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Williams ws. Rankin

Posted by Howard Langdon 
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 08, 2007 02:27PM
Hi Jim
You cost guess was perty good however that is only for the engine the lawers accounts and patents make it jump.

The club does have the steam trials started by Jay Carter it is a lot of fun and helps promote the activity. building some thing simple is not to expensive and I feel the experance necessary before tackeling something bigger. Please donate to this and be a sponser for someone. You can donate to the club for this . Frankie helped last year and raised money to give the cars travel money trophys, cash and prizes. I think she is getting a good jump on getting some cars there. If you come you will get a ride in a real steam car. This is the way to partisapate it already exists.
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 09, 2007 11:43AM

Tanzania, for example, is a country solely dependent on hydroelectric from Lake Victoria. They went through years of drought which brought with it all sorts of problems with their power up and down. They burned out their only two generators and were ripped off when they tried to buy new ones (they tried to buy them from a suitcase business and took off with the money and no generators. I think the Minister of Energy is now answering for that little enterprise). They are teaming with other surrounding countries to put in a new power grid and use other sources. Since they are only degrees from the Equator they are one of many good sites to work with. If you can pump water and distill it as well as generate steam to turn a generator they are all ears.

A 10-12 Meter reflector will easily achieve that kind of temp and pressure.

I never heard of a Scroll Expander. How does it work? How efficient is it?

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/09/2007 11:43AM by grblake.
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 09, 2007 12:08PM
Here is one of just many links with large parabolic test units:

Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 09, 2007 06:10PM
Hi George,

"I never heard of a Scroll Expander. How does it work? How efficient is it?"

Ummm, think of it, as like, an automotve type of supercharger, simular to a 'roots' type blower' working in reverse.

It needs no lubrication(except for the sealed bearings), but does need tonns of steam volume, not unlike a reaction turbine but is consider'd positive displacement.

Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 09, 2007 06:56PM

This may give you some idea of how it works.
As a compressor it is very efficient. As an expander the steam pressure would start in the center and expand out to the outer diameter.

Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 09, 2007 06:58PM
I guess the obvious question is: Why hasn't anyone else used it for an engine / generator?
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 09, 2007 07:04PM
Why hasn't anyone else used it for an engine / generator?

George you obviously haven’t looked at the links I posted. They have, look at page 19 on this link.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/09/2007 07:05PM by Rolly.
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 09, 2007 08:16PM
Wow Rolly,

I'd really like to see page 21 in animation from your link to the pdf.

Looking at page 19 I see a large condenser, Is this a closed cycle machine? Didnt sound like the working fluid was water. This is totally different from what I was thinking with the roots type. Actually my AC compressor for the house uses a scroll type of compressor, never imagioned it would look that way inside.

Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 09, 2007 09:05PM
Rolly already posted an animation in his wiki link, only the expander version would rotate in the opposite direction.
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 09, 2007 10:50PM
Hi George & All,

Too many good comments here for me to reply on, so I will make some general comments. Some of the following is just restating what has already been said, by way of agreement.

Andy called my design a "modernized Stanley". That is what I started out trying for, but my steam car design has evolved into something quite different from a Stanley in most ways, except for a few basic features of the engine. My current boiler design is radically different from a Stanley. It is a lightweight/low-cost water tube boiler with rapid natural circulation. Small tubing, multiple short flowpaths, low flow restriction, maximized radiant heat transfer, kinetic phase separation, plus water level in an unfired section and decent stored energy. Cutting labor and tooling costs for everything in the car are priorities, along with maximizing reliability and minimizing maintenance/operating effort as Andy mentioned, not to mention aiming for maximum road miles (which is where the real learning happens).

My current (secret) design for the boiler generating section is vaguely similar to the Rider J-tube boiler, though with some radical differences & a tip of the hat to Bolsover, George Nutz, & others. The economizer section of the boiler is very similar to Andy's radial-counterflow tube stack design, as is Harry's heat exchanger. I keep an eye on what other people are doing or have done, a good way to get ideas -- which often evolve into something very different from the ideas which inspired them. The more road miles a design feature has logged, the more attention I give it.

