Everything You Should Know About Rivet Nuts

Finding the right fastener for a project requires more thought and deliberation than you would expect. Finding the right fastener can seem impossible, especially when trying to fasten thin or brittle materials together. This is where rivet nuts shine. From use in aerospace and automotive manufacturing to furniture and consumer goods, rivet nuts are an innovative and easy fastening method that’s both revolutionized and simplified how products are assembled. In this article, we dive deeper into rivet nuts and discuss everything there is to know about them – from what they are and how they’re used to different types of rivet nuts and their advantages.


What are Rivet Nuts?

Rivet nuts, alternatively known as RIVNUTs®, were developed by the BF Goodrich Company in the late 1930s. Also called blind rivet nuts or threaded inserts, rivet nuts are internally threaded components that are completely anchored on one side. Originally used to secure deicing boots to aircraft wings, rivet nuts have since been adapted into many different forms and types for various fastening applications. 

Rivet nuts are derived from standard rivets and are paired with standard sized bolts. Rivet nuts can have round, square, splined, or hexagonal bodies. Because it’s considered a blind fastener, rivet nuts are used in applications where only a single side of the workpiece is accessible. This makes rivet nuts one of the most versatile fastening devices that exist.

How do Rivet Nuts Work?

Like a normal rivet, rivet nuts are punched into a workpiece to fasten two or more materials together. The difference between a rivet and a rivet nut is that the rivet nut is only punched into a single piece of material, not all the constituent materials to be joined. Once the rivet nut is installed into one material, the remaining materials to be joined can be fastened with an externally threaded fastener, like a bolt, to the rivet nut. It’s that simple.

The simplicity in how rivet nuts are used to fasten materials together is what makes them so versatile. It can be argued that rivet nuts are easier to use and better at joining materials together than self tapping screws or pressed inserts.

How to Install Rivet Nuts?

To install a rivet nut, have a drill, appropriately sized drill bit, and a rivet nut tool available. Installing rivet nuts is as easy as following the 5 steps below:

  1. Drill a pilot hole with the same diameter as the rivet nut to be used in the workpiece.
  2. Take the rivet nut and thread it until flush onto the mandrel of the rivet nut tool.
  3. Pull the opposite end of the mandrel as far back as allowed and thread the adjuster back to contact it.
  4. Install the rivet nut using the rivet gun by inserting the rivet nut into the drilled pilot hole and squeezing the handles of the tool until it reaches a stop.
  5. Remove the rivet nut tool by unscrewing the mandrel from the rivet nut.

Be careful not to apply too much force on the rivet nut during installation as this may ruin the internal threads of the rivet nut.

When are Rivet Nuts Used?

Rivet nuts can be used to fasten a variety of materials together – including different types of metals, plastics, fiberglass, and carbon fiber. Like a normal rivet, rivet nuts are blind – as in, only one side of the workpiece is visible when installing the rivet nut. While the rivet nut will be permanently fixed to the material it is attached to, materials assembled to the rivet nut via a bolt, pin, or other devices can be removed. 

Because of their light weight, small size, and easy installation, they are often used in applications where weight reduction is critical (i.e. aerospace and automotive). Additionally, rivet nuts can have high shear and tensile strengths, making them ideal for load bearing applications. This makes them also great for use in furniture, certain consumer goods, and electronics. While weight reduction and load-bearing are certainly advantages of using rivet nuts, manufacturers can also benefit from reduced costs due to faster assembly. Rivet nut installation can even be automated through 6-axis robots or other automotive processes.

Different types of Rivet Nuts and Their Advantages

1. Round Rivet Nuts

These nuts are made for circular holes and have a smooth or knurled surface on the shank of the nut. While both smooth and knurled surfaces can provide spin-out resistance, knurled surfaces provide better resistance since the knurled surfaces “bite” into the workpiece. Round rivet nuts can be made either with open or closed ends. Closed-ended rivet nuts are great for preventing the trickling of unwanted gasses or liquids through the rivet nut and out the installation side. The 3 biggest advantages of round rivet nuts are:

  1. Strong, internal threads on round rivet nuts allow fastening to be completed on thin materials which cannot be tapped.
  2. Simple installation makes round rivet nuts ideal for assembling parts together when compared to other fastening methods.
  3. Easy, but labor intensive, installation can be automated to reduce overall costs associated with the fabrication of parts and assemblies.

