A Beginner's Guide to Plotters & Printers - TAVCO

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A plotter is a specialized device designer, engineers, architects, and other professionals use to produce high-quality, large-format prints, designs, and drawings. While digital workflows have become prevalent, these specialized devices are invaluable for creating high-resolution prints in various industries.



Explore plotter options here from TAVCO.  


Benefits of Using a Plotter

The benefits of using a plotter include producing large-format prints with precision and accuracy. Examples include architectural plans, maps, schematics, and other designs requiring precise and accurate lines and details.


Likewise, plotters can create posters, banners, and signs of any size, making them ideal for advertising and marketing.


Types of Plotters

There are two main types of plotters: toner (electrostatic) plotters and inkjet plotters.


Canon PlotWave 3500 and Canon TZ-30000

Cornerstone Architects in Austin, TX is loving their Canon PlotWave 3500 and TZ-30000.  


Toner Plotters

Toner plotters use a dry photocopying technique called xerography, which American physicist Chester Carlson invented in 1942. They are typically larger versions of toner printers and use LED lights instead of lasers in wide toner plotters.


Large-format toner-plotters are bigger versions of toner printers. A significant difference is a light source for creating the latent image on the photoreceptor. Small, desktop printers typically utilize a laser light source, while large format machine opt for an LED array. 


Unfortunately, since this process is now 63 years old, toner plotters are starting to fall out of favor compared to the past. Still, there are some companies who still favor toner machines because of their familiarity with them. Check out these two modern toner plotters from Canon: 


Inkjet Plotters

Inkjet plotters spray tiny ink droplets onto the paper to create an image. They are becoming more common in various industries due to their ability to produce high-quality prints with vibrant colors at a lower cost than toner-based plotters.


Inkjet plotters mix four or more ink colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) to produce various colors and shades. Then, the ink is absorbed or adhered to the paper or other material, creating a high-quality, vibrant image.


Examples of large-format inkjet plotters for AEC. 


Applications of Plotters

Plotters are used in various industries to create designs and prints. For example, plotters are used in the engineering and architecture industry to develop technical drawings and architectural plans.


The graphic design industry utilizes plotters to create posters, banners, and signs. Manufacturers also commonly use plotters to produce schematics and other technical drawings.


HP DesignJet T730 in an architectural setting

HP DesigJet T730 for basic CAD printing with full color capabilities. 


Differences Between Printers and Plotters

Decades ago, when plotters drew vector lines on the page using pens, there was a legitimate distinction between them. However, today, the term 'plotter' is generally used to describe any 24 inches or wider printer. Especially in engineering and architecture environments, you can hear the terms plotter and printer interchangeably.


Plotter Sizes

Plotters come in various sizes depending on the specific application or use case. On the small side, you can get a 24-inch wide plotter for a small office or for working at home.


If used for AEC printing, a 24-inch printer will allow you to print up to an Architectural D size, a 24" x 36" sheet. Otherwise, some plotters are available up to a 60-inch width for producing large graphics and photos.


However, the most common size plotter printer for technical printing tends to be 36-inch wide units. This size machine lets users print up to 36" x 48" sheets and anything smaller. This width is the best size for any company that needs the flexibility to print D and E-size drawings.


Differences Between Printers and Plotters

Decades ago, when plotters drew vector lines on the page using pens, there was a legitimate distinction between them. However, the terms are used interchangeably today, especially in engineering and architectural environments.


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Choosing a Plotter

When choosing a plotter, there are several factors to consider, including the size of the prints needed, the level of precision required, and the necessary features. Today, users can configure most available systems as printer-only or multifunction systems.


The multifunction version typically includes both a scanner and a controller PC. Some models also feature wireless connectivity, enabling them to be controlled from a mobile device or computer.


Wrapping it Up

Plotters are specialized devices used by professionals to produce high-quality, large-format prints, designs, and drawings. Industries such as engineering, architecture, graphic design, and manufacturing use plotters for printing technical drawings, maps, or full-color graphics.


The benefits of using a plotter include producing large-format prints with precision and accuracy, such as architectural plans and signs of any size. Toner and inkjet plotters are the two main types.


However, inkjet plotters are becoming the de facto standard because of their lower cost and ability to produce high-quality prints with vibrant colors.

You Can Count on TAVCO

In the complex landscape of AEC technology, you need a vendor as committed to quality and reliability as you are. TAVCO brings you just that—with high-performance tools like our durable large-format plotters, cutting-edge 3D scanners, and innovative software solutions. 


We build long-term relationships fortified by unwavering support and innovative solutions that keep you ahead of the curve. Plus, when you have questions or need advice—including cost-effective options—you can always speak directly with a live TAVCO specialist, not a bot or an automated attendant.


Ready to take the next step? Chat with a TAVCO specialist today to tailor solutions for your unique needs. 🛒 Or explore our range of products [see navigation menu]. 


Explore more large-format equipment options 


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