I had to move the pallet changer away from the machine in order to remove the main panel. I used a car jack and placed it up against the base of the machine and pushed the pallet changer away. Then added some wood blocks and placed the car jack back in place and repeated the process until the changer was far enough out of the way for us to get the enclosure off. With all the panels off and out of the way you can begin to appreciate the solidness of this machine. Box ways on the z-axis and linear guide rails on the x and y axes. The one thing that I can already tell will be annoy is that I won't be able to have anything overhanging off of the table otherwise it will crash into one of the columns. It seems like it has happened before as there were a couple of dents on the main enclosure panel right in the line of fire.

  6. #6
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    Re: Mazak VQC 15/40 Retrofit

    Day 5 photos. More cleaning progress. Some detailed photos of the tool changer magazine components being cleaned. I decided to buy new bearings for the sprockets and the Geneva cam driver shaft because they had a rough grinding feeling when they were spun and that's not ideal. Although there is nothing "high speed" about the tool changer I felt it was a good idea to replace the bearings just for peace of mind. Plus they were dirt cheap on ebay so it worked out alright. Again purple power making it easy. Just wear gloves cause it'll make your hands really rough and dry especially during the winter time.

  7. #7
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    Re: Mazak VQC 15/40 Retrofit

    Day 6 photos. Nothing really interesting here. Just more cleaning. Started to clean the bundle of wires and hoses. I took apart the tool measure arm. I wish I snapped a photo but my hands were covered in grease and I hate having to go wash my hands every few minutes just to take photos but the inside of the tool measure arm was the most disgusting mass of crap I ever seen. It looked like a translucent yellow cottage cheese. It didn't smell good either. I guess the seal around the plunger wasn't a seal anymore and let coolant seep in. Once all the parts were cleaned up I took a close look at the seal. Seems like over the years the rubber material expanded and didn't form a seal on the plunger anymore. The seal is very similar to the ones used on SMC pneumatic cylinders so I look around on the web for replacement seals for a pneumatic cylinder with a rod diameter the same as the plunger on the measure arm. Ended up paying 5 bucks off ebay. God knows how much Mazak would have charged for a simple part like that.

    The interesting thing here is that the measure probe uses proximity sensors. I didn't know proximity sensors were very repeatable but I guess they are. There's two sensors inside the arm and my guess (after watching: this video) is that the top sensor, when triggered, tells the control that a tool is touching the probe and to advance further at a slower speed. The controller then continues feeding the z-axis at a slow rate until the bottom sensor triggers. At this point the z-axis has probably over shot a tiny bit so it backs off at a very slow rate until the bottom sensor turns off and the control records the measurement at that instant. That's at least my guess on how it works or at least how I would implement it. Whether or not I use this for my retrofit I'm not sure but I would love to hear what you guys think.

  8. #8
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    Re: Mazak VQC 15/40 Retrofit

    Day 7 photos. Here I reassembled the tool changer magazine. Things are looking a lot cleaner. I probably should have repainted the forks but I was eager to test the machine and see if it was functional so I just reassembled it completely. I will probably take the forks off and repaint them when I get to painting the enclosure panels.

    Some things to note about the tool changer magazine for retrofit informational purposes is that it utilizes a number of different sensors. It uses 5 proximity sensors, 4 of them to determine which tool position the magazine is currently in using binary logic, and 1 proximity sensor on the Geneva cam driver to see when the magazine is in position. It also utilizes an optical sensor which shots a beam of light at a reflector (not currently mounted) and checks to see if any tools are in the fork so that the controller knows whether it can place the tool it currently has in its spindle away into the magazine. Luckily this setup requires just simple logic to implement so it shouldn't be to difficult to retrofit into the new controller.

  9. #9
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    Re: Mazak VQC 15/40 Retrofit

    what controller are you useing?

  10. #10
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    Re: Mazak VQC 15/40 Retrofit

    Hey Aventtini! Glad you asked. I'll be using a Kflop along with a Kanalog board and a Konnect board for additional outputs. After studying the wiring diagram I concluded that I'll need 38 outputs and 58 inputs not including the analog outputs for servo amps and spindle drive or the quadrature encoder inputs. I'll be using the existing servo amps and spindle drive. The machine is currently equipped with resolvers so I purchased some high count encoders to take their place. I'll get into more detail in a later post so stick around!

  11. #11
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    Re: Mazak VQC 15/40 Retrofit

    Wow, quite an undertaking you got there. I know how you feel about the endless cleaning. My restoration feels like 80% cleaning, 20% progress. Keep posting before and after pics, very satisfying.

    Can you spin the spindle by hand? How does it feel?

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  13. #13
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    Re: Mazak VQC 15/40 Retrofit

    Thanks Nigel. Yea I know the feeling. Sometimes I feel like I take 3 steps forward and 2 steps back but luckily most of the cleaning is done.