2. Hexagonal Rivet Nuts

Hexagonal (hex) rivet nuts, like round ones, provide great spinout resistance and are used for hexagonal shaped holes. Hexagonal rivet nuts have hexagonal shaped shanks and are usually designed for more load bearing applications. Hydro-pneumatic tools are usually recommended when installing hexagonal rivet nuts. Semi-hexagonal rivet nuts are a subtype of normal hex rivet nuts and feature a hexagonal shank that gradually tapers to a round shank. Semi-hex rivet nuts are typically used in lighter-duty applications and can be used with standard rivet nut tools. 3 advantages of hex rivet nuts are described below:

  1. Excellent spinout resistance compared to round rivet nuts.
  2. Several different sizes of hex rivet nuts allow for a variety of mating applications.
  3. Corrosion resistant finishes can be added to hexagonal rivet nuts to make them more environmentally stable.

3. Slotted Rivet Nuts

Slotted, plus, or cross rivet nuts have a slotted body and a straight shank. These types of nuts have a large footprint on the non-blind side of the workpiece which adds pullout resistance. Alternatively, a shank may also be pre-bulbed for added spin-out resistance. Slotted rivet nuts offer an extensive grip range ideal for fastening varying thickness materials. The advantages of slotted rivet nuts are described below:

  1. Corrosion resistant surface finishes allow slotted rivet nuts to be used in a variety of environments.
  2. Simple and easy installation of slotted rivet nuts can be completed with standard rivet nut tools.
  3. Surfaces are not distorted when a slotted rivet nut is installed in plastic workpieces.

4. Swaged Rivet Nuts

In thicker materials that have reduced clearance requirements, swaged rivet nuts provide strong, durable internal threads for fastening. The design of these nuts allows a segment of the nut to deform during installation. This deformation causes the walls of the rivet nut to extend outwards into the fastened component which leads to a firm hold. 3 advantages of swaged rivet nuts are described below:

  1. Swaged rivet nuts have a shorter profile which allows them to be used in applications that have reduced clearance.
  2. Improved shear strengths due to increased wall thicknesses present in the nut.

5. Floating Rivet Nuts 

Floating rivet nuts allow for flexible fastening of workpieces. In these types of nuts, internal threads of the nut “float” within the nut body which allows for the angled installation of bolts. This provides both accurate and efficient assembly of products and eliminates the risk of both spinout and cross-threading. Floating rivet nuts can be made in a variety of lengths and sizes to fit different thicknesses and clearance specifications. Advantages of floating rivet nuts include:

  1. Easily fasten off center or misaligned workpieces with floating rivet nuts.
  2. A hydro-pneumatic installation tool is recommended when installing floating rivet nuts.
  3. Excellent replacements for both riveted nut plates and cage nuts.

6. Rivet Nut Studs

Composed of two pieces, rivet nut studs contain the rivet nut and an externally threaded stud. When the rivet nut is installed, the stud protrudes beyond the workpiece. This allows conventional fasteners, like standard hex nuts, to be mated onto the threaded stud. Advantages are described below:

  1. Cost effective fastening method compared to weld or clinch studs.
  2. Easier placement of components makes final assembly processes easy when using a rivet nut stud.

Final Thoughts

While finding the right fastener for your project may be a challenge, it doesn’t have to be. Rivet nuts provide an innovative and flexible fastening method that rivals traditional methods such as the use of bolts or welds. Rivet nuts are easy and cost effective to install, have exceptional tensile and shear strengths, and enable the function of many of the goods and modes of transportation we use every day. Contact an Albany County Fasteners sales representative today to discuss which rivet nut is right for your project.

What Are Belleville Washers?

What is a Belleville Washer?

installed belleville washer with bolt

These cupped spring washers flatten out as pressure is applied to them. They are commonly used to produce exceptionally high loads in small areas. Coned disk washers can absorb and dampen shocks and vibration as well, making them useful in many industries and applications.

