Stanford Center for Image Systems Engineering

Using the SCIEN plotter

The SCIEN lab has a plotter (HP DesignJet 4000) which can be used to print posters for conferences and project presentations. The plotter is available to:

  1. Students enrolled in SCIEN courses for project presentations
  2. Students of electrical engineering, whose work has been selected for poster presentations at conferences and exhibitions within or outside Stanford.

Before Printing:

  1. Ensure that your poster is complete in all respects. A few things to examine include correctness of mathematical formulae, spelling errors, the physical size of the poster, the spacing of the margins, font sizes, location of figures, resolution of images, location of logos, etc. On a conventional printer in your lab, print out a test version of your poster on a US-letter size page and verify if everything is correct. Please do not use the SCIEN plotter unless you are confident that you have fixed all these problems. This will help save a lot of paper (and trees).
  2. The SCIEN lab is essentially a collection of Linux computers. However, the poster can be printed from a Windows machine located in the lab, next to the scanner and laser printer. Obtain from the SCIEN Lab TA, the login and password for this machine, and the door code necessary to enter the SCIEN Lab.
  3. Your posters can be printed from Microsoft Powerpoint or Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you have made the poster in a format other than the above, try to convert the poster to PDF. Adobe Acrobat Professional is available in the lab to convert many file formats to PDF.
  4. The default width of the paper loaded inside the plotter is 36 inches. If the minimum physical dimension of your poster exceeds 36 inches, please contact the SCIEN Lab TA. Occasionally, we can provide a 48 inch roll.
  5. Beware of designing a small poster and then using the "Scale to Fit Paper" option in the "Print" dialog box. This can destroy the aspect ratio of the poster and introduce blocking artifacts in images, especially if the upscaling ratio is very large.
  6. Please have your poster completed well in advance of the presentation. The printing traffic in the SCIEN Lab is very bursty, and there are a large number of requests on the night before important conferences and course project presentations. To save yourself time spent in queuing your jobs, and to spare us the constant switching of paper rolls to satisfy individidual requirements, target a date which is at least a week before you travel to the conference. This also increases the chance that we might be able to help if something goes wrong during printing.

Inside The Lab:

  1. Once you enter the lab, ensure that the plotter's display reads "Status Ready". This means that the plotter is ready to receive a file to print. If the plotter reads "Out of media" or "Ready for media", contact Steven Clark to fix the problem. Even if you see a roll of paper near the plotter, do not proceed to install it yourself. Improperly installed paper can disrupt the printer head and can render the plotter unusable for weeks.
  2. If some of the paper has been used for color calibration, or for somebody else's poster, you may want to cut it out cleanly before proceeding with your own poster. This is done by pressing the "Form Feed and Cut" button on the plotter console, and following the simple instructions that appear on the screen. The plotter will then remove any excess paper.

Issuing The Print Command:

  1. You will either use Microsoft Powerpoint or Adobe Acrobat Reader to print your poster. In the printer options, select "Poster Printer" and click "Properties".
  2. Select the orientation as "Landscape" or "Portrait", depending upon how your poster was designed. Then click "Advanced".
  3. Here you need to specify the poster size. If you have a non-standard size, selecting a size just higher than your desired size, and disabling the "Scale to Fit Paper" option works fine. For e.g., if your desired size is 36 inches x 48 inches, you could select 36 inches x 60 inches. If you want to be exact, then choose "Custom Size" and enter the dimensions that you desire.
  4. Look at the print preview carefully. Is the poster properly aligned? Are the length and breadth correct or interchanged? Has the aspect ratio been destroyed because the "Scale to Fit Paper" option was enabled?
  5. Click on Print. Go to the plotter and verify that the green "Receiving" LED is blinking. Depending upon the size of the poster, the "Receiving" LED will blink for a few minutes before printing begins.

Problems with the Output?:

  1. As soon as you find that the printer output is not what you want, press the "Cancel" key. This will stop the job and prevent wastage of ink and paper..
  2. The plotter's display will read "Cancelling" and then "Status Ready". You can then fix your problem and repeat the above procedure.

After Printing:

  1. Upon completing the poster, the plotter's display will read "Status Ready". At this point press "Form Feed and Cut" and follow the instructions on the screen, to cut out your poster.
  2. Congratulations! Roll you poster properly, and remember to log out of the guest account on the computer, before you leave. If there is excess paper lying around from previous failed attempts, please deposit it in the waste basket and help us keep the lab clean.

Some Tips:

  1. Leave margins of about an inch on all sides of your poster. In most cases, this will ensure that the figure floats and text floats print correctly.
  2. Limit the amount of text on your poster. It is disappointing to read a poster which contains an abstract and other text directly lifted from the paper on which it is based. If you must use a lot of text, ensure that the text floats are suitably arranged and do not encroach upon the figure floats. Of the posters that fail to print properly the first time, a very large fraction consists of posters with copious amounts of text.
  3. When copying figures and plots to the poster, keep the file-size of the poster in mind. This has a direct impact on the size of the resulting PS file which goes to the plotter, and the amount of time you have to wait before printing begins. We have had posters which took 4 hours to start printing ! There are simple things that you can do to ensure that your poster has a small size (as a general rule, 300~400 kB is great, 3~4 MB is passable but 30~40 MB is too much. Most of the posters printed in the SCIEN lab are around 3~4 MB.) For e.g., when importing Matlab plots, import them as Windows metafiles instead of TIFF or BMP images. This ensures that the size is smaller and also allows the figure to be scaled without compromising the visual quality of the poster.
  4. Adobe Acrobat Professional 7.0 has an option in the File menu called "Reduce PDF File Size". If your PDF file is very large, try using this option. It may easily save you a few hours' wait between issuing the "Print" command and the beginning of the printing process.