    As far as the spindle goes it spins very freely. You can easily spin it with just your pinky. The bearings feel very smooth and if you spin it up by hand as fast as you can it'll spin for a few seconds.

  14. #14
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    Re: Mazak VQC 15/40 Retrofit

    This post will basically sum up what happened between December and early June.

    I was contracted to do a website in late November so I knew I wouldn't have a lot of time to spend on this machine for several months but at the same time I knew that the $$ would be vital in getting this project done. So between working at the machine shop, the website and a few other side projects I haven't had much time to put into working on the machine. In February I did buy a used air compressor that I then decided to rebuild. We needed a bigger air compressor for the shop and I needed something with some decent throughput to use for sandblasting.

    Back in December I bought a gas powered pressure washer along with a sandblasting attachment. I thought this would have been more effective than using traditional dry sand blasting but it was a flawed system. When it worked it worked well although being drenched with water in mid December here in New Jersey isn't fun. However it was difficult keeping the sand in the nozzle from clogging up so eventually I just gave up on it and sold the pressure washer. That was before I had a big enough air compressor to do dry sand blasting.

    At some point in December I managed to hookup the Mazak to some power and air and fire her up. I was pleased to see that everything turn on and seemed to be in good working order. I first had to figure out how to home the axes. I fiddle around with that for a bit and finally found out that you have to jog the axis away from the home switch an inch or so and then jog the axis back towards the home switch until you hit the switch. The machine then runs through its homing cycle for that axis. If the axis is already on the switch then as you jog away from the switch the controller will see that you were already on the switch so it runs the homing cycle as soon as you come off of the switch.

    I then proceeded to run the spindle. Everything seemed fine there. I ran it up to its max (6000rpm) and it sounded good.

    I then decided to do some simple backlash tests to see what condition the ballscrews were in. I placed an indicator on the table and indicated off of the spindle to get backlash readings for X and Y axes. I would move the axis using the hand wheel a couple of inches until a reading would show up on the indicator. I would then zero the indicator and back off .0001 and see if I would get a reading. To my surprise I had 0 backlash in the X and Y axes over different points of their respective travels.

    The z-axis on the other hand had some backlash. I was getting just under .0005 backlash on the z. At first thought backlash on the Z doesn't really make sense since the weight of the spindle would always be pushing down on the ballnut and as long as an external upward force would not exceed the weight of the z-axis assembly there should be no backlash. This machine, however, uses a hydraulic counterbalance which negates the weight of the spindle but in turn adds a slight amount of resistance to z-axis motion. Add the slight stick slip from the box ways and that will be enough resistance to cause some backlash. With a properly preloaded ballnut the backlash shouldn't be this high unless there's a lot of static resistance in the setup. I'll have to retest the z-axis backlash across different points of its travel and see if I'm getting consistent results. The machine uses the double nut type ballnuts which use a spacer between the two nuts to provide the preload. Maybe I'll add a shim or make a thicker spacer to remove the backlash. If anyone has some experience bringing new life to old ballscrews jump on in.

    I also played around with the pallet changer using the manual controls. Everything seems in good working order which was a big relief considering I bought the machine blind with little to no information about its condition. There were only two minor issues. When the pallet door is closed the solenoid leaks air so I'll probably replace it with a new one and there is a very minor air leak coming from the spindle; probably the spindle air blast solenoid leaking.

    After that I really didn't touch the machine until early June because of all the other things I had going on. I'll leave it off at that and in the next post I'll start off with some more current stuff.

  15. #15
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    Re: Mazak VQC 15/40 Retrofit

    For those who are wondering how to manual release the z-axis brake here's what to do. The brake is up towards the top of the z-axis ballscrew just above the belt pulley. You'll probably have to take off some panels to get to it. You'll need to undo the two wires going into the brake and apply a voltage. The brake is rated for 24v but I managed to get the brake to release at 12v. I used a battery pack that had 10 1.2v NiMH batteries that I had laying around. I know this technically isn't manual brake release but it'll get your spindle down if your machine isn't hooked up to the panel. I'm not sure if the brake has a polarity but just to be safe I applied the - side of the battery pack to the "G24" wire which is the ground for the 24v power supply and applied + to the "60" wire which is the 24v signal. In my case the hydraulic counterbalance kept the z-axis from running away. Instead it slowly went down but your setup might be different so be prepared by holding the pulley and use caution.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails IMG_0520.jpg   IMG_0519.jpg  

  16. #16
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    Re: Mazak VQC 15/40 Retrofit

    So back in early June I managed to snag a good deal on a Kflop + Kanalog on eBay. Soon after I bought a wiring diagram from Mazak. After studying the wiring diagram I noticed that all the digital I/Os that I was interested in were going through 4 cables (CND1, CND2, CND3, CND4). I'm not sure what CND5 and CNA10 are used for. I suspect they are for options that are not implemented on my machine. So my thought is to buy 4 MR-50L Honda connectors and wire them to my kflop setup and plug them right in to the terminal board that way I don't have to touch anything past the terminal board.

