Die-Cutting in general is the process of using a die to shave off weaker materials such as paper, rubber, plastic, foil, cloth, chipboard and so much more.
In looking at various applications of die-cuts in the print industry, die-cutting can be defined as a process that allows a printer to create custom shaped print products for their clients. In short, any square or rectangular piece can be transformed into any shape desired by the client. This process is most commonly found in the production of business cards, stickers/labels, flyers, hangtags and postcards.
Image of a hydraulic flatbed press machine
Flatbed Die-Cutting is the process of using a hydraulic flatbed press to cut or perforate the desired shape out of a material.
Generally, flatbed die-cutting is good for:
Rotary die-cutting is a unique kind of die-cutting that uses a cylindrical die to cut shapes out of a piece of material. It moves around and around in a circular motion and has blades to cut out the desired shape around the entirety of the cylinder.
Another definition of rotary die-cutting states that it’s a type of die-cutting that utilizes custom-designed cylindrical dies affixed to a rotary press to convert material.
Flexible rotary cutting die affixed to a magnetic cylinder.
Image Credit: boitano/Shutterstock.com
Engraved solid rotary cutting die.
Image Credit: F & S Engraving, Inc.
Generally, rotary die-cutting is good for:
Think of it like a giant cookie cutting process where a machine is used to cut out the desired shapes in large quantities.
There are 4 major processes in die-cutting.
A manufactured die is a specialized piece of metal tooling used to cut a specific shape out of material. Unlike a cookie-cutter that cuts a sheet of cookies, the die works on a sheet of paper cardstock material or label material.
Dies can be in the form of metal shapes, alphabet letters, numbers, and words. They’re normally made of steel-rule.
The hardness and wear resistance as well as the toughness are two of the most important criteria when selecting the appropriate cutting steel.
Image of bird-shaped dies
Image of a bird-shaped die and the cut-out made of cork material
Image of fish-shaped dies
Traditional die-cutting was done using steel dies to get custom shapes. In such instances, the substrate and material to be cut mattered. For example, when thicker acrylic materials are cut one was likely to run into the problem of splitting and fracturing. This affected the quality and outcome of the finished job as well as delayed the process of printing.
In the past because of the expensive nature of dies, it has always been difficult to provide instant online pricing for die-cut products because the cost of the die would vary by the size, the complexity of the shape, the number of bends and turns, etc.
A customer would have to call or email his printer, provide an example of what the “dieline” looked like as well as the size so the printer could call the die maker and get a price for the die. This is a “high friction” process. Also because steel rule dies need to be made, these are expensive one-time items to produce so doing a small quantity like 25 or 50 or 250 postcards, for example, was cost-prohibitive.
Let’s say a straight edge 4x6 postcard would cost only $50 to print and produce 100 pieces. The cost of the die if the customer wanted a custom shape 4x6 may very well be $250 or $300, so someone who could spend $50 for 100 pieces at a rectangular 4x6 size, would be very hard-pressed to spend another $300 just to cut it to a custom shape! Besides the cost of the die, there is also the additional fee for the die-cutting service, so as you can see “short-run die-cutting” was something that simply did not exist. In addition, it may take 2-4 days for a traditional die to be made and then another 2-3 days for the die-cutting to take place after the job was printed.
Traditional die-cutting is also less flexible as one has to use multiple dies for multiple shapes for one singular job. It’s a little tough but printers have had to make do with what they have. This method has served the industry well in making business cards, emblems, address and packaging labels in high volumes with faster speed.
The material or substrate to be cut determines whether the traditional method was better than digital. Usually, the assumption is that digital die-cutting is faster but it all depends on the substrate or the material being cut. Though it takes more time to design a die in the traditional method, the actual process is quite fast. However, the beauty in digital printing is that you can get any shape any size of print and this means you can get an instant price that was not possible to get in the past.
Traditionally, die-cutting was relegated to very well thought out projects, with larger budgets, where tens if not hundreds of thousands of pieces would be produced. At larger quantities, the cost of the die becomes an insignificant cost of the job, and with traditional die-cutting, the setup of the die-cutting machine would take a long time, but once the job was running, the unit cost would drop significantly.
CNC Digital Die-cutting Machine
With digital die-cutting, there’s actually no die. Using software like Adobe or InDesign, the design is created on the computer. You can have your own design or select a design template. The design is then layered for routing, kiss-cutting, perforation, or more.
