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DOI 10.1515/tjj-2012-0039

Int. J. Turbo Jet-Engines 2013; 30(1): 3342

Changduk Kong* and Kyungsun Lee

Study on Design of High Efficiency and Light


Weight Composite Propeller Blade for a Regional
Turboprop Aircraft
Abstract: In this study, aerodynamic and structural design
of the composite propeller blade for a regional turboprop
aircraft is performed. The thin and wide chord propeller
blade of high speed turboprop aircraft should have proper
strength and stiffness to carry various kinds of loads such
as high aerodynamic bending and twisting moments and
centrifugal forces. Therefore the skin-spar-foam sandwich
structure using high strength and stiffness carbon/epoxy
composite materials is used to improve the lightness. A
specific design procedure is proposed in this work as
follows; firstly the aerodynamic configuration design,
which is acceptable for the design requirements, is carried
out using the in-house code developed by authors, secondly the structure design loads are determined through
the aerodynamic load case analysis, thirdly the spar flange
and the skin are preliminarily sized by consideration of
major bending moments and shear forces using both the
netting rule and the rule of mixture, and finally, the stress
analysis is performed to confirm the structural safety and
stability using finite element analysis commercial code,
MSC. NASTRAN/PATRAN. Furthermore the additional
analysis is performed to confirm the structural safety due
to bird strike impact on the blade during flight operation
using a commercial code, ANSYS.
To realize the proposed propeller design, the prototype blades are manufactured by the following procedure;
the carbon/epoxy composite fabric prepregs are laid up
for skin and spar on a mold using the hand lay-up method
and consolidated with a proper temperature and vacuum
in the oven.
To finalize the structural design, the full-scale static
structural test is performed under the simulated aerodynamic loads using 3 point loading method. From the experimental results, it is found that the designed blade has
a good structural integrity, and the measured results agree
well with the analytical results as well.
Keywords: composite propeller blade, turboprop, regional
aircraft, bird strike impact

*Corresponding author: Changduk Kong: Department of Aerospace


Engineering, Chosun University, Gwangju 501759, Republic of Korea
E-mail: cdgong@chosun.ac.kr
Kyungsun Lee: Department of Aerospace Engineering, Chosun
University, Gwangju 501759, Republic of Korea

1Introduction
Recently, the development need of environmental and
fuel efficient aircrafts has been emphasized as an ecofriendly requirement in response to high oil prices. Aircrafts take up 35% of the worlds carbon dioxide emission amount and the aircraft industry is placed at the top
in the emission amount as a single industry. The amount
of carbon dioxide being discharged in high altitude
atmosphere is larger than that being discharged by every
vehicle on the earth. Accordingly, it is necessary to develop
the next-generation eco-friendly and high fuel efficiency
engine technology to enhance the fuel efficiency and
aerodynamic performance of aircrafts for the purpose of
reducing carbon dioxide emission amount prior to col
lecting and dealing with air pollution substances being
discharged.
Lots of studies for advanced turboprop have been performed. Among the previous studies, Roy H. Lange performed a review of advanced turboprop transport aircraft
in 1986 [1]. F. Farassat et al. investigated advanced turboprop noise prediction based on recent theoretical results
in 1987 [2], and this paper deals with the development of a
high speed propeller noise prediction code at Langley Research Center. J. A. Liser et al. studied aero-acoustic design
of a 6-bladed propeller in 1997 [3], and this paper shows
that the tip Mach number reduction is a very effective way
of reducing noise levels, especially at transonic Mach
number. In 2006, Quentin R. Wald performed a study on
aerodynamics of propellers [4], and this paper treats
theory and design of propellers having minimum induced
loss. In 1992, Takashi Yamane performed a study of aeroelastic tailoring analysis of advanced turboprop composite
blades [5], and this paper proposes an aeroelastic model