Steam design is tough. The stuff I am designing now is much simpler than what many other members are designing and/or building, and even designing/building my increasingly simplified equipment takes a _huge_ amount of time and hard "thinkwork". I can only imagine the hours and hard labor that others are devoting to their steam quests. Money ain't the problem for me, my problem is getting a design which promises to be successful. That translates into lots of brain time and the hard-to-quantify but absolutely essential ingredient of creative problem solving, which doesn't show up on standard project schedules or spreadsheets. One simple inspiration (or one piece of simple common sense, research, or proven equipment) can get things running better than all the money in the world (2 words: Bill Lear).

There do seem to be some cooperative projects in SACA, including thinker/doer teams like Andy mentions, like the guys working on the new Williams engines. Personally I am remaking myself into both a thinker and a doer, not an easy thing to do, but I have built some components (each takes several tries so far) and shop equipment and skills are improving around here. Jim & Harry are right about "doing it yourself". That's how things get done.

A whole-Club project looks unlikely, as most of us have very different ideas of what is or would be a good steam car or other steam equipment. Not to mention very different world views & approaches to problem solving in general. The bright side is that lots of different people trying lots of different things is what makes progress. Look at any technology that goes anywhere (whether new light steam power will ever go anywhere is another issue); these never start with a consensus on one approach and then everybody gets together and builds that one design. The last project that everybody got together on was the Tower of Babel, and look how that turned out.

Anyway, with any successful new tech, lots of different people try lots of different things, and one or a handful of the different designs eventually make it to production. Ideally (not always) people learn from the successes and failures of others (and from their own), and modify their designs & modus operandi accordingly, even if the designs are radically different in many or most ways. Sort of remote-control synergetic cooperation.

Look at the Stanleys, Whites, Dobles, Serpollet, etc, those guys almost never agreed about anything, but they all built (very different) roadworthy steam cars, and they all kept an eye on what the others were doing. Sometimes they copied each other, as with Stanley's (White/Doble) condenser and Doble's (Stanley-like) throttle. But man, fire up the time machine, get those guys on a discussion panel, and put on your army helmet for the flying bricks. Of course they didn't debate each other, they were too busy building, driving, & selling steam automobiles. IE, testing their ideas on the road.

Also, note the computer/electronics business over the past few decades. In the late 1970s, all the very successful & genuinely knowledgeable corporate computer experts laughed at those garage-tinkering shoestring-budget nerds Jobs, Wozniak, and Bill Gates. Despite this, "J, W, & G" developed "a product nobody would ever want" (home computers & their software), made it cheap, useful, and fun, and the rest is history.

SACA, like any club, is for fun, fellowship, and sharing info. Some info is "secret" or proprietary, but most of the basics are public domain and usually freely shared. Feedback & info from other designers, builders, & developers can be very useful, certainly has been for me despite the traditional irreconcileable disagreements (note early developers mentioned above). When I have time to get away from the drawing board and shop, which isn't often lately, I find that the Club is a great way to meet or at least read of or correspond with people almost as "crazy" as me. smiling smiley

In steam and many other things, many try and few succeed. Build your dream, enjoy the challenge, enjoy the work, and learn learn learn, including the hard way, is my philosophy.

From a hard-nosed business angle, I think the main thing holding back widespread use of alternative powerplants & alternative energy is overall cost. Add up all the costs of buying and maintaining/operating a solar steam/electric system, and divide that by the total kwhrs it generates over its service life. If that is less than the overall cost/kwhr of a diesel generator, then it can succeed. If it is a -lot- less, then you may be the next Bill Gates. Whatever the thermodynamic efficiency.

So far, I have found that nothing in steam design is as cheap and easy -- or as expensive/difficult -- as it first appears. A never-ending series of surprises. Things I thought would be cheap & easy slap-togethers turned into design nightmares; other things I thought would cost a fortune or take huge amounts of work, turned out cheap and easy. Lots of the most-discussed "problems" and "solutions" really aren't. Nobody knows it all or gets the whole picture at first glance. Creative and flexible thinking are of the essence.


Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 10, 2007 12:21AM

Thanks for the good words.