Digital die-cutting machines operate at a slightly faster speed thus offering shorter turnaround times than traditional cutting machines as there is no need to switch out die shapes. The die-cutting setup takes minutes and not hours. This reduces overall production time, allowing for faster turnarounds. Even same-day turnarounds are now possible.
This method usually requires less babysitting and hassle compared to traditional die-cutting. The level of skill necessary to produce a die in traditional die-cutting is not necessary here and this is why digital die-cutting is very common with small jobs.
Another important factor is that with digital die-cutting you have more control. You can pause an on-going print job to make adjustments to very intricate designs.
It’s also very precise and cost-effective. You can bring out your creative vision to life much better with digital die-cutting and expect to have clean-cut edges with very dynamic shaped designs. In addition, no steel rule expensive dies need to be made thus making it more cost-effective. Quantities even as low as 25 business cards are cost-effective to produce.
Digital die-cutting machines are highly versatile and can be used to work on various types of material, from textiles to paper. Commonly worked materials include:
This flexibility allows for the creation of all kinds of products and parts.
For a long time in the print industry, due to the cost-prohibitive nature of creating steel dies, most printers created 6 standard dies representing 6 shapes only. Customers were limited to choose from only these 6 where the cost would be minimal as the dies were ready-made and not custom made. The 6 shapes include:
Rounded one corner
Most print companies have these 6 standard shapes for different print items including business cards, postcards (flyers and circles) and hangtags.
For the longest time, 4OVER4 used to be the only printer in the USA to have purchased
equipment that allowed them to cut any shape, any size, at any quantity, on-demand. They have equipment in-house that is to be able to short-run custom any shape die-cutting for anything. This means that if you choose a design in our creative corner or print your own design of only 25 eye-shaped business cards, it won’t cost you any more than it would a standard rounded corner die-cut business card.
With the advent of digital cutting machines, a brand new product was created-short run,
inexpensive die-cutting. This enables customers to take a normal, blank rectangular job
and add some great pizazz for pennies on the dollar.
Most times we have found it easy to change the color, font and design of our marketing collateral but never the shape. Granted, who could actually get you minimums of 25 bottle shaped business cards for your new soft drink without costing you an arm and leg? No one. There's literally been no other company in the print industry that can print any shape prints that don’t run you broke.
Now there is an alternative and so there’s no excuse to send your audience the same rectangular flyers you’ve sent them for eons because the price is not an issue anymore. Custom die-cut shapes are a genius way to make your customers more familiar with your product or services.
An artist’s business card by Tanya Kozlova
There are different machines for different purposes and the right machine depends on whether you plan on creating large projects, super small projects, projects weekly, or just for special occasions? You also need to consider the type of material you want to cut, whether it’s paper, vinyl, or leather. This will determine the right machine for it.
For small business prints
For over 20 years 4OVER4 has invested in die-cut machines to print all the marketing collateral for small businesses.
When it comes to the flatbed die-cutting method the machine used is referred to as a flatbed that incorporated steel rule. This machine is configured based on the actual material being cut and the specific configurations which are done on mechanical, hydraulic or electrical models. Steel rule dies consist of a custom-designed steel rule—the cutting components of the die—and a die base—the component which holds the steel rule in place and maintains its shape. There are several types of steel rule dies available, including blanking , combination , progressive, and progressive feed dies.
In the rotary die-cutting process a custom-made cylindrical die is used in the rotary die machine. A rotary press employs both flexible and solid cylindrical rotary dies, depending on the material being cut, the required specifications, investment cost limitations, and desired lead times.
The digital die-cutting process that has the ability to produce any shape and any size die-cut prints utilizes computerized-controls to manipulate and operate knives, blades, and other machine tools. The design information for a part is digitally transmitted to the cutting mechanism which produces the desired cuts, perforations, scores, creases, etc. This is why it has become very popular for small business owners to print business cards, hangtags, labels, stickers, postcards and flyers through an instant pricing model and even same day printing.
For small DIY projects at home
The Brother ScanNCut DIY Cutting Machine at Amazon is designed mostly to cut paper and allows you to scan a design and set your machine to cut. It’s also less noisy than previous models.
