What Exactly is a Plotter Device

While a plotter can be a sneaky person, it can also be a machine. The best way to define a plotter is: a computer peripheral device that coordinates points along an X and Y axis to either cut or print on a material.

Whether they print or cut all plotters use coordinates over an X and Y axis to accomplish their task.

For any plotter the X axis is horizontal while the Y axis is vertical. Whether it’s printing or cutting points are plotted horizontally (X axis) and vertically (Y axis). Which is why these machines are called plotters.

These axis are also called intrack and crosstrack. Scan and subscanning direction are also used for printers and printing plotters.

Most types of plotters use a carriage unit in my experience. The carriage unit contains the print head or cutting device. Plotters move the carriage unit along one or both axis. The substrate is moved along one axis or remains stationary from what I’ve seen.

A plotter usually works with larger materials. However, there are smaller plotters for crafts or embossing purposes.

Printing Plotters

Printing plotters are a computer peripheral device for printing large vector graphics or raster images. They can print any image that has been enlarged properly in my experience.

A printing plotter uses the same inkjet or laser printing technology as regular printers. They have a wider carriage rail for the inkjet process. For plotters using the laser printing process they have much wider drums, fusers, and developer units.

There are still printing plotters that use pens. They have a carriage unit capable of inserting pens of any color. Pen plotters typically move the carriage unit along both axis to draw on a substrate such as paper or vinyl.

Other pen plotters move the carriage unit along one axis while rotating the substrate on a drum. These are called drum plotters.

For materials too big and bulky to move along an axis the substrate is fixed. These plotters are called flatbed plotters.

Cutting Plotters

Cutting plotters are another example of a computer peripheral device except they cut a variety of materials. For example, vinyl signs and stickers. Other cutting plotters cut fabric, leather, wood, plastic. Yet other cutting plotters emboss, etch, score, or engrave materials.

Still other cutting plotters have a tool in the carriage unit for cutting wood, leather, fabric, vinyl, or plastic. Flatbed and pen plotters can also be cutting plotters by swapping out the tool in the carriage unit.

Pros and Cons of a Plotter

A plotter prints on larger paper sizes. Whether it’s signs, posters, technical drawings, charts, or maps plotters are capable of printing on paper up to 64 inches wide. They can stream feed for 10 feet or more.

Plotter costs more than other printers. They are not very fast. It’s not that their print process is any slower, it’s that the paper is so large. They print cut sheet paper fast from what I’ve seen.

Plotters take up a lot of room and are heavy. Their power requirements are standard wall outlets. Although larger plotters require more power. Their print quality is just an good as any inkjet or laser printer.


What is a plotter in computer?

Plotters are computer peripheral output devices. Printing plotters print large vector graphics or raster images. Cutting plotters cut materials such as vinyl signs or stickers.

What is the purpose of a plotter?

Plotters are used to print large signs, technical drawings, maps, charts, or graphs.

What is an example of a plotter?

A plotter is a kind of printer for large paper. It uses the same inkjet or laser printing process in regular printers. However, it prints on large rolls of paper up to 64 inches wide as well as cut sheet paper.

copier guy

The Copier Guy, aka Dave. I’ve worked on scanners, printers, copiers, and faxes since 1994. When I’m not fixing them I’m writing about them. Although, I’m probably better at fixing them. I’ve worked with every major brand. As well as several types of processes. If it uses paper I’ve probably worked on one.

What Exactly is a Plotter Device

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