Let me tell you my perspective:

If I am courting a modern investor to invest in a Solar Steam plant, they are not going to look favorably on a system that employs a steam engine that looks like it was pulled out of the Smithsonian. Point blank.

It has to look modern, incorporate modern technology (whatever that is in steam), and run somewhat autonomously and for long periods with little or no maintenance. Not some engine that requires an oil can to be handy and having to employ one person for every 5 units to keep up.

it seems that in almost 200 years of steam (?) that someone would have kept up on improvements and captured them into a few designs.

This is the 21st century, not the 19th.

A friend of mine was in SACA almost when it was formed. He was part of a group that wanted to make progressive engines and were working on Tesla's, compound Turbines, etc. Another part of the group wanted to work on their old steam cars. The then President was all for encouraging both, but favored the progressive group.

When he died, another took over and the club reverted back to working on their old cars and boilers. He and others that were working on more modern designs split and left.

Do I think 100 years from now anyone will be working on a Stanley? Probably for a museum.

Do I think Steam will have a place in renewable energy? You bet.

I am not here to knock the old cars, tractors, etc. It just seems we should have progressed more than this by now.

Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 10, 2007 09:45AM
HI George
Just what you describe we are working on for solar. as I said we will show an engine in about 60 days and not sooner as there are patent considerations as it truly a modern engine. Steam has a lot of avenues and we are exploring as many as possible and making a lot of progress as we are learning the art.
Others in this club are progressing and we would welcome there joining us with their patented ideas.
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 10, 2007 11:12AM
Great points Peter. Except it was the IBM PC that really got micro computers going. Gates took CPM 86, changed a few thangs to make DOS. The Internet started the second PC market wave. I think the AMIGA got a lot of people interested who later switched to the PC or MAC when Commodore screwed up and went out of business.

Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 10, 2007 11:29AM

Steam Turbines have advanced. Piston steam engen developement basicly stoped as the turbines took over power generation and the IC engine became favored for automobiles. Doble hung in for a while. Williames developed their high compression engine in the 40's. Suring the 60's there was a bit of action. Mostly from grant grabers.

The SACA is the only groupe I know of that supports development in any way. I meet a lot of others through the SACA. The antique colectors are fine. I have no problem with the club catering to both groups. And there are some with a foot in each side.

Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 10, 2007 11:36AM
Actually it was the Apple ][, but here we go again with our favorites tongue sticking out smiley

ALTAIR was the first "affordable" computer. Altair was bought by Pertec, a company mainly in the floppy disk industry The owners tried to show them a new design for a portable computer. They rejected it. They then went to Tandy and it became the "Trash 80".

[fficial&client=firefox-a" rel="nofollow">www.google.com]

Apple was the first truly portable PC with expansion slots. Apples downfall to IBM PC was when they tried to make the Apple III then the Lisa and Mac. They forgot it was electronic Nerds who helped define the early computers and wanted expansion. They took out the slots and made the software proprietary. The IBM PC was not a good choice in processor, but it had slots and you could write your own applications. So, everyone dumped Apple for IBM.

The same reasons again came up when IBM tried to make the PS2 with proprietary Micro-channel ports and required third-party licensing. Compaq was making AT Motherboards with 32 bit support and none of the IBM requirements, so everyone abandoned the IBM for the Compaq design.

Anytime you take away the option to modify and alter the PC you are asking for trouble.
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 10, 2007 11:52AM

Good point.

I found the Rasmussen / Reliable engine to be more "Modern" looking, as well as the one in the report from the Australian DOE Solar Project. That one is a hybrid Lister / GM with Uniflow.

The Reliable is a V-4 with most of its guts hidden. The Lister is an inline 3 with much of its stuff inside as well.

Anytime you see freefall pistons on risers with a bunch of rods, etc. hanging down you immediately get a feeling of an Oil derrick. That is what I meant by Antique. An Investor is not going to be too keen on something from the past like that unless you can make a very strong case for efficiency and reliability.

