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We have a computer lab that we need to reduce wasted paper/ wasteful printing. This is a open use student lab for students (no user accounts). Often times students will erroneously print the same thing 2 or 3 times, or print long PowerPoint presentations 1 slide per page with a black background. Some will print chapters of books.

Previously we had all the computers set to print directly to the printers. We then set the printers to print to the lab monitors computer, that sharing the printers. The lab monitor would watch the print jobs in the Windows printer queue manager. They can sometimes catch large jobs being printed, but often can not catch small duplicate jobs and some print jobs get printed but never claimed. I tried writing a small c# app that pauses all print jobs, but that would always mess up; things like powerpoints and pdf's would print garbage.

We have looked at print release station software but the ones we have seen are outside our budget. If anyone has any experience or tips on how to help curb printer usage please advise.

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CUPS has the ability to specify that all print jobs come in to the queue in a paused state. –  Clay Kimber Sep 30 '09 at 14:22

7 Answers 7

up vote 1 down vote accepted

If students had individual accounts, you could have better accounting and make them responsible for their paper usage.

Essentially you want to curb waste without adding the overhead of accountability, from the sounds of it. If you want people to do this anonymously you could set all the systems to print to PDF with a free PDF printer to a shared directory, then have the "lab monitor" person at the desk be asked to process the print job for them with Acrobat Reader or some other PDF printer. Then all the print jobs are monitored and go through a gatekeeper, but you have more manual overhead.

When you have non-tech-savvy users in a lab using a printer, especially without accountability, waste is going to be a problem you can't really solve without either adding overhead of users being tied to print jobs for accountability (which still won't stop them from wasting things like crazy) or manpower (having someone act as a "gatekeeper" for every print job) or just spending a lot of money on reams of paper and accepting the waste.

If you have a lab person in charge my vote is to go with having them print everything that's needed or encourage people to turn in assignments electronically instead of on paper; you don't say what environment your lab is (college, public school, libraries...). Another option is to look and see if you can limit the print job size to a certain number of pages. I don't know of any direct products that do this. Anyone trying to print out a book or large presentation will be forced to manually print out several small print jobs instead of one large job, and sometimes the extra effort dissuades users from being quite so careless.

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The only real way to control this is to start charging for printing. The idea is not to offset the printing costs but to make people more aware that their printing is going to cost them.

Your situation is like a free poker game. You will never have serious poker players in a free game because they will never be able to read the other players. If the other players have nothing to lose they are going to play differently than when money is on the line.

But I digress, is it possible to get individual accounts set up. When I was at Texas A&M we all had accounts for the labs. You got a certain number of prints per day for free. Once you exceeded that number it started charging you.

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You could also do something like defaulting to duplex, 2-sheets-per-side printing. If your printers don't support it directly, fineprint.com will let you set up the multiple-pages-per-sheet printing. Your basic problem is that free resources will get used to the maximum extent they're available. –  DaveE Sep 29 '09 at 18:46
    
Only problem with this solution is I didn't see what kind of lab he's talking about...college might get away with it, library might, but a public school probably would not let this fly. He said student but didn't clarify the age group. In public schools paper waste is a HUGE problem. –  Bart Silverstrim Sep 30 '09 at 11:50

Do your printers support secure printing? One way we tried was to set the printers to default to secure printing, and the users have to enter a PIN (set at print time) before their print jobs are actually output.

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We have something very similar setup at work (you can use either a PIN or just swipe your employee ID at the printer). The fact that you need to physically go to the printer and tell it to print out your queued job actually cuts down on loads of printing. You wouldn't believe how many jobs are left in the queue at the end of the day because people realised they didn't need them when they had time to think about it (queues are wiped of all jobs every midnight). It switched us from having loads of unclaimed prints piled by the printer, to unprinted jobs in the queue. Happy green planet! –  GAThrawn Sep 30 '09 at 9:40

Depending on your printer you may be able to set it to print in an econo-mode / draft quality which would use far less ink. This would seem to me to be the simplest and easiest way to reduce cost.

Way to go for trying to reduce waste!

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A solution I use in internet cafe customers is to use a pdf printer in each station, then save the pdf to a folder on the server - different for each one. Next the manager or the cashier gets a request/confirmation from the user to print. Using draft print and duplex when they can.

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You can create your own printer monitor application. One open source application is available on http://www.merrioncomputing.com/

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You can always take the "caveman/non-tech" approach and do like the libraries do... give five pages free then charge 10 cents per page after that.

Reduced paper usage at my public library by almost 50%.

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