If you’re looking for a machine that can cut anything, consider getting the Cricut making machine. For anything DIY project whether it’s 3D, home décor, jewelry, iron-on, vinyl, paper projects and so much more this will get the job done.
For fabric cutting, the AccuiquiltGo can cut up to 6 layers at once and so if you’re a quilter this is perfect for bulk-cutting while getting accuracy and efficiency at the same time
For large projects at home
The Silhouette Cameo 4 is a perfect machine. The machine's best feature is the ultra-smart system that uses tool sensor technology that detects what tool you are using which then triggers the silhouette Studio software to adjust cut settings automatically.
Die-cutting and embossing are both embellishments used in marketing materials to give them a wow factor but they’re not the same. Die-cutting is about cutting out intricate shapes at once using a metal die on a piece of material whereas embossing is a method of pressing an image into paper or cardstock to create a three-dimensional, raised surface with the design higher than the surrounding paper area.
Die-cutting involves using specially positioned blades attached to a strong backing and constructed into a pre-determined form, to cut patterns and shapes into a material. The mounted steel blades are pressed onto the material in order to cut the required shapes.
Die-cutting involves using specially positioned blades attached to a strong backing and constructed into a pre-determined form, to cut patterns and shapes into a material. The mounted steel blades are pressed onto the material in order to cut the required shapes.
With embossing, on the other hand, a personalized die made from a custom metal plate is cut into the image you want to emboss, such as paper. The process involves two metal dies, one with an elevated surface and the other with a mating surface buried into it. The die presses into the stock like a stamp and somewhat raises images of the paper of your printed piece. Similar to being pressed by an iron, the paper fibers permanently reshape to take on the envisioned design.
Embossed business card
This video explains the difference between the two quite simply
This is a thorough dissemination of the term 'die-cutting' as used in printing. If you have come across the term and wanted to know more about it, this should help you out.
Die-cutting is converting stock material; in the case of printing, paper, into several identical shapes using a die. You can therefore get the outline of any shape imaginable by die-cutting.
To die-cut, you need a die-cutting machine or a pair of cutting plates, a die, and the material to be cut. If you want to make a bunch of hexagon-shaped cards therefore, you will need a hexagon-shaped die.
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There are different types of industrial die-cutting including rotary die-cutting, flatbed die-cutting, and digital die-cutting to name a few. The type used depends on the material being die-cut and the industry. Some die-cutters are great for paper only while others can cut a variety of materials including fabric and leather.
The most common type of die-cutting by printers is digital die-cutting. This involves coming up with the design of a digital model which is then layered and labeled for die-cutting. As you can imagine, the die-cuts obtained in this way are precise and faster done than those of manual die-cutters.
For hobbyists at home, there are a number of small and mostly manually operated die-cutters. While these will die-cut well, if you need a large batch of dies made or a consistent production of many die-cuts over time it's best to go to the professionals. The most popular home-use die-cutting machines are the Cricut maker machine and Sizzix big shot cutting machines.
If you want to get some die-cutting done, you should find printers who offer the service and particularly custom shape die-cutting with affordable pricing. 4OVER4 offers fast, efficient and instant pricing die-cutting that spans over a number of items including short-run orders. Business cards, postcards, stickers, labels, hangtags and even flyers, whatever you need you can get any shape any size prints with low minimums of 25.
You could either have your own design and save it as a print-ready PDF or choose from any of their free templates and you will have your die-cuts at hand in a snap. You may also send .jpg, .tiff, or .eps files and specify the number of prints you want as well as some other details.
Alternatively, you can ask for a custom design to be made by our creative in-house design team. This will give you perfection because you have everything done under one roof by professionals.
Even if you would simply like to have some questions answered so you know the next step to take, don't hesitate to reach out. It is best to do the whole process right and avoid making errors that will cost you time, money, or both.
Thanks to the innovation of digital die-cutting it is relatively affordable regardless of the project size or complexity. Regular shapes like ovals, circles, squares and rectangles used to be the cheaper and faster option to die-cut than elaborate shapes like muffins, teapots, and clouds. But now, with instant pricing for any shape die-cut prints, you can do short-run orders for any design you can think of without spending so much.
The price depends on the type of print product whether it’s business cards, hang tags, wall decals or stickers. For instance with standard-shaped die-cut business cards prices start at $24 for minimums of 100 while any shape die-cut business cards start at $159 for minimums of 500. Bigger prints like wall decals sized 8" sq and above will set you back between $160 and $450.