The Many Industry Terms of Belleville Washers

BellevilleConed – Disc
ConicalCupped Spring
Spring LockSpring
Conical SpringDisc Spring
Belleville Spring

How Conical Washers Work

The conical spring washer has a cone shape that presses against the underside of the bolt head and into the installation material. This increased tension has a number of benefits including:

  • Vibration Control (Lock Washer)
  • Pre-Load
  • Increased Load
  • Increased Deflection
  • Spacing
  • Dampen/Absorb Shocks

Relevant Definitions

Pre-Load
Refers to the axial load placed on a fastener. Pre-load is considered to be 75% of the proof-load.
Proof-load
A test load a fastener MUST be able to hold without causing any compromise in its integrity. Considered the maximum safe load of a fastener.
Deflection
The degree to which a structural element is displaced under a load.

Due to their resistance to vibrations, conical washers are also considered to be lock washers as they perform a similar function. These disc spring washers are not only useful on their own but can be stacked in several different structures for increased resistance / absorption as well.

Belleville Spring Washer Stacks

Spring washers can be stacked in several structures to increase certain characteristics they produce for optimal performance.

series stack belleville washers

Series Stack

A series stack involves placing the washers top to bottom so that they create a gap in the middle. This can greatly increase the deflection of the stack by adding a spring like effect to the washers. *Note: This stack does not increase the load capacity of the fastener assembly.

parallel stack belleville washers

Parallel Stack

A parallel stack involves placing all of the washers in the same direction. Each added washer increases the load capacity of the stack. *Note: The deflection does not increase based on this stack.


parallel/series stack belleville washers

Parallel/Series Stack

The mixed parallel/series stack involves performing both types of stacks in a single fastener assembly. This increases both the load and deflection and can be arranged to suit almost any situation as needed to comply with the project needs.

Please note that while Belleville spring lock washers are exceptionally versatile and can be stacked in multiple configurations, the washer that rests against the installation material must always have it’s widest portion against the material.

Belleville Washer Uses

Due to Belleville washers being so versatile, they have many different uses and can be found in many different industries.

Spring Washer Uses
Locking (Prevent Fasteners Vibrating Loose) Limit effects of Relaxation
Spring Resolve Thermal Expansion
Spacer Dampen/Absorb Shock
Deter Bolt Yield Extra Tension
Shim
Industries That Use Conical Washers
Energy Utility Transmission
Distribution Pump and Valve Manufacturing
Chemical Automotive
Transportation Industrial Automation
And Many More

Can Belleville Washers Be Reused?

Yes, Belleville conical washers can be reused, repeatedly, as long as they are not damaged. Overloading and over-torquing these washers can wear them out over time. As long as they are used properly and checked before reuse, these fasteners can be used again and again to complete projects.

Belleville Washer Installation

Installing Belleville washers is very easy. There are only a few steps to consider:

  1. Determine the project load capacity and deflection.
  2. Decide which Spring Washer Stack will give you the optimal results.
  3. Slide the washers onto a bolt in the optimal stack.
  4. Slide the bolt through the installation material with the stack pressing against the installation material (remember the base washer must be facing down).
  5. Tighten the bolt against the other side of the installation material.
Shop Belleville Conical Washers

How to Measure Material Thickness for Rivet Installation

Determining Rivet Length

Blind rivets, often called POP rivets, serve a simple purpose in the fastening world: to fasten materials together while having access to only one side. That is how they came to be known as “blind rivets” since you’re attaching the rivet blind to whatever may be on the other side of your workpiece. Though efficient, this type of installation can cause problems when selecting a rivet to use.

Why is having access to one side of a material a problem?

The length of a rivet determines its effective grip range, or how much material it can effectively hold together. Having access to both sides of a material allows a user to easily install and gauge the size of the fastener they need. If you don’t have access to the opposite side of the rivet installation material, it can be a real pain to pick the right rivet.

Issues Caused by Only Seeing One Side of an Installation Material

  1. Impossible to use a traditional nut and bolt
  2. Cannot determine material thickness because the blind side material thickness is not known
  3. Often leads to users trying multiple grip lengths until they find one that works
measuring material thickness when only one side is available

Determining Material Thickness

In the event of needing to fasten one material to another with a rivet, it is relatively easy to determine thickness. The problem is determining thickness when you cannot access the back of both materials.

