Friday Offcuts 13 April 2018
A new digital timber construction method has just been developed in Europe. However, unlike traditional timber frame construction, robots are being used to prefabricate the timber modules. The other system on the go at the moment is 3D printing. This time it appears to have moved along a fair bit from some of the earlier prototypes that we’ve profiled. It’s the same technique – the extrusion of a cement mixture layer by layer to build up the homes walls. Robotics have been built into the application and this time – we’re talking a 100 square metre building expected to be constructed in just 48 hours. You can check out the stories and the short video below.
Wood construction and timber buildings have also been the focus for an Australian audience. This time it wasn’t architects, engineers, property developers or specifiers. That’s been done – and the education for these professions is ongoing. Instead – it was the students that in a few short years are going to be holding these key positions. A Melbourne lecture theatre was packed out a couple of weeks ago. To inspire and sell the message on the benefits of using CLT, Andrew Waugh, Director of the UK’s Waugh Thistleton Architects was brought out by FWPA to inspire the country’s future architects and building professionals.
In sawmilling, we have a couple of stories on sawmill safety and the increasing use of robotics and automation (with a couple of video clips for you) aimed at improving mill productivity and addressing the growing issue of recruiting staff for wood processing and manufacturing operations. For wood transport, log trucks are now being fitted with a mobile phone on the dash in a series of studies aimed at collecting road data from more remote forestry roads for planning and maintenance. Log measurement, trucking and wood transport technologies are a major theme for the two-yearly WoodFlow 2018 series running in both Australia and New Zealand in mid-June. Registrations are now flowing in. Full details of both programmes can be found on the event web site, www.woodflow.events.
Finally, we’ve included the results and a link to a full report on a major survey recently undertaken exploring both urban and rural New Zealander’s views on the country’s primary sector. We think we know what the community thinks of us. The results here though quantify the thoughts and perceptions of kiwis on issues facing the sector, bio-security, climate change, working in the primary sector, social license to operate …. The results should be of value to all of our interactions with urban and rural New Zealanders, planned campaigns to attract skills into the industry and our work with the media. Check out the story and report below. Enjoy this week’s read.
This week we have for you:
Rock star international architect here to inspireFWPA organised international CLT expert, Andrew Waugh, Director of the UK’s Waugh Thistleton Architects, to inspire and inform Melbourne University students – the lecture theatre was packed!
In the world of architecture and design, like most other areas of endeavour, there are the ‘rock stars’ then there are the rest of us. The UK’s Andrew Waugh is right up there in the star category when it comes to designing with engineered timber.
Speaking to around 350 Melbourne School of Design (part of The University of Melbourne), 4th year Master of Architecture Students and Advanced Diploma of Building Design (Architectural) students, Andrew delivered a highly informative, entertaining and inspirational presentation of his CLT journey.
During the two-hour wood focussed seminar, he discussed his projects and the learnings from them – including Dalton Lane, a 121-unit residential development in Hackney, UK completed in 2017 and currently the world’s largest CLT project. He told the students about the many benefits of choosing CLT for this project, particularly the environmental gains and its lightweight advantages.
Following Andrew’s discussion and demonstration of CLT’s uptake and potential internationally, Dr Alastair Woodard, WoodSolutions Education Program Manager, talked to the students about the new mid-rise opportunities in Australia. He outlined the changes to the National Construction Codes DtS provisions, the upcoming changes in the 2019 NCC and overviewed all the timber building systems in the market.
“There’s no doubt that there are now 350+ better educated, and highly inspired, wood-knowledgeable architects heading in to the workforce,” said Eileen Newbury, FWPA’s National Marketing and Communications Manager, “events like this are a core part of our educational strategy that targets building a knowledge base among design and construction students.”
Eileen also mentioned that WoodSolutions have launched an online training platform that includes the timber industry too – WoodSolutions Campus – woodsolutions.com.au/campus
The changing marketplace of geomaticsThe changing landscape of the mapping and surveying profession brings new challenges, even for a renowned manufacturer of geospatial instruments like Trimble. In view of the growing role of BIM, the rising demand for complete workflow solutions and the challenge of extracting meaningful information out of the immense volumes of point clouds derived from Lidar data acquisition, it is clear that geomatics is in transition. 'GIM International' touched base with Ron Bisio, vice president of Trimble Geospatial, to discuss how his company is approaching the new geospatial reality.