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C.D. Kong and K.S. Lee, Study on Design of High Efficiency and Light Weight Composite Propeller Blade

of advanced composite propeller blade. Many studies


show that the efficiency of advanced turboprop engines is
higher than that of the current turbofan engines. Even
though various aerodynamic design theories have been
proposed, but little research works on composite propeller
structure design.
In this work, aerodynamic and structural design of
the propeller blade for an advanced turboprop aircraft,
which will be used for a next generation regional commercial aircraft in Korea, are carried out. In the aerodynamic
design, the parametric studies are performed to decide
anoptimum aerodynamic configuration having a specific
HS1 series airfoil [8]. In structural design, the proposed
propeller blade uses the carbon/epoxy composite skin
and spar and urethane foam core sandwich type structure, so-called skin-spar-foam sandwich, is adopted. In
order to confirm the initially designed propeller using the
netting rule and the rule of mixture, the structural anal
ysis including stress, eigen value and buckling analyses is
performed using a commercial finite element code, MSC.
NASTRAN. The fluidstructure interaction analysis has
been used as a coupled analysis method for the bird strike
impact analysis. The coupled analysis means that consideration of the effect by interaction in case fields are combined. In this study, the bird strike phenomenon is analyzed using a commercial code, ANSYS [17, 18]. To finalize
the proposed propeller structure design, the prototype
propeller is manufactured, tested and compared with the
structural analysis results.

2Aerodynamic design
There are several design methods to size the aerodynamic
blade configuration parameters such as chord length and
twist angle. This work uses both the vortex theory and the
blade element theory [9, 13] for this purpose. The propeller
blade airfoil configuration is an important factor to determine various performance parameters. In this work, the
HS1 series airfoil is selected for the design purpose. Based
on the regional aircraft system specification to be developed in Korea shown at Figure 1 and Table 1, the propeller
blade design specification is briefly summarized in Table
2. The number of blades is selected as 8 blades based on
previous studies [67].
The blade diameter is determined by the following
formulae [913]:
D=

Vt
N

(1)

Fig. 1: Conceptual view of 88/72-seat regional turboprop aircraft

Cruising altitude
Cruising speed
Take-off power
Engine

5200 m
511 km/h
2 2229 HP
2 PWC 127F Turboprop

Table 1: Specification of regional turboprop aircraft

Rotation speed
Inflow velocity
Thrust
Power
Efficiency

980 rpm
142 m/s
10.36 kN
2229 HP
0.89

Table 2: Propeller design specification

where Vt is blade tip speed, N is propeller rotational speed


and D is propeller diameter.
The advanced ratio is defined as an important propeller design parameter in propeller design:
J=

VF
ND

(2)

Power absorbed by the blade section profile drag is estimated by the following expression:
P00
=

C
2 P
R dd

3VFF
Cll ==00

(3)

where P0 is profile drag power, is propeller efficiency, P


is propeller power delivered from engine, is propeller
angular velocity, R is propeller radius, Cd is blade section
drag coefficient, Cl is blade section lift coefficient and VF is
cruising speed.
The slipstream velocity can be obtained based on the
momentum relationship to calculate the thrust. While the
above relation is valid, it does not account for the flow

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C.D. Kong and K.S. Lee, Study on Design of High Efficiency and Light Weight Composite Propeller Blade

istortion due to spinner, cowl and nacelle. Based on the


d
complicated flow analysis results a simplified expression
to consider the flow distortion is given by the following
correction factor in the actual operation:
r
K ( r ) 0.7371
=
E

-0.4574

+ 0.84

=
V VF (1 + a ) K ( r )

=
VR

A=

(6)
(7)

(2 rN )2 + V 2

(8)

B=1-A

(9)

1.5958 T /
bDVt

4T (r / R)
BRbVr2Cl

(11)

V
2 rN

(12)

= tan -1

(13)

p = 1.50 R tan

where Cr is chord length, R is propeller tip radius, b is the


number of blade, is air density, Vr is velocity at radius r,
is blade angle, r is section blade radius, p is pitch and
is section pitch angle.
Aerodynamic design results of the propeller blade are
shown in Tables 3 and 4. Figure 2 shows the proposed
aerodynamic configuration.
Aerodynamic performance including thrust, power
and efficiency of the designed propeller blade are analyzed by the following expressions with thrust coefficient
and power coefficient [12]:

Diameter
Number of blades
Blade root chord

Section

r/R

(degree)

Cr (mm)

