Or we can just mass-order Crayola
September 25, 2013 6:55 PM   Subscribe

Can I get my color printer to only accept color documents in its queue?

Office A is across the hall from Office B and maybe 2 doors down from Office C. Office B contains an color printer that uses ink at about $200 a cartridge, which a department of my company pays and has a very strict budget for. Office C contains a copier unit which uses ink at around $70 a cartridge and which is under a contract wherein we call someone and the ink is delivered to our site, but which the aforementioned company branch does not pay for.

Of course, the personnel in Office A continually print B&W documents to the color printer in Office B, despite requests, both gentle and strict, from myself and the varying upper level managers. We've also tried using signs, which just comes off as passive aggressive and doesn't work anyway.

Without debating the moral ambiguity of having to force a bunch of adults to follow office policies and be aware of financial constraints (the finance department of which I am also a co-manager of), I want to figure out a way to prevent the color printer from printing anything BUT color documents. True, this might just make Office A print more color docs, but I know the use of black ink would still decrease as it's currently at 3x the use of the color cartridge (so while it's the less expensive cartridge we still buy a ridiculous amount per year only to have it wasted on emails!!! and weekly spreadsheets).

I plan to troubleshoot the issue with possible solutions and then bring the results, and outlined financial benefits and prospects, to my bosses in an attempt to convince them to change this section of our office structure.

We mainly use HP ColorLaserjet 3525's and 4015's, but general information on how to do this would be greatly appreciated since we are unlikely to stick with these particular models for longer than a few years.

Also, as a side note, if anyone else has successfully implemented this, how did it work for you? Thank you.
posted by DisreputableDog to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
I don't know of any kind of off-the-shelf support for something like this, but It'd be possible to roll a custom solution by by printing through a CUPS server combined with some color detection code in a custom filter. So: possible, but very involved from a code and setup point of view.
posted by zsazsa at 7:16 PM on September 25, 2013

Not a technical solution, and fairly passive aggressive, but can you just pull the paper tray out from the printer after every use (or, I guess, unplug it)? This would make it more inconvenient for everyone to print in color, because you'd have to physically get up and replace the tray before each use. But it would definitely make people use am easier solution (ie a nearby black and white printer) and save ink.
posted by itsamermaid at 7:38 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

The problem is it is too easy to print to the color printer. Take it off the network. Attach it to a machine off in the corner, so someone has to copy their file onto a thumb drive, walk over to the machine hooked up to the printer, and print from there. That will solve the problem.
posted by notme at 7:43 PM on September 25, 2013 [9 favorites]

Pulling the paper tray is a great idea, but you'd have to take it to your desk and make it known that if anyone wants to print, they have to get the paper tray from you. If you just leave the tray next to the printer, putting the tray in isn't much effort compared to walking to the printer. Asking you for the tray, though, that's a real disincentive. It does put you in the visible role of petty office tyrant, but hey. Maybe if you shake your head sadly and say "I wish I didn't have to do this, but it was this or cut someone's hours -- color toner is such a scam!" you can escape that.

You'll also have to learn how to cancel print jobs, otherwise when you put the tray in, it'll print everything that was queued up because people forgot and sent a job to that printer and then decided it was too much of a hassle to explain to you why they were printing in b/w again on the color printer.
posted by hades at 10:35 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

The direct managers of the personnel in office A have already told them to stop printing B&W print jobs on the color printer in office B that your company branch has to pay for, they haven't stopped, and their indifference to this directive has had no repercussions, correct?

If so, I think the simplest solution is your company branch just buys office A an inexpensive B&W laser printer. I'd suggest the highly-regarded Brother HL5470DW ($180 at Amazon). The whole printer costs less than a single cartridge for your color printer, and with the convenience of a printer in their own office, they'll stop printing to the color printer in office B. This will be a lot cheaper in the long run, maybe not as cheap as convincing them to use the copier in office C, but you've already established that is not likely to happen.
posted by RichardP at 11:13 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is a people problem: they don't want to walk. Put a laser printer in each office. Set it as the default on each person's computer.
posted by rhizome at 12:20 AM on September 26, 2013

Response by poster: So I take it that, even though a color printer can detect when it needs to use color and when it needs to use B&W/"greyscale", I can't set it to ONLY "respond" to color documents?

Buying more printers (??? trying to save money so I need to use what I have), different kinds of printers (constrained by contracts and such things), or being stingy with the paper tray are not viable options for me or my office.
posted by DisreputableDog at 1:04 AM on September 26, 2013

Do what zsazsa said: setup the printers to only accept jobs from a print server. Apply the policy you want on that print server.

You could probably even go as far as to track amount of ink used per job, map the job to the user, and bill them.
posted by devnull at 2:41 AM on September 26, 2013

From your latest reply, I take it your budget for solving this problem is less than $180?

In that case, how about just swapping the color printer and copier between office B and office C? That way the copier will be closer to office A than the the color printer. This will make the copier the more attractive printer for the personnel in office A.

Alternatively, if you think both personnel in office A and office C would ignore the directive to only print color print jobs on the color printer, move both the copier and the color printer to office C or office A. That way neither is more convenient in term of walking distance to either office.
posted by RichardP at 3:53 AM on September 26, 2013

I think notme has it: there are a few different things you could do, but by far the easiest is just to take the colour printer off the network and have a different -- irritating -- protocol for printing to it.
posted by katrielalex at 4:54 AM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I haven't used it myself, but PaperCut looks like the print server software you need.
posted by Vesture of Chance at 5:14 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Make sure the printer's name on the network contains the word COLOUR in block caps.

Can you set a password or access code for the colour printer? If so, make the code "Colour document".

If they carry on doing it after that, they're doing it out of spite. Take the printer off the network. When they come in asking to print a colour document, tell them to get their own printer.
posted by Hogshead at 6:45 AM on September 26, 2013

this is both a technical problem and a behavior problem. For starters you need to change the printer's IP number. That will stop some of them from printing anything. Change the name of the printer to OFFICE B ONLY, and have your office B users set up to print on the newly named printer. Do not post or publish the IP number. Again this will only cull the absolute dimwits. Send a company wide memo from some high mucky muck in finance explaining that no one except office B people should print to the printer. Then institute a print server that allows usage by permission only.
posted by Gungho at 1:11 PM on September 26, 2013

Put the printer on your desk, or your boss's desk, or whoever has the authority to physically charge people money when they come to pick up B&W crap they've printed.
posted by Myself at 1:37 PM on September 26, 2013

« Older What's with the special 'Share this video' link on...   |   Any Vets in the house? Thinking of adopting a dog... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.