The resources department filled your request for a new printer. It can handle your workload, media requirements, and color needs. You went the extra step and purchased multiple printing devices that will take the same core size of rolled paper and the same type of toner. Good job.
Did you contact the IT department (assuming you aren’t the IT department) to let them know? Will these new high-speed printing machines work on your network? Will they work with your software? Can the operating systems your users deal with handle them? Probably but it would be wise to make sure. This is a very crucial step in picking out new printers. Will they work with your system?
Some printers have special electrical needs. Many require dedicated power connections. Talk with the manufacturer about these topics. Where will they be set up? Is there ample room? Can the service technician get all of the way around them for maintenance?
A key issue to consider is how the printers will communicate with your network. Make sure to coordinate with your IT department on this as it can be tricky. Do not assume the printer will work because the salesperson says it should. If printers are being added to the network and are not replacing older machines there could be a capacity issue. Will there be a need to print from outside of the office? Will users need wifi printing abilities? How will their workstations communicate with the printers?
Once communication issues between workstations and printers is determined to be adequate, what software issues will there be? Printing from a word processor like Microsoft Word is completely different from printing from AutoCAD. Throw in other popular programs like Adobe Photoshop and there could be issues. Are specific drivers needed? Who is going to install them on the workstations? How will they be maintained?
Establish with your IT department who will maintain the printers. How will they be named? In AutoCAD, a printer name is important. If the printer’s name changes down the road, there will be issues. Page setups often rely on printer names for identification. AutoCAD isn’t smart enough to know it’s the same printer. Page Setups will have to be fixed. This is a good way to upset many users in one step.
Whatever system is put in place, keep it and keep it simple. Later on if it is found that the system just doesn’t work, then fix it. Try to impact everyone as little as possible. Maintain the printers through the network as much as possible. It could be a long day if you had to go from workstation to workstation to fix a renamed printer issue.
In part one of this series, I discussed ways to determine your needs. This is the most important step. It won’t matter what printer is purchased if it can’t do what you need it to do. This post will cover the different types of large format printers.
Inkjet or Laser?
There are many different types of printers to choose from. These days’ printers are typically either inkjet or laser. Dot matrix and pen plotters are rarely used anymore even though they can be fun to watch.
Inkjet printers are typically less costly than laser both in initial cost and in ink/toner refills. However they do not produce the same quality print as a laser nor are they as fast. One popular option for some CAD firms is to purchase a laser printer for black and white prints and an inkjet for color prints. For smaller document sized prints, a color laser printer could still fit within the constraints of a budget. Keep in mind your needs. If color, large format prints are produced on a daily or regular basis, then a large format laser printer may be required. The cost can be justified.
Printing documents is a key part of your office’s workflow. It’s important to remember your company’s needs when looking at large format printers to determine how many you need and what kind is best for you. If printing doesn’t happen very often then spend less. If printing happens often, spend what is needed to fit the workload.
When You Need More Than One
Many times more than one printer is needed. Do yourself a favor and plan ahead. Try to purchase the same kind, same manufacturer, same core size (for rolled media), the same everything as much as possible. This makes purchasing maintenance easier and less expensive. It also reduces the space needed to store items. If your two printers are different makes and models then they will require different ink or toner. You will need to purchase ink for printer one and ink for printer two and store them. However, if the two printers took identical ink cartridges then if you purchased one extra it can be used in whichever printer runs out first. Keep your maintenance costs down be making sure as many printers as possible use the same media, ink, etc.
Next I’ll discuss tips for setting up a new large-format printer.
Before CAD became our main design tool, we drew our creations on “the board.” Once drawings were complete, there was a physical product — the drawing itself. It was very likely a piece of vellum or mylar or perhaps just a simple sheet of bond paper. I have even worked with drawings on linen. These drawings could be presented to a client, approval board or municipality. All you needed were copies. That was easy — fire up the diazo and try not to inhale too many fumes.
When CAD replaced the drafting board, there was a fundamental shift in the drafting process. Engineers and architects no longer handed their master drawings to a designer, who handed it to a detailer, who perhaps eventually gave the approved drawing to a tracer or even to an inker. With CAD software there is no physical object to pass through the ranks. Everything is digital. We don’t get a physical sheet drawing until the design is over.