A-A
B-B
C-C
D-D
E-E
F-F
G-G
H-H
I-I

0.20
0.30
0.40
0.50
0.60
0.70
0.80
0.90
1.00

65
63
59
55
50
46
41
39
35

347
347
348
352
348
338
318
248
53

Table 4: Blade angle and chord length distribution at each blade


section

(10)

where K(r) is correction factor, r is propeller radius, E is


spinner or nacelle radius, V is corrected inflow velocity
through propeller disc, a is induced velocity factor, VR is
resultant velocity at propeller blade section, B is tip loss
factor.
Finally, chord length, twisting angle and pitch angle
of blade are determined by the following expression:

Cr =

35

4.07 m
8
0.347 m

Table 3: Aerodynamic design results of propeller

dCT 3
=
(1 - a)2 x 3 C y sec 2
dx
4

(14)

dC p 4
=
(1 - a)2 x 4 C x sec 2
dx
4

(15)

a =
=
F

C x / a cos sin

F - C x / a cos sin

b(1 - r / R)
2
cos -1 exp
2 sin T

(16)
(17)

=
C x Cl sin + C d cos

(18)

=
C y Cl cos + C d sin

(19)

bc
D

(20)

T = CT N 2 D 4

(21)

P = CP N 3D5

(22)

CT J
CP

(23)

where CT is thrust coefficient, CP is power coefficient, a is


rotational interference factor, F is Prandtl momentum loss
factor, is solidity, T is thrust, P is power into propeller
and is propeller efficiency.
All the proposed aerodynamic design and performance procedure is coded by an in-house program.
In order to validate the proposed aerodynamic design
results, they are compared with the numerical performance analysis results using a commercial CFD code,
ANSYS, CFX. Figure 3 shows the flow contour of velocity
magnitude obtained by CFD analysis. In the analysis,
input data as an operating condition are the rotational
velocity of 980 RPM and the inflow velocity of 8 m/s at
cruising altitude. In order to consider the rotating position

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C.D. Kong and K.S. Lee, Study on Design of High Efficiency and Light Weight Composite Propeller Blade

Fig. 3: Flow contour of velocity magnitude obtained by CFD analysis

Performance
parameter

Analysis results by
in-house code

Analysis results by
CFD code

J
Efficiency (%)
Thrust (N)
Power (HP)
Ct
Cp

2.12
87.8
11563
2499
0.24
0.57

2.13
89.0
10378
2229.54
0.22
0.54

Table 5: Comparison between the analysis results using in-house


code and the analysis results using CFD code

of the blade, the dynamic moving mesh method is applied.


Separate disconnecting zones are used for expressing the
rotating and stationary regions. The SST (Shear Stress
Transport) turbulence model based on - model is used.
Table 5 shows comparison between the analysis results
using in-house code and the analysis results using CFD
code. Here it is found that the proposed in-house codes
results are well agreed with the CFD codes results. In
other word, it means that the proposed aerodynamic configuration design results are verified.
The propeller efficiency 0.878 of the proposed pro
peller shows better performance than other similar class
existing propellers.

3Structural design

Fig. 2: Aerodynamic configuration of the proposed propeller blade

Structural loads applied to the propeller blade are divided


into major aerodynamic loads and subsidiary loads due
to dynamic and centrifugal forces in rotation, ice, temperature and humidity effects, faults of the system, etc. in
service. It is very difficult to consider all applied loads
because they are interacted each other. However, because
aerodynamic loads are much higher than others, they are

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C.D. Kong and K.S. Lee, Study on Design of High Efficiency and Light Weight Composite Propeller Blade

Load case

Flight condition

Power (HP)

Load case 1
Load case 2
Load case 3
Power (HP)

Cruise
Loiter
Take-off
2499

2229
1148
3983
2229.54

37

Fig. 6: Schematic blade sectional view with the skin-spar-foam


sandwich

Table 6: Load cases for structural design

Fig. 4: Bending moment diagram at load cases 1, 2 and 3

Material property

Carbon/
epoxy fabric
prepreg

Polyurethane
foam

Longitudinal modulus (MPa)