Data capture and analysis solutions are increasingly based on software that can also be used by generalists rather than geospatial specialists only. How are you responding to this evolution?
Innovation can fail if it doesn’t clearly benefit workflow and take into account all stakeholders. Trimble is always thinking about getting the workflows right and developing solutions with more automation and data processing capabilities that can be easily adopted by customers of all kinds, including non-geospatial professionals.
Geospatial software providers play a role in making sure the data is shareable through a cloud solution and uses automation to bring understanding to the desks and devices of the professional, who then delivers it to the customer. For instance, Trimble Clarity, a cloud-based solution, allows anyone to use, analyse and annotate imaging data without specialised software. We really want to make sure technology brings customers into their domain, not the opposite.
For more, check out the story on the ForestTECH Tech News site.
Automation & robotics in the wood industryThere is a high potential for robotics and automation within the forestry sector. Actually, with a very low unemployment rate at the moment in North America, it is really difficult to attract and to retain qualified workers in the wood mill operations.
Moreover, the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) predicted a shortage of 60,000 workers in the forestry sector of the forest before five years, which is significant. Automation of the processes allows to reduce the number of employees while improving the performances of a plant.
Because of the worldwide competition, the industry also has to achieve important gains in productivity to decrease costs and protect profit margins from declining. The industry also has to improve its efficiency in terms of safety, the operations requiring many workers increase the possibilities of accidents. Robotic and automated processes can handle the higher risk tasks with a lower risk of errors.
The operations are becoming faster and more precise without possibilities of distraction or other human factors. Employees may need several months, even sometimes years, to become totally competent and effective on a specific task. A well programmed machine will be effective from the day 1, which will have a significant impact on the global efficiency of a factory.
Automation offers a great improvement potential in machines productivity and a cost reduction linked to the equipment. It will allow operators to focus on planning and other strategic decisions, rather than worthless activities with no added value to the company.
1. Interesting articles relating to this topic:
2. Example of an automated sawmill:
3. Demo of a robotic arms in the wood industry:
Log trucks to collect road dataThe digitalisation of the road network is often thought of as something related to main roads alone. The forest sector, however, is also interested in the road network outside main roads, and its condition will be monitored in many ways in the future.
Road data can already be easily collected by means of the mobile phone. With the appropriate application it is able to amass an astonishing variety of data. The phone can be installed behind the windscreen of the log truck. In this way, road data could be collected by the very people who need it most.
The mobile phone can be used to video the road. ”You can then use machine vision software to determine the road width, the state of undergrowth along the road, the condition of traffic signs, or the presence of stones, dust, snow and ice on the road, or whether it is slippery,” says Pirjo Venäläinen, Senior Research Scientist at the Metsäteho research and development company. The video will show stones with a diameter of just three centimetres.
Practically every smart phone can monitor its own movements. Thus, it is able to provide data on how even the road is. And, thanks to its GPS system, all data can be automatically transmitted on to digital maps. What is more, almost everyone has a phone. Anyone using a road can be a data collector.
Venäläinen knows of several existing projects to collect road data in Finland, though not that many collect data on minor roads, such as privately-owned and forestry roads. For the forest sector, however, these roads are essential, because they are used to transport logs from the forest to the industry.
Metsäteho aims at free access to as much of the data as possible, so that anyone could create new business on the basis of it. The network of minor roads is also needed for passenger and goods traffic, tanker lorries fetching milk from farms, tourism, trips to summer cottages, and other recreation.
However, the mobile phone is only one of the tools available for collecting road data. More exact data must be collected using more heavy-duty tools, such as laser scanners attached to vehicles. ”There are special traffic weather stations along the main roads. By attaching a monitoring unit to a vehicle, we could turn it into a mobile weather station,” says Venäläinen.
As far as collecting data by means of log trucks is concerned, the driver is in a key position. About a hundred workers connected to wood transport have been involved in pilot studies by Metsäteho. Their attitude towards the project has mainly been positive.
”Of course, the suspicion has been voiced that the studies are actually about monitoring the performance of the drivers, but it has been easy to dispel that thanks to the technical solutions adopted. You don’t, for instance, have to transmit all data real-time, but can collect a bigger batch and send it on at intervals,” says Venäläinen.