You can now get instant pricing on complex designs whether you’re printing business cards, postcards, greeting cards, hangtags, stickers, labels or flyers.
If you are talking about DIY die-cutting, you need to consider the costs of a machine, materials, and the dies. This can cost from as low as $30 up to $300 for a machine you can use at home. Obviously the bigger the machine the more it will cost.
Another factor that will influence the cost is the distance from the place you're getting your die-cuts made. Delivering them to you in Astoria, New York will be fast and cheap since that's where we are based. Places further out will take a bit longer but mostly deliveries take less than two days if we get them in the mail early enough in the day.
The term short run is a pretty new term in the print industry coined by 4OVER4 to refer to the ability to print any shape die-cut prints in small quantities. This has literally been non-existent because the cost of the die plus the additional fee for the die-cutting service has been prohibitive.
Let’s say a straight edge 4x6 postcard would cost only $50 to print and produce 100 pieces. The cost of the die if the customer wanted a custom shape 4x6 may very well be $250 or $300, so someone who could spend $50 for 100 pieces at a rectangular 4x6 size, would be very hard-pressed to spend another $300 just to cut it to a custom shape!
4OVER4 has invested in digital technology that allows customers to get instant pricing on any-shape die-cut prints to produce small batches of different designs at the same cost it would be to print standard shaped die-cut prints. This is because the cost of the die has been eliminated with the use of a digital die-cutting machine.
The video attached here does a great job of showing a short-run print job in production:
A few things you can tell from this are that:
This is just one of the best things about the digital age. Things that used to take a lot of time and effort are now instant to achieve. Due to this, your best bet for die-cuts is getting them done by printers who use digital machines.
As with everything else out there, there are right and wrong ways to do things. There are also some grey areas that often act against you by slowing down an otherwise fast process. If you want to get the best die-cuts, consider these few tips and tricks:
We keep saying that die-cutting is important, but exactly what benefits can you get from it? Let's look at a few of them here:
When you die-cut, you get a degree of uniformity that is otherwise almost impossible to achieve otherwise. If it is hang tags you're getting, the first one you print will be identical to the last one you print down the line. Unless you change aspects of the design yourself, your brand will stay consistent and as perfect as you made it the first time.
When you consider the benefits you stand to get from die-cutting your labels, business cards, and other materials, they outweigh the costs of getting them made. This gets even more true when you get a large run made at a go. You can order a batch to use for the next six months and this cost won't recur for the said period. It therefore, gets easy to plan your expenditure and stay organized. Printing a batch of 500 unique die-cut business cards in any shape could make the cost per card as little as 26 cents.
Digital die-cutting is fast like we mentioned elsewhere. If you are running on a tight schedule, getting a batch of die-cut business cards to use at your trade fair will be really fast. You are able to make a statement while you keep time. This is considering that the design was already made and there’s no need for a die so it's a matter of printing them out.
Waste produced is kept to a minimum when you use methods like rotary or digital die-cutting to die-cut. Everyone saves and the environment is happy in the end because more work gets done with less material.
You effortlessly stand out from the crowd. Anyone can get rectangular business cards, but how big an impression do you think you will make with die-cuts? As the shape options are endless, you can get as unique and industry-specific as you want with die-cuts. People will have a much better chance of remembering your garden party flyers when they are shaped like tulips. The more people can interact with your prints, the more impact you make and die-cuts make this possible.
With die-cutting, you are free to design whatever you want. You are no longer within the confines of squares and rectangles but you can let your imagination run wild. Die-cut cards of horses for your next polo game will be more expressive than rectangular ones, don't you think?
Over the years, die-cutting prints have proven to have various applications in small businesses and have proven to be worth the investment.
If you've decided to take the plunge and go for die-cuts, you might as well go the whole yard and get any shape. Most business cards out there are a dime a dozen. No one really holds on to them unless they really have to. That’s because they are generic.
Die-Cut Business Cards on the other hand are a bankable way to stand out from the average. When you’re meeting a prospective client, a business card is as important to making a good first impression as your outfit, personality and even handshake.
If you've been handing out the same old business card, year after year, meeting after meeting, we think you owe it to yourself to do better and stand out.