Transverse modulus (MPa)
Shear modulus (MPa)
Poisson ratio
Longitudinal tensile strength
(MPa)
Longitudinal compressive
strength (MPa)
Transverse compressive
strength (MPa)
In plane shear strength (MPa)
Density (g/cm3)
Ply thickness (mm)

140,000
10,000
5,000
0.3
1,500

60.86
59.86
19.18
0.2
2.63

-1,200

1.41

-250

1.41

70
0.71
1.5
0.1197
0.125 12.5

Table 7: Mechanical properties of carbon/epoxy fabric prepreg and


polyurethane foam core

Fig. 5: Bending moment and shear force diagrams for the design
load case 3

mainly considered to avoid the design complication in


preliminary structural design. Table 6 shows load cases
for the blade structural design.
The structural design is carried out based on the load
case 3, which is the maximum load case. Figure 4 shows
the bending moment diagram at load cases 1, 2 and 3, and
Figure 5 shows flatwise and chordwise bending moment

and shear force diagrams for the design load case 3. Figure
6 shows the schematic blade sectional view having the
skin-spar-foam sandwich structure. Here the skin endues
the torsion moment, and the spar endures the bending
moment, and the form core improves the dynamic and
static stability.
The proper carbon/epoxy composite fabric prepreg is
selected in consideration of its mechanical property. Table
7 shows the mechanical properties of carbon/epoxy fabric
prepreg and polyurethane foam core to be used.
Preliminary structural design is initially carried out
using the netting rule [14, 15]. According to the netting
rule, the principal load directional thickness of main spar
flange can be sized by the cripple buckling strength. After
initial sizing, the structure is modified using the rule of
mixture that can consider approximately 10% additional
load in off-loading directions at other inclined fiber directional plies [14, 15]. Therefore the initially sized 0 ply
flange thickness by the netting rule is added by 45
and90 plies. In order to reduce the weight as well as to
strengthen both the dynamic stability and the buckling
strength, the sandwich structure with the urethane foam
core is applied. The main spar flange is extended to the
blade tip, and its thickness is gradually decreased along

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C.D. Kong and K.S. Lee, Study on Design of High Efficiency and Light Weight Composite Propeller Blade

Station

Spar flange

Plies

Station 1 (Root)
Station 2-1
Station 2-2
Station 3-1
Station 3-2
Station 4-1
Station 4-2

[(45,04,90)10]s
[(45,04,90)6,45,03]s
[(45,04,90)4,45]s
[(45,04,90)3,45,0]s
[(45,04,90)2,45,02]s
[(45,04,90)2]s
[45,04,90]s

140
94
60
48
36
28
14

Station

Skin

Plies

Station 1~5-1
Station 5-2 (Tip)

[452,0,90,452]s
[452,0]s

20
10

Fig. 8: Natural frequency mode shapes

Table 8: Thickness distribution of spar and skin along blade radius


station

Fig. 9: Campbell diagram of the designed blade

Fig. 7: Spanwise stress distribution of skin and spar

the blade radius to reduce the weight. Table 8 shows the


thickness distribution of the skin and spar flange along
the blade radius station.
The structural analysis is performed using a commercial code MSC. NASTAN, and the post processing program
MSC. PATRAN. The element type used for the analysis is
the PCOMP 4-node shell element [16]. Tsai-Wu failure
criterion is used to find the structural safety. According to
stress analysis results, it is found that maximum compressive stress and tensile stress on the skin are 84 MPa and 90
MPa, and compressive stress and tensile stress at the spar
are 74 MPa and 69 MPa. Based on the Tsai-Wu failure criterion the minimum safety factor is 2.5, so the structural
safety is confirmed. Figure 7 shows the spanwise stress
distribution of the outer skin (1st ply) and the spanwise
stress distribution of the spar (23rd ply) for the load case 3.
Dynamic effects must be substantial in a propeller
blade system because of the periodic nature of its aerodynamic loading. As a result, the design process must consider the dynamic characteristics during rotation. For this
purpose, the modal analysis is performed by the finite
element method. Figure 8 shows the first flap mode shape
and the first lead lag mode shape in natural vibrations.
Figure 9 shows Campbell diagram that the natural frequencies of both the first flap mode and the first lead-lag
mode are displayed whether resonances occur or not with