Collecting and sending on the data should be automatic, so that there is no additional need for the driver to key in anything. Another question to resolve is what data will be published anonymously and the extent to which the data collector can decide about access to it.
”These are important issues. We plan to set up a special task group to deliberate the rules for using vehicle data,” says Venäläinen. Data protection also interests companies and the managers of private roads. Niskanen anticipates that the new platform will be operational in the beginning of 2020, if everything goes according to plans. More >>.
Photo: Mobile phone behind vehicle's windscreen is a good tool to collect basic road data, Metsäteho
Robotic collaboration in new timber constructionDigitalisation has found its way into timber construction, with entire elements already being fabricated by computer-aided systems. The raw material is cut to size by the machines, but in most cases, it still has to be manually assembled to create a plane frame. In the past, this fabrication process came with many geometric restrictions.
Under the auspices of the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Digital Fabrication, researchers from ETH Zurich's Chair of Architecture and Digital Fabrication have developed a new, digital timber construction method that expands the range of possibilities for traditional timber frame construction by enabling the efficient construction and assembly of geometrically complex timber modules.
Spatial Timber Assemblies evolved from a close collaboration with Erne AG Holzbau and will be used for the first time in the DFAB HOUSE project at the Empa and Eawag NEST research and innovation construction site in Dübendorf. It is also the first large-scale architectural project to use the construction robots developed by ETH Zurich's new Robotic Fabrication Laboratory.
With robotic precision
The robot first takes a timber beam and guides it while it is sawed to size. After an automatic tool change, a second robot drills the required holes for connecting the beams. In the final step, the two robots work together and position the beams in the precise spatial arrangement based on the computer layout. To prevent collisions when positioning the individual timber beams, the researchers have developed an algorithm that constantly recalculates the path of motion for the robots according to the current state of construction. Workers then manually bolt the beams together.
Longer lasting, more individual construction
Unlike traditional timber frame construction, Spatial Timber Assemblies can manage without reinforcement plates because the required rigidity and load-bearing result from the geometric structure. Not only does this save material; it also opens up new creative possibilities. A total of six spatial, geometrically unique timber modules will be prefabricated in this way for the first time. Lorries will then transport them to the DFAB HOUSE construction site at the NEST in Dübendorf, where they will be joined to build a two-storey residential unit with more than 100 m2 of floor space. The complex geometry of the timber construction will remain visible behind a transparent membrane façade.
Integrated digital architecture
The robots use information from a computer-aided design model to cut and arrange the timber beams. This method was specially developed during the project and uses various input parameters to create a geometry consisting of 487 timber beams in total.
The fact that Spatial Timber Assemblies is being used for digital fabrication and also in design and planning offers a major advantage according to Matthias Kohler, Professor of Architecture and Digital Fabrication at ETH Zurich and the man spearheading the DFAB HOUSE project: "If any change is made to the project overall, the computer model can be constantly adjusted to meet the new requirements. This kind of integrated digital architecture is closing the gap between design, planning and execution."
What do we think of NZ’s primary sector?Late last year a major survey was undertaken in New Zealand commissioned by MPI (repeating a benchmark survey that was undertaken in 2008) that explored urban and rural New Zealanders’ views of rural New Zealand and the primary sector. The main objectives for the study were to gain an in-depth understanding of the beliefs and values held, across both urban and rural New Zealanders, regarding the primary sector (agricultural, horticulture, food, fishing, aquaculture and forestry industries). A number of important messages for our own industry can be seen in the report. Some of the key points included:
- The most significant change since 2008 was a doubling in the percentage of both urban (from 23% to 47%) and rural (from 26% to 53%) respondents who now see water pollution and quality as the most significant environmental issue facing New Zealand.
- The most significant environmental issue facing the primary sector was also considered to be water pollution and quality by both urban (52%) and rural (58%) respondents.
- The quantitative results showed that many New Zealanders (both urban and rural) still hold overall positive views about the primary sector, however, over the last 10 years or so this positivity has decreased.