Check out this selection of any shape die-cut business cards and see if you can get inspiration for some of your own!
You will notice that they:
If you need more inspiration, consider checking out the original business cards of 2020.
People love feeling appreciated and thought-of and one way to do this is by using business postcards. You can endear your clients to your brand by sending them memorable die-cut business postcards during festive seasons like Christmas and Thanksgiving.
Sometimes it's the little things that make our clients and loved ones feel special. Die-cut postcards are a great way of creating that personal touch that can only inspire loyalty and love from those we give them to. To be on the safe side, make sure they're printed by people who actually know exactly what they're doing.
With 20 years of experience printing beautiful premium quality postcards, we’re sort of saving business owners from coming across as robotic and instead, helping them make great first impressions, stand out and nurture long term relationships with their prospects or clients. With a wide variety of designs to choose from, there’s something for different tastes and needs.
According to a study by DMA in 2018, a whopping 57.1% of people who received direct mail opened it. This should show you that your efforts won't go to waste when you get some gorgeous any shape die-cut business postcards to send to your clients.
Here are a few ideas for any shape die-cut business postcards to get you started:
These postcards are a big hit because they’re:
Anyone in retail will tell you how cut-throat things can get over there. If you’re in the retail industry you know that you have to keep up. A few ways of staying relevant include having great quality, great pricing, and of course consistent branding. The main difference between kiss cut and die-cut is that with kiss cutting, the stickers are cut but all left on an individual sheet so you peel one off and leave the rest. With die-cutting, each sticker is cut individually with the backing in place. Any shape kiss cut or die-cut stickers are the top of the line when it comes to good branding, and here are a few cases-in-point:
From looking at them, you can see that:
Sometimes, you want perfection but you don't want to go out of your way. That is when kiss cut and die-cut standard stickers come into play and you can see some examples below:
These stickers are:
Die-cut sticker sheets are prints that are not on a roll, but rather on a flat sheet. You get sticker sheets if you print a few different short runs for instance. When you place an order online for stickers on sheets, they will be delivered to you on a sheet as opposed to as a bunch of individually cut stickers. These are also called kiss cut stickers as they are not individually cut with their backing. Here is an image differentiations between kiss cut and die-cut:
The sticker on the right is a kiss cut sticker while the one on the left is a die-cut sticker. If you were to print the left side image on a large sheet in large numbers then you would get a die-cut sticker sheet. The adhesive front part would be cut as shown on the image, but they would all be on one sheet of paper.
Adding on to the efficiency of roll labels, you may go for die-cut roll labels in any shape to fully project your brand's unique feel. Any business with physical goods will benefit from using roll labels because they're practical, and efficient- what's not to love about this?
Qualities of any shape die-cut roll labels:
These are die-cut postcards that assume the shape prescribed by a customer but they have been reinforced to make them tear and water resistant. They can either be gloss laminated, silk laminated or velvet laminated which makes them more unique and desirable for the eye to see.
They are also printed in full color on thick uncoated laminated stock with optional embossing foil stamping and spot gloss.
These are business cards which assume the shape that the customer orders. They can also be called Any shape business cards. There are so many examples of businesses using custom shaped business cards to represent the essence of their businesses. A company in the agriculture sector has used leaf-shaped business cards. In the same vein a photographer or video professional can use business cards that look like cameras. That is the power of die-cutting
These are similar to any shape postcards. Die-cut custom postcards mean that the customer determines the size. Similar to a die-cut business card, these postcards can be shaped in any size.
The die-cut custom greeting cards are greeting cards which have been made using the die-cutting process. From the beginning, you have to choose an appropriate cardstock. Owing to the fact that greeting cards are foldable in general, you need a cardstock that can fold on its own or with scoring. Therefore, you need a consideration that helps you narrow down to the correct greeting card thickness.
This forms the basis of the material that will be pressed against. The greeting card assumes the shape that the customer desires. There are no limitations, thus it can be made with the rotary cutter if the volumes are high.
For example, during Christmas, you may order greeting cards that look like a Christmas tree. The printing company will develop a die line that looks like a Christmas tree and produce the cards.