Fig. 10: Buckling mode shapes

any multiply of the rotational frequency. Resonance is a


phenomenon, which occurs in a structure when the frequency of periodic loading or excitation equals or nearly
equals one of the modal frequencies of the structure.
Thus, as shown in Figure 9, because there are no intersections of a radial line and a modal frequency line, any resonance between the blade and excitation loadings does not
occur.
The buckling analysis also is done by the finite
element method. The buckling analysis finite element
model is the same as the static analysis model under the
load case 3. Figure 10 shows the first and the second buckling modes together with the first buckling load factors of
4.8 and the second load factor of 5.5. The buckling load
factor means the ratio of the buckling load to the applied
load. The minimum buckling load factor 4.8 means that
the designed propeller blade is safe from buckling.
The root joint also is designed using the high strength
steel insert joint bolt. The joint must endure both the case

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C.D. Kong and K.S. Lee, Study on Design of High Efficiency and Light Weight Composite Propeller Blade

Modulus of elasticity (GPa)


Shear modulus of elasticity (GPa)
Poissons ratio
Ultimate strength (MPa)

39

210
80
0.3
1,200

Table 9: Mechanical properties of high strength steel

Fig. 13: Simulated bird model for analysis

Fig. 11: Schematic view of the designed root joint part

Density (kg/m3)
Bulk modulus (Pa)
Diameter (m)
Length (m)
Mass (kg)
Initial velocity (m/s)

950
2.2e9
0.114
0.228
1.8144
197

Table 10: Mechanical properties of simulated bird [17, 18]

Fig. 12: Stress analysis results of root joint part

3 aerodynamic loads and the centrifugal body force due to


rotational speed. Table 9 shows the mechanical properties
of the high strength steel, and Figure 11 shows the schematic view of the designed joint part. Figure 12 shows
stress analysis results of root joint part. Maximum vonMises stesses of steel insert bolt and composite joint part
are 128 MPa and 85 MPa, respectively. Therefore it is confirmed that the root joint structure is safe.

4Impact damage analysis due to


bird strike
The fluidstructure interaction analysis has been used as
a coupled analysis method for the bird strike impact analysis. The coupled analysis means that consideration of the
effect by interaction in case fields are combined. In this
study, the bird strike phenomenon is analyzed using a
commercial code, ANSYS. Generally, there are various
kinds of birds in nature. However, chickens are mostly
used for the bird strike test instead of wild birds because
of easy acquisition. In this work, a chicken size bird is

Fig. 14: Bird strike modeling using finite element meshes

s elected as a bird strike analysis model. Figure 13 shows a


simulated bird model for the analysis, and its mechanical
properties are shown in Table 10 [17, 18]. The hydrodynamic material is applied to the bird modeling. Figure 14
shows the finite element modeling of bird and blade using
triangular shell elements. The location of impact region is
assumed as 75% of blade spanwise.
According to the impact analysis results, it is found
that maximum spanwise stress and deformation onimpact
region of the skin are 182.65 MPa and 33.6 mm respectively,
and the maximum deflection at the blade tip is 78.0 mm as
shown at Figure 15. Here the bird is scattered in lots of
small pieces after impacting on the skin, the sandwich
type blade structure absorbed greatly the impact energy.

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C.D. Kong and K.S. Lee, Study on Design of High Efficiency and Light Weight Composite Propeller Blade

Fig. 15: Spanwise stress distribution at the maximum bird strike


impact case

Fig. 17: Manufactured prototype blade and prototype propeller


assembly

Therefore, it is investigated that the designed propeller


blade is safe against the bird strike impact.

