A multifunction device can provide printed output, page scanning, faxing, and more. In this video, you’ll learn how to connect, share, and secure output sent to a multifunction device.
A multifunction device is an output device that’s commonly abbreviated as MFD, for Mult-Function Device. These devices can perform many different functions, including printing; scanning; they could be a fax machine, because fax is, indeed, still used even today; network connectivity; phone line connectivity; and printing from the web. From a technicians perspective, it’s important to know that these are complex devices with many moving parts. And it’s very possible that you’ll be spending at least some of your time maintaining a multifunction device.
A multifunction device may not be the small device that you might buy from an office supply store and install at your home. Instead, it might be a much larger device that’s used in the enterprise. These very often will need to be installed in a particular area with the proper amount of power, network connectivity, and accessibility so that everybody can gain access to the system.
To use one of these multifunction devices, you’ll need the appropriate driver installed in your operating system so that it knows how to print, fax, scan, or perform any of these other functions on that multifunction device. Just as you would choose the correct hardware driver for your operating system, you would choose the correct print driver for your operating system, as well. So if you’re using Windows 10, you would get a print driver specifically built for Windows 10. You also want to be sure you use the right version of the print driver. If you’re running a 32-bit operating system, you have to use a 32-bit driver. If you’re using a 64-bit operating system, you must use a 64-bit driver. As you can probably see from this explanation, you can’t really mix and match drivers. You have to make sure you’re using exactly the right driver for exactly the right operating system and version.
Most printers will be able to communicate with your system using one of two different printer languages. One is PCL, or the Printer Command Language. This was created by Hewlett-Packard for their laser printers, but is used on many different printers throughout the industry. You can see in this output that we have a header at the very beginning, which specifies that this is PCL output. And you can see the PCL is on the bottom half of this document.
Another popular printer language is PostScript that was created by Adobe Systems. This is a printer language that was originally designed for very high-end printing and printing that was done in print houses. These days, you’ll find PostScript used on many different types of printers that are used for many different purposes. To make things even more complicated, some printers can be configured to communicate via PCL. They can also be configured to communicate using PostScript. So you want to be sure that the driver you’re using matches the configuration of the printer. If it’s a PCL or PCL-configured printer, then you want to use a driver that is a PCL driver. Conversely, if it’s configured to work as a PostScript printer, the driver you should be using should clearly be a PostScript driver.
For others to be able to print to this multifunction device, they need to be able to physically communicate to that system. And one way to do this is over a wire. One of the very common ways to connect to a printer is using USB, or the Universal Serial Bus. And one common connector on a printer might be the USB Type B connector. You would use Type A on your computer, and it connects to the printer with a Type B interface. The other type might be an RJ45, which is commonly connected to an Ethernet network. This allows you to print across the network, and you wouldn’t need to have any type of USB connectivity.
If you look at the back of your printer, you might see multiple options available, and you can use the one that makes the most sense for your implementation. Here’s a good example on the back of this printer. We have a USB Type B connection and an Ethernet connection. And in this environment, this user has chosen to connect to the Ethernet network.
But of course, you don’t have to connect to a printer over a wired connection. You could, instead, use a wireless connection. If you have a printer that’s near your location, you might want to use Bluetooth. But of course, Bluetooth does have a limited range. And if this printer is down the hall, a Bluetooth connection may not be the best choice. Instead, you might want to use 802.11, which is the wireless network we might commonly use with an access point. We refer to the use of 802.11 and an access point as infrastructure mode, so that you can have everyone in your local area use this access point to be able to communicate to this printer. But you could also configure wireless communication to be a one-to-one relationship, using 802.11 ad hoc mode. This means there’s no access point that would be used for communication. Instead, a single device is able to communicate directly to that individual multifunction device.
Now that we’ve installed our multifunction device and we’ve connected it, either wired or wirelessly, we now need to allow other people to get access so that they can print to that printer. And we would do that by sharing the printer. One way to do this in Windows is to create a printer share. This allows you to physically connect the printer to the computer that you’re using, and then you tell the computer to allow everyone to print to this printer through your computer.
Here’s the Properties window of a Brother printer that is directly connected to this particular computer. This user has gone to the Sharing tab and has chosen to share this printer and has provided a share name of Brother HL-L8350CDW Series. Anybody on the network who would like to use that printer would simply look for this name, and they could send their print jobs directly to this printer share. One of the challenges with a printer share on someone’s computer is when they turn that computer off, everyone loses access to the printer.