It’s not always easy getting your design on paper.
Each CAD program has its own methods of printing, but we all have similar hardware issues to address when we print from CAD software. When it’s time to get a new plotter (and when I say plotter, I mean wide-format printer), there are a few things to consider when buying the right one for you.
What Do You Need to Print?
Every company is going to have different printing needs. Different design industries will have different requirements as well. The first step in picking out the printer hardware is to determine what your firm prints. Create a list of what this new machine will need to accomplish. Start with the size of the drawings your company produces. List every size and frequency. Will any printing be outsourced or will multiple sheet sets be printed in house? This will help determine the tray and feed roll capacities. If multiple sets will be printed, then print speed will have to be considered.
Who Will Be Printing?
Think about the end users as well. Will multiple users be printing at the same time? This could clog up printing and frustrate staff. Depending on workload, two printers may be a wise choice.
Color or Black and White?
Perhaps a department needs the ability to produce color exhibits. Get one color printer for them and a black and white for everyone else. Or simply only use the color printer only for color prints.
Figure out what will be printed, who will print, when, and how often. Next we’ll talk about the types of printers and how to choose the right one for you.
Each mouse driver is slightly different, but all have the same basic functions. You will always have the ability to program mouse buttons when you have a multibutton mouse.
I try to buy mice with the standard right-click and left-click buttons and wheel, plus one additional button for the thumb. (Sometimes it’s nice to have a mouse with a “thumb” button on both sides of the mouse — similar to the Logitech MX310 shown below — so you can program it for a right- or left-handed user.)
To reprogram a multibutton mouse such as a Logitech MX310, G5, or G3 (or any typical gaming-style mouse), start by going to Control Panel and selecting Mouse Properties. You will typically find a Button tab at the top of the Mouse Properties dialog box.
The normal AutoCAD settings for a Logitech mouse are as follows:
- Left mouse button (shown above as item 1) is set to Click/Select. This is the normal default setting.
- Right mouse button (shown above as item 2) is set to Context Menu/Alternate Select. This is the normal default setting.
- Wheel button (shown above as item 3) is set to Middle Button. This is a change to the standard setup. To do this, pick item 3 from the pull-down menu, click the Modify button, then click the Middle Button option as shown below. The Middle Button option gives the user the proper Zoom and Pan functions within AutoCAD.
Last is the “thumb button” (shown in the first image as item 4), which is set to the Escape option in this example.
The MX310 has two thumb buttons — one on either side of the mouse — so you can program it whether you are left- or right-handed. Based on many users’ experience, the best approach is to program the correct button based on the individual’s dominant hand, then program the opposite button to “unassigned.” This prevents the user from accidentally pressing a command with the pinky finger.
(Note: Many multibutton mice, such as the Logitech G5, have the capability to assign the key to the thumb button by simply pressing which key to assign.)
Typical settings for the G5 are as follows:
- Select Button: Choose item 4 (right thumb button) in the Select Button window.
- Select Task: Click on the Keystroke Assignment button, move your cursor to 3a, and specify Keystroke. For example, to select the Esc button as shown below, press the Escape key on the keyboard so the word “Esc” appears in the box at 3a. Click Apply and OK.
Once you get used to activating custom CAD functions with a touch of a button, you will never want to go back.
Author: Richard Leveille
As a CAD user, you rely heavily on your pointing device to interact with your software and get the job done. The wrong mouse can cause frustration, inefficiency, and repetitive stress injuries, but it can be a challenge to find the perfect combination of ergonomics, power source, programmability, and other features.
To help you in your search, Cadalyst readers have offered up their opinions about which pointing hardware is best suited to CAD work, including mice, trackballs, joysticks and tablets. Be sure to check that any mouse or other device you’re considering is compatible with your operating system and software before making a purchase.
Regardless of which brands or styles you choose, staying healthy is essential. Designer Carol McKeough advocates using a variety of mousing devices, thoroughly customizing each one, and learning to mouse ambidextrously. “Start by playing a few games of solitaire, then continue mousing left-handed through some easy, repetitive CAD tasks. Give yourself time, and forgive yourself for adapting slowly, but stick with it. Work left-handed for at least a couple of hours, without giving in to the temptation to switch back. It will feel like trying to sign your name with a jackhammer at first, but will get easier each day.”