    I made an excel spreadsheet, which I'll post down below, with a list of all the digital inputs and outputs that I'll need to interface with and a list of the pin connections of the 4 connectors. If you have a VQC and are planning on doing a retrofit please don't use this info without looking at the wiring diagram that is specific to your machine first. There are many variations to the VQC and are probably wired differently and have different options so use this info only as a starting point.

    As you can see there are way more I/Os required than the kanalog can handle on its own. Originally I was going to buy a Konnect expansion board which has 32 inputs and 16 outputs and make my own circuit board that would interface to the FET relay drivers and the 8 inputs and 8 outputs found on the 40 pin IDC header on the Kanalog. However I decided to scrap that idea and just go with 2 Konnects. This will get me 64 optically isolated inputs and 32 optically isolated outputs plus the 8 opto inputs and 8 opto outputs on the Kanalog. That should be more than enough to handle all the I/Os for my machine.

    I also bought some computer parts and put together a PC to act as the front end of the cnc controller. It's a mini-itx motherboard with an i3 4150, 2GB ram and a 60GB SSD. I mounted it to an open air chassis as it would be pointless to put it in a standard computer case since this is going to be inside the electrical cabinet anyways. The PC is going to be used just for KmotionCNC so 2GB is plenty. The SSD allows for extremely quick bootup times; Less than 15 seconds from hitting the power button to having KmotionCNC ready to go. The i3 is overkill for this task and probably could have gone away with a Celeron but hey... what the hell.

    As mentioned before the machine is currently equipped with resolvers for position feedback. Although it is possible to use resolvers with the Kflop and Kanalog its not an easy implementation so I went ahead and purchased some encoders. The encoders I got are 20,000 PPR 3 channel encoders; 2 quadrature channels and an index channel. I'll be using the index channel for homing the axes with maximum accuracy. The ballscrews on the machine have a pitch of 10mm so that'll equate to 50,800 pulses per inch which will give me a resolution of 0.0000197 inches. At these high encoder counts maximum frequency may be an issue. The maximum frequency for the encoders I have is 250kHz. This frequency applies to cycles rather than pulses. The encoders will be attached directly to the ballscrews and the fastest they spin at is 2000rpm. That'll equate to 167kHz which is well within allowable numbers. Also the Kflop's maximum input frequency for encoders is 1Mhz. However I am not sure if that is pulses per second or cycles per second but regardless I am still well within the margins.

    (20,000 pulses / rev) / (10mm / rev) * (25.4mm / inch) = 50,800 pulses per inch

    (2000 rev / min) / (60 sec / rev) * (5000 cycles / rev) = 166,667 cycles per second

  17. #17
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    Re: Mazak VQC 15/40 Retrofit

    Hi Thomas,

    I have just the same category mazak milling and follow with attention your tread considering I also want to retrofit the milling machine
    I would like to work with CS Lab materials and software Mach3, considering this is my first project, I have many questions about I / O settings because that is my hat too far.
    Also have a mazak slant turn 40n / 1500 are seen to retrofit the backup battery is empty and all the machines parameters away
    All info is welcome

    Kinds regard

    Freddy from Belgium/ Europe

    PS the Mazak lathe, I have all mechanical, electrical diagrams and parameters : Banana:

  18. #18
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    Re: Mazak VQC 15/40 Retrofit

    Hey Freddy. Glad you're following along. Sorry I haven't been posting for the past couple of months. I have been getting kind of distracted from a bunch directions so things have been moving slowly but I have been making some progress. Unfortunately I won't be able to help you out with your Slant Turn. I am not familiar with that machine. However I will be able to help out with your Vertical Mill, especially if it's a VQC 15/40.

    If you plan to use the existing servo amplifiers in the machine then you'll need some device to create the +/-10V to control them. If you're using Mach 3 with just the standard PC parallel port then that will only output step and direction signals which are incompatible with these older industrial amplifiers. You will need some sort of converter card, such as a YAPSC:10V, or a standalone controller such as a Kflop/Kanalog control board which can be interfaced to Mach3.

    You will also need to swap out the resolvers out with quadrature encoders and wire them back to whatever is closing your position loop; whether it's the converter cards or a motion control board. From what I understand Mach 3 doesn't close the position loop but rather relies on servo drives to close the position loop however the servo amplifiers in these industrial machines do not close the position loop.

    Check out this site to get a better idea of what you need/want to do.