Many users will resort to using a multi-grip rivet at this point, as it serves as a best-case option for going in blind. While there is nothing wrong with multi-grip rivets, they are not always the best answer and can still not cover the thickness needed, or be suitable for every application.

Measuring Material Thickness with Access to Both Sides

Material thickness can be easily measured when you have access to both sides. All you have to do is place the two materials against each other and measure them with a tape measure or caliper, or measure both materials on their own and add them together: Material 1 + Material 2 = Material Thickness. For example, if both materials are 1/4″ thick, then you’ll need a rivet that can 1/2″ thick of material. Once you have the material thickness, you can figure out the grip of rivet you need.

Measuring Material Thickness without Access to Both Sides

What You’ll Need
  • A Drill
  • A Pencil/Marker
  • A Rivet Diameter
  • A Drill Bit
  • 1 Nail with the head smaller than the diameter of the drill bit.
determining rivet length
Determining the Thickness
  1. The first step is to line your materials up and determine where you will be putting a rivet.
  2. Mark that spot and use the drill bit to drill through both materials.
  3. With the hole drilled, take the nail and insert it head side first.
  4. Pull up on the nail and begin pulling it back out. It will catch on the inside material.
  5. Then, take the pencil/marker and mark the exposed portion of the nail where it enters the drilled hole.
  6. Now stop pulling the nail up and remove it from the hole.
  7. Using a tape measure or caliper, measure from under the head of the nail to the mark. That number is your material thickness.

Conclusion

Using the thickness, we can determine the grip that we will need. For example, the hole is 3/16 of an inch in diameter, and the measurement from the nail is 0.30 inches. This means that we would need a 6-6 rivet, which has a 3/16 inch diameter and a 0.251 – 0.375 inch grip range.

A best practice is to choose a rivet with a grip range that your total material thickness falls within, without being at the minimum or maximum of that grip range. Following the example previously, a material thickness of 0.30 inches falls comfortably within the 0.251 – 0.375 inch grip range of our chosen pop rivet. This practice can help ensure tensile and shear strength of the blind rivet and improve its overall longevity.

For an added bonus, check out our Rivet Measuring Guide view rivet diameters and grips to determine the number rivet you need.


How to Measure Material Thickness For Rivet Installation
How to Measure Material Thickness For Rivet Installation Transcript

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Bob: Welcome back to Albany County Fasteners – Fasteners 101. I’m Bob, today we’re going to show you how to measure two pieces of material to receive a rivet. So let’s get started.

So everybody’s asking “how do I measure material, in place, on a jobsite? How do I measure the two pieces of material for a rivet?” We’re gonna demonstrate to you here how to do it.

Let’s just look at this as if it’s in place, and you can’t see the backside, but we’ll show you the backside. All you need is a nail or a screw, a flathead screw. Something that has some type of lip on it that you can grab the backside with. That’s what we’re looking for.

You would put the nail in the hole and you just pull it. Then you take a sharpie or a marker and just pull on it, and then put a mark on you nail. You see, there’s the mark. Take a caliper or tape measure and then you would measure it. This comes out to about 0.478”.

You can then find a rivet within that grip range. This is an 8-8. This grip range is between a quarter inch and a half inch. We needed 0.479″ which falls in that range. This rivet goes between 0.25″ and 0.50”. So I’m gonna slide it in. Take my tool, and I’m going to show you that this will work perfectly.

There you go. It’s installed. The proper size. And that’s how you measure product when you can’t get to the other side.

Thanks for watching.

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What Are Spanner (Snake-Eye) Security Bits

The spanner security drive style is a security drive style. It is called a security drive style because it has an unconventional driving method. The spanner security style uses two points on the bit that sit into the recess of the fastener head. This makes if very difficult to remove or tamper with without using the proper bit.

Spanner Security Drive Style

What Are Spanner Security Bits Used For?

Spanner (Snake-Eye) security bits are used for making installations more secure. By adding an unconventional drive stile in public areas, they are much less likely to be vandalized or tampered with on a whim. Spanner screws can be seen commonly on public applications such as: Bathroom dividers and Public Art Displays.

Why are Spanner Security Bits More Likely To Break?