5Manufacturing and full scale


structural test
The low cost GFRP light moulds are made for manufacturing the prototype blade using the hand lay-up method.
Surfaces of the mould are well polished and coated by a
Gel coat. Then the carbon/epoxy composite fabric prepregs are laid up for skin and spar on a mould using the
hand lay-up method and consolidated with a proper temperature of around 150C and vacuum in the oven [19, 20].
Figure 16 shows the manufacturing process of the prototype blade. Figure 17 shows the completely manufactured
prototype blade and the prototype propeller assembly
with 8 blades.
Measurement of the blade natural frequency is performed using the impulse hammer and the stain measur-

Fig. 16: Manufacturing process of prototype blade using oven curing


method

Fig. 18: Impulse hammer test for measuring natural frequencies


Mode shape

Analysis results

Test results

First flap mode


First lead lag mode

79 Hz
126 Hz

85 Hz
135 Hz

Table 11: Comparison between measured and predicted natural


frequencies

ing system as shown at Figure 18. The dynamic strains


onthe blade skin due to the impact hammer are acquired
by National Instruments data acquisition system. The
obtained strain data are analyzed by the FFT analyzer
method of LabVIEW program. Table 11 shows comparison
between measured and predicted natural frequencies. As
shown in the table, the predicted values are in good agreement with the measured values.
The manufactured prototype blade is set on the structural test rig and loaded at 0.9 m, 1.2 m and 1.5 m blade
spanwise stations to simulate the aerodynamics load
using the three-point loading method by the hydraulic
actuator, and strains and deflections of the blade are
measured. The load case 3 is applied to the static structural test. Figure 19 shows load values and loading points

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C.D. Kong and K.S. Lee, Study on Design of High Efficiency and Light Weight Composite Propeller Blade

41

measured strains and tip deflections, it is acceptable for


the first prototype blade due to hand lay-up m
anufacturing.

6Conclusion

Fig. 19: Static strength test loads using 3 point loading method

Fig. 20: Static strength test using 3 point loading method

Item

Analysis
results

Test results

Error [%]

Tip displacement

42 mm

44 mm

Upper and lower surface


strain at A point

-56 S
+221 S

-67 S
+236 S

16.4
6.8

Upper and lower surface


strain at B point

-109 S
+191 S

-129 S
+211 S

18.3
10.5

Upper and lower surface


strain at C point

-273 S
+560 S

-297 S
+583 S

8.8
4.1

4.8

Table 12: Comparison between predicted and measured strains and


tip deflections

in spanwise direction for the static strength test. Figure 20


shows the blade under loading by the three-point loading
fixture. Table 12 shows comparison between predicted
and measured strains and tip deflections. Even though
there are somewhat differences between predicted and

In this study, both aerodynamic and structural designs of


the propeller blade for an advanced regional turboprop
aircraft are performed.
An optimum aerodynamic configuration of the propeller blade is proposed through the parametric studies.
The propeller blade airfoil is an important factor to determine a good propeller performance. The HS1 series airfoil
is selected through consideration of the cruising flight
speed based on existing application examples. The proposed propeller shows a bit better aerodynamic performance than other similar class existing propellers.
In structural design, the carbon/epoxy fabric skinspar and urethane foam core sandwich composite structure is adopted to endure effectively various loads. In
order to evaluate the designed structure, structural analysis is performed using the finite element method.
The bird strike phenomenon is analyzed using a commercial code, ANSYS. It is confirmed that the designed
propeller blade is safe against the bird strike impact.
For manufacturing the prototype propellers, the
carbon/epoxy composite fabric prepregs are laid up for
skin and spar on a mould using the hand lay-up method
and consolidated with a proper temperature and vacuum
in the oven
The full-scale static structural test is performed under
the simulated aerodynamic loads using 3 point loading
method. From the experimental results, it is found that the
designed blade has a good structural integrity. Furthermore,
the measured results agree well with the analytical results
including deflections, strains and natural frequencies.
This work is prepared based on the paper presented at
APISAT 2012 conference by authors [21].
Acknowledgments: This work was supported by research
funds from Chosun University, 2012.
Received: November 19, 2012. Accepted: November 19, 2012.

References
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Noise Prediction Based on Recent Theoretical Results, J. of
Sound and Vibration, Vol. 119, No. 1, 1987, pp. 5379.

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C.D. Kong and K.S. Lee, Study on Design of High Efficiency and Light Weight Composite Propeller Blade

[3] J.A. Liser, D. Lonhmann, C.H. Rohardt, Aeroacoustic Design


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