Similarities Between Printers and Plotters


What Is a Printer?

Printers are hardware devices used to process a soft copy to generate a hard copy. This device obtains graphics, text, and other formats from an external source like a computer and displays the results on a piece of paper in a standardized form. This output device does not have one fixed category. Instead, it is produced in many different types depending on their size, quality, complex construction, and speed, significantly affecting the prices. Printers print one line at a time but still are faster than plotters at producing hard copies. These printers require little time to be set up for the production of hard copies from soft copies and are mainly intended for small volume and quick turnaround printing.

Printers can be widely categorized into two main categories: Impact and non-impact printers, depending on how the output is produced. Non-impact printers display the exact file on the sheet, whereas impact printers use needles and pins, which are stroked on the ink ribbon and then on the paper to type words that are received from the computer. 

Further categorization of printers based on technology can be in the following types:

  • Toner-based printers: Hot rollers are used to fuse toner powder on paper through the charged print drum. This medium provides better control and accuracy.
  • Inkless printer: Portions of heat-sensitive papers are heated to print text and visuals on them without using ink. No ink and cartridge refills are required, which reduces overall costs. 
  • Liquid ink printer: Ink is sprayed onto the hard surface after heating and converting it into vapor bubble form.
  • Solid ink printers: Resin-based, waxy polymer is used to form solid sticks, which are melted through thermal technology and then sprayed on a drum covered with oil. The drum then transforms the visual on the hard copy.
  • Dye-Sublimation printer: to print on a medium like paper, canvas, or plastic, heat is used along with special ink and inkjet.

Things To Consider Before Buying a Printer

When choosing which printer to buy, consumers must consider these four features.

  • Color: some printers only print in white and black ink, while others can also be used for color printing. Printers that are set to print in color are more expensive and have a more complex operation since two cartridges/toners are used and have to be replaced every few weeks. Also, the type of cartridge used (mixed or separate monochrome colors) depends on the printer being used. 
  • Resolution: the resolution of printers refers to the sharpness of images or text on paper. It is usually measured in DPI-Dots per Inch. This feature is of great importance to consumers because it depends on what the printer is used for. For example, printers used at home and in offices usually require a resolution of 1200dpi. In contrast, printers like inkjet that are used for specialized hardcopy production have a resolution of 1200 x 1440 dpi.
  • Speed: the speed of the printer is also an essential aspect that consumers consider. Faster printing printers are expensive but print way more than a regular printer that prints about 3-6 sheets per minute. For example, inkjet printers print almost 15 pages per minute, while laser printers are expected to produce up to 100 pages per minute. Thus, showing that the price of the printer is directly correlated to its printing speed. 
  • Memory: printer memory, also known as RAM, can be increased by users, but usually, printers come with 2 to 16 megabytes of memory space. Printing large images could be faster if the memory of the printer is greater than the minimum amount of memory as it would allow the printer to accept the computer’s demand quickly.

What Is a Plotter?

Plotters are output devices that are used for the production of large drawings, graphs, and designs on paper according to the command given to them through a computer. Plotters are considered to be a category of plotters mainly used to print business charts, engineering drawings, and architectural plans. For example, plotters are used in engineering to produce automobile designs, while they are used in architecture for the production of building layout, designs, and plans. Plotters can be used in two ways: as a peripheral component connected with the computer system or a standalone device with its internal processing unit. 

The plotter software in computers consists of Flexi, Adobe Illustrator, CAD, and Corel. Files in numerous formats can be read by plotters, including CDR, AI, and DWG. However, plotters are relatively slower than printers since precision, and accurate measurements are required over attractive images. 

Plotters are a special type of printer that is made up of a movable head and automated pen, which produce continuous lines by moving backward and forward, which result in blueprints. Unlike printers, plotters can be used to print the same drawing repeatedly without the need for new commands. 

Plotters are available in a large variety, but the latest invention of 3D plotters has taken the market by storm. These plotters use a set of knives to cut through the material according to the commands given by a computer instead of using pen-like instruments. Plotters have been used commonly in construction, mapmaking, craftsmanship, product design, and manufacturing industries.

Modern plotters take advantage of laser printing technology to produce printed documents at higher print speeds.

Other categories of plotters include:

  • Drum Plotter: architectural and engineering graphics and pictures are drawn by wrapping paper around the drum with the help of a pin feed attachment.
  • Inkjet Plotter: this type of plotter is the most commonly used around the world because of its low cost and quality printing ability. It makes use of a tri-tonal ink system that sprays ink onto the paper to form images. 
  • Flatbed Plotter: Cad Programs use this type of plotter for designers. It has a flat vacuum table and pens that are accommodated with the help of the moving arm to make drawings.
  • Cutting plotter: used to produce lettering and graphics in vinyl and mylar using large-scale cutting devices
  • Pen plotter: aren’t used any longer for commercial uses, but they are still found for resale because they can still produce line art in color.  

Things To Consider Before Buying a Plotter

The decision to buy the correct plotter is not an easy one to make. In order to select the perfect plotter for use, users must consider the work that needs to be performed through the plotter. This includes the number of colors to be used and the material and size of the canvas used for printing. The readiness with which the accessories of the plotter like cutters and chemicals are available and the brand must also be paid attention to. One might also consider the additional features of plotters like scanning while making a purchase. 

Wide format plotters and printers have gradually begun to look more alike to the point where many firms, which may have once used a plotter, now opt to use a wide format printer instead.

Similarities Between Printers and Plotters

  • Plotters are a category of printers, and so both the devices are similar in many ways, which include:
  • Both printers and plotters replicate artwork in a high-resolution form. 
  • Both the devices are connected to many computers, allowing all to print text and visuals.  
  • Printers and plotters are computer peripheral devices.
  • Newly invested plotters and printers are more efficient as they support scanners, memory cards, and digital cameras.

Differences Between Printers and Plotters

  • Plotters can print continuous lines, whereas printers cannot
  • Plotters are comparatively more expensive than standard printers.
  • Plotters are comparatively slower than printers.
  • Softwares for plotters include CAD, Flexi, and Adobe Illustrator, while those for printers include Photoshop.
  • Plotters read files in DWG, CDR, and other vector formats, whereas printers can read PDF, JPG, TIFF formats.
  • Plotters take commands from a computer, whereas printers use commands from a network.
  • Plotter prints vector graphics, whereas traditional printers print alphabets and numerals.  

The following information would help you understand what printers and plotters are, their similarities and differences, and the features one must consider before making a purchase decision. 

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