- A majority of respondents agreed that, ‘A wide range of skills are needed to work in the primary sector’,(77% rural and 76% urban respondents),however; rural respondents were much more likely (64%) than urban respondents (48%)to indicate that they would recommend working in the primary sector to someone else.
- There was strong acknowledgement that the,‘Primary industries involve cutting-edge thinking and technologies’,(67% of rural and 66% of urban respondents agreed with this).
- Under half of both rural and urban respondents populations agreed that,‘Businesses in the primary sector are good employers’(41% of rural and 37% of urban respondents.
- In 2017 significantly less urban respondents held a positive view of forestry than in 2008 (42% down from 52%), however only 13% held a negative view of this industry.
The full report can be viewed here.
EU's first 3D-printed concrete house3D-printed architecture seems to have taken another step towards the mainstream, with the news that engineering firm Arup and CLS Architetti are collaborating on the first 3D-printed concrete house in the European Union. Named 3D Housing 05, the project was conceived to demonstrate the efficacy of the cutting-edge technology.
The prototype home is being constructed in Milan's central square, Piazza Cesare Beccaria, and will be officially unveiled during this year's Salone Del Mobile in April. The project also includes Italian cement supplier Italcementi and Cybe Construction.
Just like every other 3D-printed architecture project we've seen, the basic construction process involves extruding a cement mixture out of a nozzle layer by layer to build up the home's walls. However, 3D Housing 05 makes use of a robotic manipulator mounted on a movable base for increased flexibility rather than the more typical static printer.
Once the machine has done its work, humans are then required to finish off the roof, windows, and doors, as well as any other finishing touches. An Arup representative told us that the company is hoping to automate this part of the process in the future too.
The 3D Housing 05 project looks significantly larger and more complex than previous 3D-printed houses we've seen. It will comprise 100 sq m of floorspace laid out on one level, and include a living area, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. It's also designed to be easily disassembled, so once Milan's design week comes to a close it can be broken down and installed elsewhere.
While we've no figures available, Arup told us that the project's cost will be "significantly lower" than a house of a similar type and size constructed using traditional methods, and that the printing process took just 48 hours. Arup also lauded the tech's potential to produce projects quicker and with less waste, for less money and more accurately than before.
Photo: 3D Housing 05 was conceived to demonstrate 3D printing architecture's efficacy(Credit: CLS Architetti)
Sources: Arup, CLS Architetti, newatlas.com
New online tool for small forest growersA new online calculator for radiata pine and Douglas-fir productivity is now available, free of charge. The Forecaster Calculator was built for owners and advisors of small forests, who can use it to test out different management scenarios for their forests, according to what they want to produce – for example, it can provide estimates of the volume and log product mix on a particular site at a particular age.
Bryan Graham, Science Leader at Scion says, “This tool was purpose built to be simple and effective. It’s online, so it can be accessible anywhere and anytime on either your tablet, laptop or desktop.” The calculator is built using the same set of models as the Forecaster desktop application, which is used by the forest industry for yield table generation (i.e. log product volumes by age), regime evaluation and silvicultural scheduling.
The calculator combines the site-specific information from the national models for site potential productivity (the Site Index and the 300 Index) with data that the grower can insert and vary. The variable options include stocking rate, pruning, timing of thinning, residual stems per hectare following thinning and harvest timing. Each new simulation creates a set of pdf reports based on log yield and silvicultural options.
Not included in the calculator are the settings and options that the full version of Forecaster provides. Instead, the model’s default options reflect standard silvicultural regimes on normal farm/forestry sites, planted with commonly- used stock.
Access to the Forecaster Calculator is via the Forest Growers Research web site: https://fgr.nz/programmes/calculators/forecaster-calculator The new calculator was developed by Scion, with funding support from the Forest Growers Levy Trust. Software provider Integral will provide support for the calculator.
Rethinking sawmill safety cultureHow many times you have heard the phrase “safety first” or “everything starts with safety”? I’m pretty sure that we have all heard some variation of these phrases at one point or another. As a safety professional at a sawmill, it can be challenging at times to know which approach is the best for motivating employees and staff to be more safety conscious in the workplace and at home.
Why at home as well? About 70 per cent of all injuries occur at home. Our end goal is to create a safety culture. But what is a safety culture exactly? The common definition is a set of beliefs that are acceptable to a group, but there is much more to a safety culture than that.