I was very intrigued by an article decades ago about the then CEO of Amtrak wanting to buy an Iron Works and build a new type of efficient Steam engine. They had all the plans in Popular Science or Mechanics. I was all set to sign up for the first trip. It was sleek, modern and had all the latest ideas in it. That is what I mean by attractive. Something that gets your attention and shows promise.
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 10, 2007 12:28PM
George, There were a lot of early micro computers. IBM opened their bus and the clone wars started. Origionaly Apple was an open system. They closed their system around the time the IIe came out. Before the MAC anyway. It was expandable, but propratiory. The Amiga was to far ahead of their time.

The micro computer didn't really become popular until the IBM PC. During that time, to the average person, IBM ment computer. Everone I told, "I worked as a prorammer..." replied "Oh! you work on IBM machines". I never ever have worked on IBM computers. Honeywell 200, Honeywell 1200, Honeywell 800, Honeywell 8200, DIGITAL PDP-10, PDP-11, PDP-8 and VAX And many micros sense. But to the average person they were all IBM machines. Wrongly! But that was the case.

Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 10, 2007 04:45PM
IM going to state the obvious here, WERE OFF TOPIC....


I agree with a more progressive design affirmation with a modern steam engine. But to say that the club is off-track is like saying evolution has boundrys.

I think that everything has its place. For example, when I was incubating my steam engine design objective's, it was tough to find good sources of nomenclature, crossing theory and practical design.

I settled on, as much well documented information, that I could find, this primarily consisted of railroad engines and steam oceanliners. There was not real book on the steam car from a master practical application(perspective).

This is why my hats off to guys like Jim Crank. Such a book as he has written NEEDS TO BE FACTORED IN THE INCUBATION PROCESS. I often compare how my designs would have looked considering this very valuable information. When good texts are located that speak about advanced concepts in laymans terms they often cannot be proven wrong in reality.


Take your pick everybody, there are several good topics floating around, lets nail down some new postings. This is all good stuff.

Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 10, 2007 05:12PM

Like I said, I am new here. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtains.

I am still learning terms here. What do you mean by the amount of steam in pounds that an engine consumes? Are they referring to water by weight? For example, if an engine consumes 20 pounds per hour?

Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 10, 2007 05:28PM
Gallons expand /contract with the EVER changing temperature ,,but the pound is a stable unit,and has been used as the universal unit for years,,Cheers Ben
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 10, 2007 05:51PM
Ben in Maine Wrote:
> Gallons expand /contract with the EVER changing
> temperature ,,but the pound is a stable unit,and
> has been used as the universal unit for
> years,,Cheers Ben

OK, but what does it mean? Pounds of what? How do you measure steam in pounds? Is this pounds per square inch?
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 10, 2007 06:53PM
Simple,,,weigh the condensate from the ex pipe, Alternately,,measure the water fed to the boiler,,,,Conn Edison sells steam to buildings,,,charge by the return water,,meterd,, The hi rises in Boston,,Pru' has 2 ea 1500 HP turbines , halfway up,,running the air conditioner/heat pump,,all computer controlled,,Ben
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 10, 2007 09:36PM
Hi George,

Form follows function. A 20KW high-pressure steam engine can be put in a box say, 2 feet long by under a foot square. If buyers/investors want "hi tech looks", slap on a neat streamlined carbon fiber engine cover with the weave visible thru the glass-finish polymer. Maybe add some banks of blinking lights like those computers in Star Trek. LOL.

But seriously folks, proven steam tech principles and parameters don't have to lead to large or exposed moving parts, nor do they have to look (or be) old fashioned, inside or out. Smart investors should be concerned with return on their money anyway, not with the looks or how "old" or "new" it is. Get some extended running under load, with costs, post-run wear measurements, and documented service life estimates. If they get more money out than they put in (by a large enough percentage), smart investors wouldn't care even if it did look like an 1880 oil derrick -- which it doesn't have to.

However, if you're going for a grant or "green PR" project, then some different rules apply.

Personally, I'm not into the "old vs new" debate. If a machine does what I want it to do at the right price, I don't care how similar/different it is compared to the latest or oldest steam powerplants. Good ideas, like good people, come in all ages. I don't design antique replicas. My current designs are simply "not different enough" from some older designs for some people's tastes. Fine with me, everyone is entitled to their own opinions & designs. Somebody said something to the effect of "ask 100 steam people what's the best steam engine, and you'll get 200 different answers".

