Plotters are printers that use pens to create a print on the paper or other media. The printing output is created in vector graphics which means the dots are printed which are joined by lines and curves to produce text and images. The plotters are available in various designs and primarily used for printing large format prints that include architecture layouts, building plans, ship designs, CAD (computer-aided design), big canvas prints and any other engineering drawing.
Types of Plotters
The plotters utilize pens or markers to draw graphics on an output media. These pens move differently according to the technology deployed by a plotter.
In flatbed plotters, the writing pen moves in both x and y-axis directions across the surface of the paper. This type of plotter consists of a flat surface on which the paper is placed in a stationary position and it is the pen that moves to create drawing or images. The pen can be of different sizes and colors in flatbed plotters.
There are other types of plotters called drum plotters in which drum or a cylindrical surface rotates in the vertical direction while the pen moves in another axis to create an image or other output. Moreover, the width of the final print-out is limited by the width of a drum while there is no limit to the length of the paper.
Pinch Roller Plotters
In these types of plotters, the paper is placed on a mechanism consisting of pinch rollers. The paper moves on these rollers in one direction while the pen moves in another direction.
Instead of vector graphics, in electrostatic plotters, images are produced on paper using raster graphics. Dot matrix pixels are generated on the paper by using a toner ink. The plotter creates high voltage charges on the paper and these charges attract the toner ink (dry or liquid) on paper to draw computer-aided designs. The image quality is lower than that of pen-plotters but electrostatic plotters are faster and much economical in price.
As the name says, in inkjet plotters, a liquid ink is sprayed on the paper or other output media to create a text, design or an image. These plotters use two types of technologies namely thermal and piezo-electric. The inkjet plotters based on thermal principle use ink cartridges consisting of a heating element to disperse the droplets of ink when a high current is passed through it. On the other hand, piezoelectric plotters use pressure to release the ink when a current is passed through piezo-electric material inside the cartridge.
Instead of pens, cutting plotters utilize knives to cut the vinyl, paper or Mylar sheets to create signs, logos or other advertising designs. The material to be cut is put on the flat surface of the plotter and the knife follows the command sent from the computer to cut the media in the required dimensions.
Applications of Plotters
- Computer-aided designs
- Architectural Blueprints
- Building plans
- Line Art
- Draw charts
- Electric circuit layouts
- Banners and Billboards
- Geographical layouts
- Textile Printing
Types of Plotter Media
The biggest advantage of using Plotters is that can print on large paper sheets and apart from paper, they can print on a large range of media that include vinyl, paper, plastic, plywood, steel, aluminum, cardboard.
Plotters using Pen as a printing device have become obsolete these days and are replaced by wide format printers. These large format printers are used for the same applications as that of conventional plotters. The technologically advanced wide format printers deploy either an inkjet or a toner-based technology for printing. The wide format printers are largely used to print on wide sheets for glow-signs, banners or posters.
Some examples of Wide Format Printers
- Canon ImagePROGRAPH 36 Inches Large Format Printer
- Alliance Wide Format 42 Inches Inkjet Printer
- HP Designjet 44 Inches Wide Format Printer