Plotting Large Bitmaps

Often we get a support call from a user who is experiencing problems printing a drawing with a large bitmap on his new high-resolution printer. He will either get an "out of memory" error message or the print takes very long to complete. To confuse the issue even further, the same drawing will print flawlessly and quickly on an older large format printer (plotter).

The reason is that one forgets how large the plot files can become on the latest high resolution printers. Generally the older large format printers operated at a resolution of 300 dpi (dots per inch). When generating a print the printer has to build up an image in memory that fills or covers the entire surface of the paper before actually starting to print.

For example an A0 bitmap plotted at different dpi will require the following memory:
  • 300dpi - 139MB
  • 600dpi - 556MB
  • 1200dpi - 2.2GB

Check the following if you are experiencing plotting problems

1. Clean the temp folder
Remove any files in the Windows Temp folder in Windows Explorer.

2. Do you have enough memory
Do you have enough memory or hard drive space available on your hard drive (usually C:) - refer to the list above.

3. Printer Driver Settings
Open the Printer Driver window by clicking on the Start button and follow the Links to Settings and click on the Printers option. The Printers window with an icon for each of your installed printers will open. Right click on the specific printer icon and select the Properties option in the new menu. A Window similar to this one will open. The Printer Driver window will look different for each printer, but most of the options, which are mentioned in this tip, or something similar, should be listed.

There are a couple of options that you can investigate to optimize your printing exercise:

 a) Timeout Settings
Change to the Details tab. Plotting of a big drawing or bitmap might be interrupted if the timeout settings time is set for to short a time. The default setting in the next window is set to 800 seconds, which might not be adequate for a big drawing and should be changed.

Change the Printer Port to LPT1 if the time option is not active. The option will then become active. Enter 99999 seconds for both options and change the Printer Port back to the previous selected port. The new Timeout setting is now saved as the default.

 b) Quality and Optimize Settings
Select the Basic Setup tab. Remember the names of the tabs will be different for different drivers. For the HP 800 the following window will open.

Change the Quality setting to Fast (Draft) and the Optimize setting to Drawing/Text for normal drawings and to Images for bitmaps or drawings with bitmaps.

 c) Advanced Settings
Change to the Advanced tab. There will be two options for Document processing, Maximum performance or Avoid out of memory. These options might be different in other version plotter drivers, for example, In Printer or In Computer.

First try the Maximum Performance option, which provides maximum printing speed. Change to the Avoid out of memory option if the printer does not print or only print sections of the drawing and display an error message stating “Out of Memory” on the printer screen. The Out of Memory error occurs if the print file size is bigger than the available memory on the printer. Printing might be noticeable slower when using the Avoid out of memory option, because it will now use your computers memory for the printing operation.

It is particularly important on Windows 98 systems that you make sure that the Windows Temp directory is free of old temporary files as the operating system seems to have a limitation on the number of temporary files in the temp folder as well as a size limitation on temporary files.

4. Latest Driver Version
Check that the latest version of the plotter driver is installed. There will be an About button on one of the Driver windows. Click on it and compare the version number with the latest one available from the HP website. The HP website can be accessed with the following path: Click on the Drivers button on the website and then enter the product name and number to get the latest information on printer drivers for your printer. Download the latest driver if your driver version is out of date.

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