Maintenance can be cut to modern industrial standards, including recycling oil out of the steam and/or condensate. For stationary units, there are skimmers, centrifuges, coalescence filters, and all sorts of other oil/water separator devices, fully modern and workhorse industrial stuff that is running 24/7/365 for years in factories right now. McMaster sells some great electric oil skimmers you could bolt right in for about $200. These pull all the oil right out of there, ready to re-use.

There are all sorts of very successful ways to completely separate oil from water or exhaust steam. Peter Barrett ran his modern uniflow poppet valve steam engine (1990s) with 30W synthetic nondetergent oil, it went straight thru the condenser without clogging or coating it, and separated from the water tank in a small simple centrifuge. He got good condensing (full water recovery on many runs) and clear fresh oil out one pipe and drinkable clear water out the other. He used a high-temp/pressure modern monotube steam generator and had no carbon trouble in the tubes.

Many well-designed steam engines run for years with little or no maintenance. I remember reading about one late-19th century pumping engine which was torn down for scrapping after something like 60 years of continuous service. The engineers miked the parts out of curiosity, and found _negligible_ wear. Use capacious modern bearings, good materials, proper design, keep the loads on bearing surfaces low, etc, and there is no reason why a practical realistic modern steam engine design could not run for decades without adjusting, hand-oiling, etc..

With the right design a steam system could have less maintenance cost/labor than any diesel or gas engine.

A great basic reference on how to calculate all the weights, BTU contents (enthalpies), volumes, temperatures, pressures, etc for steam systems, is the 3-part article "Good Old Basic Steam" by CA Cummings, in _The Steam Automobile_ magazine, Vol 20, #4, Vol 21 #1, & Vol 21 #2. Three short and right to the point articles. These articles are what got me started on steam calculations. You can order these back issues of the magazine from the SACA Storeroom (there's a link to there from the SACA main page, steamautomobile.com).

Get a little more advanced, and it's time for the old standby _Steam Tables_ by Keenan & Keyes (try the used book search engine at amazon.com). The charts & tables in this book list all the characteristics of steam at every temperature and pressure which can be used in a steam power system. Then you can figure out where all the little Maxwell Demons are going, and what they are doing at every point in the system. Eventually this leads to drawing Carnot, Rankine, and other heat engine cycle charts, so you can calculate your component and system efficiencies and debate them on the internet. LOL, sorry couldn't resist that last wisecrack. I, of course, never debate on the Internet [Benny Hill "naughty boy" eye-roll/grin].

I think it would be a great idea for SACA to cut & paste the "Good Old Basic Steam" articles into a booklet and provide a copy to each new member along with their membership cards, and/or offer the booklet for sale thru the Storeroom.

Oh man, not the TRS ("trash"winking smiley 80. The Altair didn't even have a CRT display, strictly a toy for us computer nerds. My old fave was the Commodore 64; I learned how to do everything on that machine, including hacking the copy-protect features, recover "erased" files by track/sector from (5.25"winking smiley floppies, write BASIC programs, etc.. All I was getting at was, Jobs, Woz, & Uncle Bill started from nuffin when all the bona-fide industry experts said they were kooks, & they made a mint anyway. As Andy notes, they didn't even develop the basic tech (integrated circuit chips). They just developed and incorporated it into very successful consumer-level products. Way off topic, sorry, should have known what would happen.


Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 11, 2007 12:12AM
Peter, I owned an Apple II+ and kept modifying it. They had a Sprite & Overlay board article in Popular electronics, then later a board that would do over 16M colors. I combined the two and had better graphics than they do today on a PC. They had spreadsheets, dual CPU (Z80 + CPM board), Oscilloscope boards, etc.

Anyway, back to the subject: I will look up the articles. Sounds like a great primer.

No, I work in Marketing and Sales. We have a lot of "legacy" products that still work great, but my Military customers want the latest "Look and Feel", not yesterdays news. I would have to disagree on your assessment. Look at the world around you today. Can 90 percent of the world go back to not using Cell phones? Yes. Will they? No. They like their toys. Is the iPhone worth it? Not to me, but someone thinks it is important to have. Kids and teenagers have killed over the latest Sneakers.

