It's 4:30PM on a Friday and you need to print 5 drawing on the old trusty plotter. Its true she has seen better days, and given the trend that everything is moving digital, ole Bessy isn't likely ever to see relief. She is hopefully the last plotter we ever buy. At 4:31PM I initialize the publishing job. The computer signals to you that its off to the printer and the plotter makes all the old familiar warm up buzzes and whirrs. The paper shuffles into place and the ink carriage is ready to launch into action and then you hear that loud BEEP! "Shit! No! Bessy, its Friday and I've got debauchery to get to!!"
Yep, it never fails. Murphy's law is never stronger than when facing old equipment late on Fridays...
After getting slapped around a couple time by Bessy, I spoke with our plotter service tech. His suggestion was that sitting idle just might be whats causing the issues. So if you have some ageing equipment that seems to be getting cranky this may help you. Perhaps taking the ole girl for a whirl once a week will stop the fits of malfunction.
All BS aside what am I talking about: Setting up an automatic scheduled plot to keep the plotter from falling apart.
The method I'm using is partial specific to the software I have and partially not. I will be using Adobe to print and I will be using windows Task Scheduler to schedule the printing. So if you don't have adobe, the first part is not for you.
Part 1 : Getting Acrobat to print.
Unfortunately I'm not sure how long I will be able to get away with using this method as from what I have read the process which I am about to show is no longer supported. That's fancy talk for " if that shit don't work, we don't care."
What I do is I set up switches when I call adobe acrobat. This is how I get it to print. This could be done with a .bat file but plugging in my string right into the task scheduler will work for me.
What are switches? These are little things that follow the program "call." In other words when you click on an icon on your computer, you are just initializing a program. One could just as easily put "myprogram.exe" in the command window to run a program. So a switch might look like "Myprogram.exe /x" where /x executed some special feature in the program. A description of the switches or options avalible to acrobat can be found here. The general look of this is below:
AcroRd32.exe /t filepath "printername" "drivername" "portname"
Now for me I have to input the full path of everything. mine looks like this.
C:\Program Files (x86)\Adobe\Acrobat 2015\Acrobat\Acrobat.exe /t B:\Plotter Scanner\print.pdf "\\nethost\plotter" "Plotter Driver" "IP_10.10.10.10"
I tested this by throwing this 'script' in the "Run" area of the start button. It might just be listed as the search area, but it likely serves the same purpose on your machine as well. If it doesn't, type Run in the search window and then use the run window.
Some of the information for this string is a little difficult to get.
First you have to get the exact path of your Acrobat program. The path to mine is listed above.
Next in the string is just the switch "/t". This switch is a switch to print with a specific printer you want to use. This is convenient when you have multiple printers available to you.
Next in the string is the file path. This is where your PDF that you want to print lives. I personally Google searched for a color wheel so that I could have an image that would give all the color heads a good work out.
Next is the Printer name. This was a little tricky for me as my printer was on a network. I couldn't just use the printer name, I had to include the host server in the name.
Next is the driver. You can find this by going to your control panel > devices and printers then locate your plotter and right click on it and select printer properties. Then click on the advanced tab.
Next for the port info you just pop over to the ports tab and grab that info. You may have to expand the column with the port number so that you can actually see your information.
With all that info gathered you are ready to move to the next step.
Part 2: Putting it on a Timer
So this is fairly straight forward. Go to your start menu again and search Task Scheduler and click on it.
This will open the task scheduler. Yours may look a little different but the main idea is that you will create a new task. For me I just click on the Create Basic Task action. If your panes are hidden you might be able to open them by clicking on the pane button on the tool bar.
The next couple steps should be self explanatory, you name the task and set the time and frequency you want to plot.
Next you select to start a program
In the next window you dump the string we put together in part 1. NOTE: the string is a little different! You will need to add quotation marks around the Acrobat exe location.
"C:\Program Files (x86)\Adobe\Acrobat 2015\Acrobat\Acrobat.exe" /t B:\Plotter Scanner\print.pdf "\\nethost\plotter" "Plotter Driver" "IP_10.10.10.10"
It will recognize that the last part of the string is not the program and it will separate it for you and give you the message.
Tell it yes and then tell it to finish.
That's about it... unless you are like me. If you are like me, none of this worked. This is when you start screaming and pulling hair out.... hopefully not.
So if its not working for you can try running test and making changes. to do this, you can open your Task Scheduler and scrolling to the bottom to your task.
Once there you can run your script, and click properties to edit actions etc etc.
The things I stumbled on while trying to get this done was not including quotations when I needed to and not including the network path name when needed. Hopefully you can get through it with out much fuss.
So when you find yourself in your time of need you will have already have set this up and not be left in the dark by ole Bessy.