    I personally chose the kflop + kanalog option because it gives you the ability to run the servos at high speeds even with hi-resolution encoders and easily interfaces to older amplifiers that use +/-10V analog inputs. The kflop also offers the reliability and speed of a standalone controller which offloads most of the processing from the PC allowing you to use a cheaper/slower computer. I also have 2 konnects that handle most of the inputs and outputs for the machine.

    If there's specific questions you have then feel free to ask. I'll be happy to help in any way I can.

    I'll try to post some updates on my progress in the next couple of days.

  19. #19
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    Re: Mazak VQC 15/40 Retrofit

    Sorry for the delay in updates but a lot has been going on over here. I finally have some time to write about the project again.

    For the controller I decided to buy an aluminum plate, machine it to size and mount the kflop/kanalog along with the konnect boards onto it. This allowed me to work on the local wiring without having to be huddled inside the cabinet. It made life much easier as there were well over 100 wires I needed to connect to the konnects and solder to the 50 pin connectors. I also installed some wiring duct around the boards to manage all the wires. On the left side of the plate I installed a couple of terminals to distribute low voltage power to the various systems.

    I purchase two power supplies, one 24v and one +/-12v. These are regulated power supplies that output clean voltage. I used these to power the tachs and the servo amplifiers. I wasn't sure how sensitive the tachs or amps are to noise so I just played it safe and set those up. I also have 12v, 5v and GND from the computer's PSU on the terminals along with the machine 24v/GND power supply.

    On the right side of the plate I installed a 4 12v relay array as well as a single 24v relay. I'll go into more detail on what some of the relays do but they are involved with switching the power-on relay as well as handling the servo amps and spindle driver.

    Below you'll see the controller mounted on the aluminum plate and then with the wire duct installed and finally the controller installed in the cabinet and all wired up. There's also a shot of the cabinet right after I took the old controller out.

  20. #20
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    Re: Mazak VQC 15/40 Retrofit

    I decided to replace the resolvers with high count encoders to make it easier to send position data back to the kflop. Unfortunately the hole where the resolvers mount into were to small so I either had to modify the encoders or the resolver mounts. Not knowing how much meat I had on the encoder case before hitting the bearing I opted to machine the resolver mounts to a larger diameter.

    My initial approach was to mount the mount into a 4 jaw chuck on the lathe and indicate the inside diameter of the existing hole as well as the face to make sure it was parallel and concentric. This was a tedious process and took up most of the time. I also machined a small counter bore in case I ever needed to install an encoder with a smaller diameter. I could then just machine a simple flanged bushing and be done with it. The X and Y mounts were the same and was able to grab it in the chuck but the Z mount had a different base to it so it was not possible to grab in the chuck.

    For the Z mount I decided to use the boring head on the bridgeport mill to enlarge the hole which actually worked out much better and was a lot easier to do. I first machined a plug on the lathe from aluminum. The small diameter of the plug was a common diameter I could put into one of the collets on the bridgeport. I think I used 3/4". The larger diameter of the plug was the diameter of the hole on the mount. I made sure to make this diameter as close as possible. I then fitted the plug into the 3/4" collet on the bridgeport. I then placed the Z mount on the table and lowered the quill until the plug was in the hole of the mount. I now know that the mount is perfectly concentric with the mill's spindle. I tightened up the hold down bolts and then lifted the quill up. I then put in the boring head and machined the hole to the right diameter. Although the machining process was a bit longer the whole process was much faster as the setup time was next to nothing. So looking back at it I would have opted to do all 3 mount on the bridgeport.

    Another issue was the the bolt circle on the encoder case was slightly different than that on the mount so I ended up modifying the encoders so that the holes would line up. I also milled off one of the corners of the square flange on the encoders so that it would match up with the resolver configuration. For the Y axis it was not important but the X axis the corner would have interfered with the table's movement.

    The electrical connectors on the encoders were different than that on the resolvers so I needed to purchase ones that would fit and then create adapters that would connect the Amphenol connectors to the flexible conduit. I found some used 90 degree elbow Amphenol connectors off of ebay that I needed for the X and Y encoders and found a straight connector that I needed for the Z. I made the adapters on the lathe from aluminum.

    The original wiring that was going to the resolvers was not sufficient for the encoders. I needed 10 wires total but only had 6 (3 pairs) going to the resolvers. I ended up buying a long CAT5e ethernet cable and fishing it through the conduit to each encoder. I left 1 of the original pairs as is and because it was a heavier gauge I figured I would use that for supplying the power to the encoders. This gave me 4 twisted pairs for the encoder signals (1 pair for channel A, 1 pair for channel B, 1 pair for index channel and 1 pair was combined for the case shield) and 1 heavier pair for 5V and GND.

    Pictured below is the original wiring for the resolver and the new wiring for the encoder. The aluminum plug that was used to center the Z mount on the bridgeport. The machining of the mounts as well as the conduit adapters. The last set of pictures show the encoders and mounts installed on the machine fully wired up and ready to go.

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