I am not saying that a Doble or White isn't satisfactory. But if you want to sell, you have to have an attractive package to go with it. And, as I said, after almost 200 years I see no reason why it can't happen.

Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 11, 2007 06:36AM
Hi George,

Sorry, I didn't realize this was for sale to the government. Never mind the cost & performance stuff.

That's aimed at my buddies in Washington DC, Sacramento, etc, not you. Personally, I'll build something for them when the mercury in the infernal regions drops below 0°C. Ice skates.

I'm not saying "go back" to anything or give up anything. I applaud new designs, and am working on one myself. Just noting that "new" doesn't always mean "works", "better", or even "sells". In the steam world, as in other fields of technological endeavor, there have been lots of "advanced new" designs & design features that turned out to be duds.

This doesn't discourage me or anyone else from trying new designs, nor should it discourage you, it is just a reminder (perhaps not needed) of the importance of careful design & research. "Watch out for the pitfalls" is not the same as "run away". Go ahead, just look out for the banana peels on the floor. I've sure found lots of them via the time-honored Laurel & Hardy method; they are all over the place here in Steamland. I'd like to see a successful solar steam electric generator, and wish you success.

Regarding "old technology", I see that the major car manufacturers are still using spark-ignition Otto engines, single-acting pistons, poppet valves, camshafts, radiators, transmissions, clutches, rubber tires, electric starters, friction brakes, oil & grease lubrication, and all sorts of other fundamental design features/principles which they were using in 1912. Their "updated antiques" seem to operate and sell rather well. My car will be like a 1912 steamer in the same way that a modern gas car is like a 1912 gas car. Similar principles & features, but refined and (hopefully) debugged.

I agree on attractive packaging. My car will have that. Performance too. Well, those are in my design goals anyway. But "confidence is high".

Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 11, 2007 10:15AM
Hi George.

Steam rate is often used as or in place of efficiency. Efficiency and steam rate are related. If one alwaye used steam at the same state (temperature and pressure) then steam rate would be directly related to eficiency as one could figure one from the other. Steam rate is messured in (pounds of steam) per (horse power) per hour. Or other like units. To me steam rate is only important for sizing components. But even then one needs to know heat content.

In an automotive applicaion the wide power range requirements means the steam rate will vary a lot. So I never calculate steam rate. In my simulation I have flow rates pounds/second or ft^3/second. The closest I get to a steam rate.

Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 11, 2007 11:56AM
My problem is the terms and calcs right now until I really get into it.

I am simplistic, so here are my general questions:

1. For a given engine at 1800 RPM to power a 5 kW Generator, how much water do I need to supply per minute or per hour?

2. And, how much pressure do I need to feed the boiler with using .375 pipe?

3. Do I need a tank that hold 55 gallons, or 100 gallons, or?

4. Is my rate 6 GPM or higher?

See, I don't equate to steam in pounds. Just tell me how much water and at what rate.

Assume I have at least 800F for temperature.
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 11, 2007 12:38PM
George you need to do some homework

One pound of steam is one pound of water.
Take you total displacement of your engine (volume of cylinders) times RPM and you have total steam needed by volume. Go the steam tables and look up the volume at the pressure you want to run. If superheated look at the table for that temperature.
Note: do not use cutoff.

At 1800 RPM’s a one inch x two inch cylinder at 585 PSI would give you nine HP and use around 30 Gal of water per Hr saturated pressure. You need at least six HP Steam.
Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 11, 2007 12:47PM
Rolly, Many thanks. That was a big help.

Re: Williams ws. Rankin
July 11, 2007 01:33PM
Rolly, Why do you say "do not use cutoff"?

Using cutoff would generraly give a low estimate Unless using full compression to inlet pressure. Of course you need inlet properties as density is reduced by throttling.

George, Figuring steam rate on paper can get a bit complicated. Figuring steam rate, as Rolly sugests, (as if not expanding) would certianly give you some fudge factor.

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