At my workplace I decided recently to try to increase the safety consciousness of the employees and staff by involving them in our monthly safety meetings. I started by asking two questions at the meetings: What does safety mean to them and what is a safety culture? I asked each question to each employee. For the first question, the answers I received varied and based on their personal beliefs, like not getting hurt. I was impressed with one of the answers I received, which was that safety is a lifestyle.
The idea of a safety lifestyle got me thinking about the core values of a person. For the second question, I was surprised that most of the employees didn’t know what a safety culture was or their concept of a safety culture was, for example, wearing their hard hats. I received a lot a positive feedback but also some backlash from a few employees who didn’t appreciate being singled out in front of the group and preferred to be quiet and not participate. I understand that not everyone is comfortable speaking in front of groups, but I believe that in order to improve as a person, you must be placed outside of your comfort zone.
My definition of a safety culture is a set of shared core values of a group of individuals who believe that safety is more than work, home or lifestyle: it’s part of who we are.
The following month, I decided to once again ask for input at the safety meetings. This time the questions I asked were: What are you doing now to contribute to safety? And what are you willing to do for the next month to improve safety on site? Obviously, these questions were more challenging for the employees and staff because they were asked to dig deeper within themselves.
For the first question, just like the previous month, I received a wide range of answers from picking objects up off the ground to ensuring that their fellow co-worker locks out properly during cleaning and maintenance. Employees found it difficult to answer the second question. In order to help them out I provided them my two personal commitments that I had given myself for the next two months, which were: to only look for the positive actions around me; to observe one employee per day, and thank them for working safely and tell them the reason why I was thanking them.
Once I mentioned my own commitments, it encouraged some of the employees to provide their own personal commitments in order to improve safety at our workplace.
As you can see, safety isn’t as easy as replacing a bolt or putting on a guard; more often than not it requires dealing with people. I wish I can say that all employees were on board with my approach, but it’s never quite that simple. Instead I know I made some headway, and some of the employees saw the value in this new approach. At the end of the day, safety comes from within each and every one of us.
The author of this article, Christian Fournier has worked in the safety profession for more than 10 years. He is currently safety and training co-ordinator for Fornebu Lumber in New Brunswick, Canada.
New reports released this week on NZ’s ETSThe Ministry for the Environment (MfE) released two reports this week on the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS) market, as well as some new information on the scheme and on NZ’s emissions.
The two reports we released are:
- Provision of information to the NZ ETS – analyses the current information provision in the NZ ETS and offers recommendations on what, how and when information needs to be provided to the market to improve its efficiency.
- Market Governance of the Emissions Trading Scheme: Options and Analysis – explores options for market oversight of the NZ ETS. It addresses whether there is a need for regulation of the market in a similar way to regulation of financial markets, to address potential or actual problems.
MfE will be using the information from the reports for their work on NZ ETS market information and governance and will provide advice to Ministers in mid-2018. Consultation with stakeholders will follow in the second half of 2018.
New NZ ETS and emissions information is now available
The Ministry for Primary Industries have started publishing information on the processing of Mandatory Emissions Returns (MERs) for post-1989 forestry participants. These statistics will help market participants better understand New Zealand Unit supply in the NZ ETS. This information will be updated fortnightly and can be found here.
MfE has recently updated New Zealand’s emission projections. Please see New Zealand’s national greenhouse gas inventory 1990-2016 was released this week. The inventory is the official annual estimate of all human-generated greenhouse gas emissions and removals in New Zealand. Following this, there has also been an update to New Zealand’s net position, which tracks progress towards our unconditional 2020 emissions reduction target.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss any of the issues identified above, please email NZETSreview@mfe.govt.nz.
New approach to managing myrtle rust in NZThe Ministry for Primary Industries and the Department of Conservation say the fight against the plant disease myrtle rust is changing gear, given the prevalence of the disease across susceptible parts of New Zealand.
Myrtle rust has now been confirmed in the Tasman region at the top of the South Island, which means the disease has been found across almost all regions identified as most vulnerable based on habitat suitability and wind patterns.