There are 6-7 basic shapes created in the past with traditional steel rules dies. You will see the same 6-7 shapes across business cards, postcards and hangtags. So you will see we have a “leaf” shape, “rounded one corner”, “half-moon side”, “rounded corners”, “oval” and “2 sizes of circles”. These are done on only 6 paper types. Our less expensive die-cut offering with no real flexibility, once again, here too we do have low minimums and fast speed.
The 6-7 shapes are basically the fixed range of standard shapes that a customer can choose from. The quagmire of slow turnarounds and high minimums has been solved by the technology we use. Our digital technology enables us to give fast turnarounds (even the same day) while ordinarily it would take a minimum of three days to get your products.
At the same time, coming up with a die line is very expensive. The expense is transferred to the customer and that is why it does not make any economic sense to order low minimums since the price would only be affordable when the volume involved is high.
Our digital technology however allows us to give you minimums as low as 25. As businesses continue to come back during this pandemic, it might be worth considering getting a couple die-cut business cards for re-opening.
These are postcards which follow the process which is similar to the standard shaped business cards. You will see the same 6-7 shapes across business cards, postcards and hangtags. So you will see we have a “leaf” shape, “rounded one corner”, “half-moon side”, “rounded corners”, “oval” and “1 size of circle”. Only 6 paper types. Our less expensive die-cut offering with no real flexibility, once again, here too we do have low minimums and fast speeds.
These postcards can also be silk laminated to add color and to make them stand out from the crowd. They can come with luxurious, durable die-cut silk cards that have a matte low luster finish.
It is more advisable to have them laminated because they would prevent tear easily and since the design might require a heavy ink coverage the edges will not chip during the cutting. The standard shaped die-cut postcards offer longevity, superior cut quality and durability.
You can also choose debossing or embossing. Embossing is having the texts and images raised on the cards while debossing is when the text or images are dented onto the card.
The majestic business cards are first of their own kind and cater to the high end market. Being pioneers of these line of cards, they can only be found at 4OVER4. To understand the majestic die-cut business cards you have to understand the majestic business cards first.
Majestic business cards are thick, sturdy cards made from 32pt or 48pt silk laminated cardstock. To add onto their prestige they can be either silk or velvet laminated. They are also reinforced with metallic foil which ensures that they are sturdy, durable, luxurious, tear and fold resistant.
There are two types of foil available:
Most importantly, the customer should note that you can only have one foil type in a card. This means that you cannot have gold on one side and silver on the other.
The majestic die-cut business card now includes all those features being cut to a specific shape using the die-cutting process. These are the cards that you preserve for high-end events to hand to prospective high value clients such as C-Suite level managers, Directors and Founders of companies.
Standing out and impressing is not an option because the cards are unique and make an unforgettable statement on their own.
Die-cut stickers are cut straight through the vinyl and paper backing to fit the exact shape of your desired design. They are laser cut through the backing of the sticker hence what remains to be seen is the custom shape and sticker design. This means that stickers can also be die-cut.
A die-cut label is achieved by using the die we described at the beginning of this article to cut a label shape into the roll. These types of labels require accuracy and precision and that is why we recommend digital die-cutting which we are among the very few companies who offer this in the United States.
The die should cut through the label material but spare the underlying label liner. Many printing companies use a label die to achieve this design of labels.
The label material sheet is composed of three distinct parts:
When the label material passes through the press (Flatbed cutter mostly) the die-cuts through the stock and the adhesive. As described in the paragraph above the die does not cut though the liner because the liner is the backing of the material. That is how the labels can now be peeled and applied to bottles, books, cans, tables, surfaces and many other places.
The difference is simple. A die-cut sticker has gone through the process of die-cutting. The die-cuts horizontally through to the whole cardstock producing the required shapes. In Kiss cut, they are cut to the same desired shape, as prescribed by the customer- sometimes they might even be more irregular. A good example is when stickers depict gaming characters like super Mario or heroes like Batman etc- The major difference that distinguishes kiss cut stickers from die-cut stickers is that the card stock in kiss cut is spared.
In kiss cut when the desired shape is achieved by the cutter, the background is left intact so that the stickers are now flaked or plucked off gently leaving the background unscathed.
The beauty of it all is that you can get both options from 4OVER4 at affordable prices, low minimums and fast speeds. Also don’t forget that, there is virtually no printer in the US that can give you instant pricing on any shape any size die-cut prints like we do. It’s time to stand out without breaking the bank while at it.
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