While spanner security bits are one of the best security drive styles around for adding extra security to applications, they do have a big downside. A Spanner bit has two teeth that are inserted into the drive recess for fastening. Due to this style, all of the torque is generated by the force on those two points. This puts them under a great deal of stress when installing. This extreme stress on two points makes them much more susceptible to snapping than other types of bits.

Situations That Cause Spanner Bits To Break and How to Prevent Them

There are several reasons that spanner bits commonly break. Luckily, most of them can be avoided or solved with just some simple changes to the installation process.

Situation Solution
Spanner Bit Snaps During Proper Installation Assuming everything is done right and the bit still snaps, it is likely that the bits are of unacceptable quality. Find a reputable dealer with good reviews and use their bits.
Bits Snapping in Hardwood Applications When using harder materials, a spanner screw must have a pilot hole drilled into the material. The bits are not going to be able to provide that much force before failing. The same is true for knots in wood.
Hitting the second material (if harder) If the second material is much harder than the first (attaching wood to metal for example) when the screw hits the second material, it will require more force to drive through and snap. To prevent this, drill a pilot hole.
Wrong Screw Type The screw type is often wrongly chosen for an application. This can cause poor performance while driving and increase force on the bit. Make sure to use the correct screw type for your application.
Driving the screw below the surface of the material When driving a screw, once the head presses against the material, it will greatly increase the friction on the screw. To drive the screw further, the amount of force on the bit will dramatically increase. To solve this problem, countersink the hole before installing the screw if you want the head to be below the surface.
Proper Drilling Technique Make sure you keep your drill straight when installing the screw, especially with spanner bits. Since there are only two points of contact, both need to share the weight evenly. Make sure to apply steady pressure and keep the drill straight, not angled to the fastener.

Spanner Bits: Worth It?

Over-all, spanner security bits are a great drive style and can make it very difficult, if not impossible, to remove without the proper bit. This makes them a common choice for applications that are open to the public without monitoring such as bathrooms or outside art exhibits. *While security drive styles are less likely to be tampered with, it is still easy to get the drives online. Even though they are readily available, the likelihood of tampering is still greatly reduced by using them.

shop spanner bits

How to Prevent Your Spanner Bits From Breaking | Fasteners 101

How to Prevent Your Spanner Bits From Breaking | Fasteners 101
Transcript

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Bob: Welcome back to Albany County Fasteners – Fasteners 101. I’m Bob and today I’m going to demonstrate installing sheet metal screws with a spanner bit and a spanner screw snake eye screw.

Several different names for these out there. We do get some complaints from buyers saying they snapped the bits. In several situations, you could snap a bit. However, if you use it properly you will not snap the bit.

Some applications where you would possibly snap a bit: 1 – Going into hardwood without pre-drilling. If you go into hard wood and you don’t pre-drill and you just try to drive the sheet metal screw into the wood, chances are you will snap the bit or you’ll snap the screw. Either one could happen. I can drive this screw into this soft wood, which is a 2×4, with no issues of snapping a bit and remove it. I’m gonna demonstrate that.

Another way to snap a bit would be running it into a material and then on the back end there’s some metal that the screw cannot go through and you’re trying and you get an immediate stop in the screw. That will snap a bit.

There’s only two teeth on one of these spanner drivers and, of course, they can snap. It’s not the perfect world with these type of bits. Not like a Torx driver or something along those lines. Where they’re very hard to strip out or snap.

So I’m going to demonstrate, right now, installing this and it’s always important to make sure that your bit is square to the screw and the wood so you have positive contact. Put your hand on the back of the drill and you’ll see, I’m just driving it in with no problem. It’ll suck it in and now I just snapped it and why did I snap it?

I snapped it because the head is countersunk, and the screw came to a stopping point. So those who are snapping bits that would give you a reason so you can see here the bit is snapped. I can’t use that bit anymore.

If you’re driving a screw and a natural piece of wood and not over-torqueing it, you should have absolutely no problems with the bits. It doesn’t matter the quality of the bit. You will still snap the bit if you enter that type of situation.

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What is Bolt Preload?

A bolt and nut are used together as a compressive force to keep materials connected. The threads of the nut work with the threads of the screw to apply force to either side of the fastened material. This tension is called Bolt Preload, which is the compression created as the nut is tightened against the bolt (or vice-versa).

how forces act on a bolt with proper preload

When a load (weight) is placed on a bolt, it is limited to the amount of load the bolt can handle before failing. However, when a bolt is tightened against a material, it allows the bolt to distribute the force through the material, so the bolt itself only holds a portion of the load. This means that a bolt can hold a significantly higher load when the correct amount of tension is applied. That tension is known as preload.