“When myrtle rust was first discovered on mainland New Zealand in May last year, we said it would be a challenging disease to contain and eradicate but we would give it a good crack,” says the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Myrtle Rust Response Spokesperson Dr Catherine Duthie. “There has been an enormous operational effort over the last 11 months, but the windborne nature of the disease means that containment has not proved possible. We have signalled for a while the likely need to change gear from intensive surveillance and the removal and destruction of host plants, to one where we look to manage the disease over the long term.”
The fungus has been found in Tasman region on ramarama (Lophomyrtus) on a residential property in Collingwood in Golden Bay, and a commercial property at Pohara. In addition, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has confirmed infections on five properties at Omori on the south-western edge of Lake Taupo, which is also a new region for infection.
“We now have well over 540 infected sites across the North Island and now the top of the South,” says Dr Duthie. “Because of the windborne, pernicious nature of the disease, we have to anticipate that there are likely to be many more infected sites beyond these.”
Dr Duthie says the focus of efforts now had to be placed on a science programme designed to lift our understanding around the disease such as ways to treat myrtle rust, resistance and susceptibility, and to improve seed banking collection.
“A second key focus has to be on working with communities across New Zealand to support regional efforts to combat myrtle rust. As we transition to long term management, MPI and the Department of Conservation (DOC) will be engaging with iwi and hapu, territorial authorities, the plant and nursery industries, and communities to support the development of regional programmes. This could include regional surveillance programmes, identification and protection strategies for taonga plants and special locations, advice to landowners, seed banking, and broad community engagement.”
As part of involving and informing communities at the grassroots, MPI and DOC will hold hui with iwi and councils in affected regions over the coming months. More than 540 properties are known to have been infected by the fungal disease since it was first detected on mainland New Zealand in mid-May 2017. Since then, more than 5000 myrtle plants have been securely removed and destroyed, and more than 95,000 myrtle plants inspected.
Tool for tree planting potential on farmsThe Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will provide NZ$250,000 for the development of a digital tool for farmers to assess the viability of planting trees on Taranaki hill country farms, New Zealand’s Regional Economic Development and Forestry Minister Shane Jones has announced.
“Landowners will be able to use the simple digital tool to identify the return on investment and benefits of planting trees on their hill country farms,” Shane Jones said.
“It could help accelerate tree planting in the hill country from current rates leading to jobs, and environmental and social benefits. The tool could include decision-making help on the Emissions Trading Scheme and utilising tools such as SEDNET, which is used to predict land management effects on erosion and sediment yield.
“Taranaki has about 80,000 hectares of hill country in low-producing pastoral grassland that would be better suited, in terms of sustainable land use, to some form of forestry or vegetative cover. Yet there has been a gap of practical information to help farmers with their decision making”.
“For more marginal farm land, there’s clear evidence that supports higher returns for forestry per hectare compared to dry-stock over the rotation of a forest,” Shane Jones said.
The Taranaki Regional Council will lead the work as it has well-established relationships with hill country farmers to help diversify their land use where needed. The development of the tool will take about 12 months and will serve as a pilot project which could be replicated in other regions. The NZ$440,000 initiative is being co-funded by the Taranaki Regional Council, which will play a major role promoting the tool.
Lego plans new sustainable piecesFans of Lego can rest assured that when they come to use tree, leaf or bush pieces they will now more closely resemble the real thing. This is because the Danish toymaker is introducing new plant-based material to be used on its botanical elements, starting from this year. The new sustainable elements are made out of a “plant-based plastic” called polyethylene, sourced from sugar-cane, which the company states is “technically identical” to the current products made from conventional plastic.
Tim Brooks, the Lego Group’s head of environmental responsibility explains that “we want to make a positive impact on the world around us and are working hard to make great play products for children using sustainable materials”. However, the new polyethylene elements will only make up “1-2 percent” of the total amount of conventional plastic the company currently produces. Mr Brooks added that the move was “a great first step in our ambitious commitment of making all Lego bricks using sustainable materials”.
Lego has been working for years to incorporate sustainability into its business practices. Along with sourcing 100 percent of its energy needs from renewables, it has also set a 2030 target to reach zero waste across all its operations. The group has also partnered with WWF to ensure the raw material in its products are sustainably sourced. WWF has started a Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance, which works to this end.
Photo Credit: Lego
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... and one to end the week on ... an early morning test
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And on that note, enjoy your weekend. Cheers.
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