Advantages & Disadvantages of Plotters

By Adam Benks

A plotter is a device that draws images on paper after receiving a command from a computer. It differs from the classical printer by using pens to actualize its pictures and thus produce continuous lines, whereas printers simulate lines by means of a series of tiny dots. Multicolor plotters use different-colored pens to draw their lines.


Plotters are ideal for computer aided design (CAD) technical drawings, architectural designs, project blueprints and banners. They are widely used in Architect, Engineering and Construction (AEC) and Geographical Information System (GIS) sectors. Additionally, they are used by advertising agencies and print and design shops.


Plotters are able to work on large sheets -- 2 or more feet -- of paper and still maintain high quality resolution. In addition, a plotter may print on a wide variety of materials and thus offer its user many options. Materials that a plotter can draw on include sheet steel, plywood, aluminum, plastic, cardboard and almost any flat sheet material. Efficiency, reproducibility, accuracy and speed are all attributes of a plotter. Plotters can save all patterns and templates on disk and eliminate the hassle of having to load the same patterns or templates over and over again. Additionally, the same pattern can be drawn thousands of time without any degradation.


Although plotters offer many advantages, if you are working with limited space, you may have a difficult time finding the right location for your plotter. They take up more space than regular printers. Furthermore, the price of a plotter is much higher than the price of printer.


Plotters are essentially of two types, drum plotters and flatbed plotters. A drum plotter may also be called a roller plotter; it consists of a roller or drum that rotates back and forth to reproduce the image. The ink pens are held by the robotic drawing arm that moves side to side as the roller, which holds the paper or material, moves back and forth. This results in the production of high quality graphics and imaging. The flatbed plotter, also known as the table plotter, draws on flat sheets that are spread and fixed on a rectangular flatbed table. This type of plotter has two drawing arms, each with its own set of pens. The drawing arms move over the fixed sheet of material and produce the desired image.