Productivity Corner: MicroStation Makes it Easy to Preview, Print Your Designs

15 Oct, 2004 By: James Dyer Cadalyst

Output your drawings in the size, scale, and format you need

Early in the design process, hard copy remains popular choice for collaboration. During all stages of design, you must be able to control print scale, which greatly affects certain design elements, such as text, cells, and dimensions. All in all, printing is a significant part of design.

This month's Productivity Corner focuses on getting your designs out of MicroStation and onto paper. You can print any portion of your MicroStation design any time. The Print dialog box (figure 1) provides the necessary tools for producing printed output at any time during a project. You can send your design directly to a printer or create interim print files on disk to print later.

Figure 1. The Print dialog box is the starting point for all printing.

Print Layout
MicroStation determines the initial print area as follows:

  • If the active model contains a sheet definition, the program obtains print area from the sheet definition. Print scale is set to maximize the entire contents of the sheet within the page size.
  • If no sheet definition exists and a fence exists, the fence defines the print area. Print scale is set to maximize the entire contents of the fence within the page size.
  • If no sheet definition or fence exists, the print area is set to the first open view. The print scale is set to maximize the entire contents of the view within the page size.

Print Area mode. When you change the Print Area mode to New View, the system obtains the fence, or sheet, parameters from the MicroStation environment. The Print Area Mode control behaves like the Update View control.

When printing by Area, first choose the type of area to print, then use the View option menu to select the view that contains the area to print. It's important to remember that if the active model is a sheet model, the print automatically orients parallel to the view x-axis. By default, the system automatically optimizes the print's rotation and orientation.

When you select a new view or fence to print, or change the paper size settings, the print does not automatically maximize.

View, Fit Master, or Fit All. These options reset the print area to the view origin and delta for the selected view number. Orientation and rotation set automatically to achieve the best fit, and print attributes reset from the selected view number.

Fence. Print area resets to the area enclosed by the fence. Orientation and rotation set to achieve the best fit. If the current print scale with the new print area results in a print size that fits the paper, the current print scale doesn't change. Otherwise, print size maximizes.

Sheet. The sheet definition reloads from the model and applies in the same manner as when you first invoked the print dialog. Print attributes reset according to the selected view number.

Figure 2. Select your printer and paper size using the Windows printer driver.
Print Attributes
Features in the Print dialog box let you select the sheet size, set the scale for the print, and position the print on the selected sheet.

Printer and paper size. When using the Windows printer driver (figure 2), you can select a predefined paper size and define orientation. The usable area also displays.

When you use the Bentley driver (figure 3), you can edit the X (width) and Y (height) dimensions of the selected paper size, or use the

Figure 3. The Print dialog box for the Bentley printer driver.
paper sizes within the Bentley printer driver file.

For Bentley printer drivers, the values of X and Y in the PLT file page size are very important to how the output orients on the paper. The X size indicates the amount of paper that will spool out of the printer.

MicroStation accurately depicts the 90-degree rotation setting within the Preview window. If you're plotting a landscape view but your driver requires a portrait orientation, the print preview displays on its side.

Total vs. usable area. When using the Bentley printer driver or the default system printer driver (PRINTER.PLT), the paper size represents the usable area. MicroStation prints everything within this area, with the exception of lines precisely on the paper boundary. Typically, the usable area is smaller than the physical paper dimensions. The usable area displays in the Preview window by a rectangle. Data outside this rectangle doesn't print.

Print size/scale. Perhaps the most significant concern for production drawings is the method used to determine placement size of text based on output scale and desired text size in the output. The formula for determining the text size is:

placement size = output size/output scale

Figure 4. Establish your output scale.
To fit an entire design, drawn at 1:1 scale, onto a sheet with finite measurements, you'll usually have to scale the output. To accomplish this, don't go into the design and use the Scale tool on all the elements. Instead, you specify the scale of the design and the size of paper at the time of printing (figure 4). This keeps your design file at actual scale.

To find out how much of a design fits on a sheet at the required scale, place a border in the design file that represents the printable area of the sheet at the required scale. Do this by using a border specifically created for the scale of the design.

Alternatively, use a border created at a 1:1 scale and scaled up to the scale of the design. To create the printout, place a fence along the block border, specify the desired scale as the print scale, and create the print.

When you set the scale for a print, you are defining the number of design units (in working units) that equal each paper, or printed output, unit (in printer units).

You can key this value into the Scale field, or you can click the magnifying glass icon and use the Scale Assistant dialog box to define criteria. Changing the scale, or X or Y dimension, automatically results in changes to the corresponding parameters to maintain the aspect ratio of the print.

When working in metric units, be sure to modify the Units within the Print dialog box. Choose Settings | Units | cm.

Print Preview
Use Print Preview to preview a drawing prior to sending the file to the printer (figure 5). You can enlarge the Print Preview dialog box to see the print in greater detail if you wish. To resize the dialog box, click and drag any side or corner.

Figure 5. Always preview before you print.

I recommend you update the preview whenever you change the view in the design file.

MicroStation's printing capabilities make it easy for you to preview and output your design information in a snap. Next month, we'll explore annotation and dimensioning considerations when creating working drawings.

Until next time -- enjoy MicroStation!

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