So instead of using a printer share, you might want to use a print server. This is usually software that’s running on the printer itself, which allows people to print directly to the printer without needing a third person’s computer in the middle. Jobs are queued directly on the printer. And if you need to manage, delete, or add any jobs, you could do that from the Management page of the printer itself. To provide this management, there’s usually a web-based front end on the printer itself, or there might be an executable you install in your operating system to be able to manage it through a client.
When you send your print job to the printer, there are a number of different options available. One of these is the Duplex option. This allows you to send a print job to the printer, and the printer will print on both sides of the page in order to save paper. Not all printers have a Duplex option. But if it’s available in your printer, you’ll probably see it listed on the Print dialog. Another option you might have is to choose between printing in Portrait mode or in Landscape mode. In Portrait mode, the page is longer from top to bottom. And in Landscape mode, it’s turned on its side and is longer from left to right. The paper itself isn’t rotating. Instead, the printer is choosing how to print to that paper based on whether you set it to be Portrait or Landscape.
On larger printers, especially in a workplace, you may have the option to choose a particular tray to print from. Printers can have many different printer trays, and each tray might have a different type of paper. There might be plain paper in one tray, a letterhead in another, and a legal-size paper in a third. You would choose the tray you’d like to use when you’re in the Print dialog. And when you press Print, it will pull that paper from the tray that you specified.
Sometimes, you may have to physically look at the printer trays to see what paper is in which tray. But you might also be able to look at the Properties of the printer and see how the trays have been configured by the administrator. This particular printer has letter paper in tray one, and envelope number 10 in tray two. There’s legal paper in tray three. Tray four has a larger envelope, a 9 by 12 inch. And then, tray five is a bypass tray that has letter paper. So when you’re printing, you’ll get the option to decide what the paper source might be. You could have it automatically choose the source. But if you want to choose a particular tray that might have letterhead, you can choose exactly which tray applies to your print output.
Another option on mini printers is to set the quality of the printout that you would like to use. If this is a draft print that will not be distributed, you may want to use a lower-quality setting than something that might be distributed to others. So you can set the resolution of the output. You can tell it whether it’s color or gray scale. Or you might choose a color-saving mode that will print in color, but it won’t use as much color as it might need with a nondraft print.
The reason we might want to limit how much toner or how much ink we might be printing is that the ink and the toner is relatively expensive. And if we can minimize the use of that toner, then we can save money in the long run. This also means we might not want everyone in the office printing to a printer that has very expensive color output. So we might want to configure a printer with very specific security settings that allow or disallow someone access to that print queue. In Windows, you could do this in the Printer properties under the Security tab. And you can specify individual users or group of users and then determine what access they might have to the printer. This printer gives you the option to allow or deny access to print, manage the printer, manage documents, and create special permissions.
Some printers might even allow you to set security based on your ID badge that you use at work. So when you walk up to the printer, you would simply authenticate with the ID badge, and then it will print the output. This will prevent your output from being printed when you’re not near the printer, which could potentially release sensitive information to others.
If there’s problems with the printer process, then you may need to look at some logs to help understand where the problems may be occurring. There are some logs on the printer that are audit logs. This will allow you to see exactly who printed to the printer, how many pages were printed, and what type of print was used. This might allow you to manage costs better so you know exactly how much toner or color you might be using. And you can see exactly who is printing to this printer and be able to make any permission changes based on that information. You might also be able to see information in your Windows Event Viewer. And there might also be logs that are built into the printer itself.
Some printers also support a feature called Secured Prints. This is built into Windows where you can create a personal identification number to protect any printing. This would be configured in the Print settings on your Windows device. You would define a personal identification number specific to you. And once you’ve sent your print jobs, nothing will print until you arrive at the printer and put your personal identification number into the console of the printer itself, at which time, it will print your output.
Our multifunction devices are not only good at providing us with printed output, but we’re also able to take these printed pages and use them as input by using the flatbed scanner that’s built into the multifunction device. The scanner allows the function device to read the information that’s on the page and then save that information as a digital file. This is often integrated with an automatic document feeder. So you could take a large stack of papers, slide it into the scanner, and then have it scan each page individually, one by one, without you having to manually change the pages.
With most multifunction devices, you could decide what happens with that scanned image. It might be a scan that goes directly to your email or someone else’s email. We could also scan to a particular folder that may be on a file server. With Windows, this is done using SMB, or Server Message Block. Or you could send all of this to a Microsoft share that may be on a centralized server. And many. New multifunction devices can take that scanned image and scan it to the cloud. It might move it to a Google Drive account, a Dropbox account, or any other shared folder that you might have in the cloud.