Load – The amount of force acting on a fastener assembly

Preload – The amount of tension (compression) needed to distribute a load’s force throughout a fastener assembly

Working Load – The load placed on the assembly once ready to perform

Bolt Preload – The tension created when the nut is screwed onto a bolt to hold two materials together. When the tension reaches the optimal preload, the working load (load added after creating the assembly) placed on a bolt will be distributed into the installation materials, so the bolt does not take the entire load.

The Outcomes of Bolt Preload:

  • If the assembly is loose (the preload is not correctly applied), the external load increases the load on the bolt only. This will result in bolt failure.
  • If the assembly is tight (the correct preload has been applied), the load will only cause bolt deformation by distributing the load through the bolt and the nut.

How Bolt Preload Works

Bolts are incredible tools, but they are actually not as strong as we’d think. When first glancing at a bolt assembly with a working load attached to it, it appears as though the bolt is holding that entire load on its own. This is not the case.

When a bolt has preload, it is able to distribute the working load out across the plate near the head of the bolt. We will refer to this as the support plate. This means a properly installed bolt assembly can withstand a much heavier load as it distributes the force out away from itself. When a working load is applied to a fastener assembly that has not been preloaded, the entire force is placed on the bolt alone, which makes it much more likely to fail.

Why Is Bolt Preload So Important?

how forces act on a bolt with no preload

As discussed above, without bolt preload, the entire structure would be totally reliant on the bolt to hold the weight. When preload is applied, significantly less bolts are needed, as the material (Support Plate) will play a significantly larger role in holding the working load. This is not a cure-all however; a working load may still exceed the preload of the bolts which can result in the bolts failing, the support plate failing, or both.

Easy Ways to Determine Bolt Preload

  • Use a Torque Wrench to Reach Optimal Torque
    • While this is not a true measure of bolt preload, if a bolt is fastened to its optimal torque it can be assumed it is close to the correct preload. The reason this method is not readily accepted is because the torque will be directly affected by the material it is being spun against. A rougher material will produce more friction, which will make the torque value higher while reducing the preload tension. The opposite is also true. You can hit optimal torque without hitting the optimal preload (and vice versa). In the end it depends on the material, which is why this method isn’t exact, but it is a decent guess.
  • Use Preload Indicating Washers
    • Preload indicating washers are washers that are designed to spin until a certain amount of load is applied to them. This way, once the washer is no longer free-spinning, the preload has been met. This is a much simpler way of determining if the correct compression has been met.
  • Use Direct Tension Indicating Washers
    • These washers have little bumps that flatten when preload is achieved. Once flattened, a feeler gauge is used to make sure the bolt shaft is no more than 50% accessible under the washer (ideally less).
  • Use Silicon Direct Tension Indicating Washers
    • These washers operate in a similar way to the direct tension indicating washers above. These washers have small recesses where a silicon paste is filled in. As the nut tightens against them, the silicon begins to come out of the sides of the washer. To identify when optimal preload is achieved on this type of washer, the amount of recesses on the washer minus one need to be exposed out the sides. For example: If there are 6 recesses, then a minimum of 5 need to be exposed. 6 recesses – 1 recess = 5 (Preload has been reached)
  • Tighten Until Snug, and Then Tighten “X” Degrees
    • A less reliable approach is to tighten the nut until snug, and then to torque the nut “X” degrees. For example, a recommendation of 90 degrees would look like the following: Spin the nut onto the assembly until snug against the material. Attach the wrench to the nut and spin it a quarter of a turn (90 degrees). This method will give you a close to accurate preload.

So what does bolt preload do?

Bolt preload ultimately allows a fully tightened bolt to survive in an application where an untightened or loose assembly would fail very quickly. When tight, the joint provides a conduit for the force to flow through into the assembly materials themselves. This means the bolt assembly itself is only under a portion of the force of the working load. While you cannot look at a bolt and see this transfer occurring, the preload allows bolts to survive in much more rigorous applications.


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