How do plotters and printers differ?

Plotter: what exactly is it and what is it used for?

Plotter: what exactly is it and what is it used for?


A plotter is a device with which, among other things, pictures can be drawn on paper and other materials after receiving a corresponding command from the computer. But how does the plotter differ from a conventional printer and what new possibilities does the use of such a device open up?

What exactly is a plotter and how does it work?

A plotter is an output device for printing and / or cutting foil, paper or fabric in both small and large formats. A distinction is made between large industrial devices and plotters, which are suitable for domestic use and are the size of a standard printer. While the small hobby plotter can process formats up to A3, the industrial models print formats up to A0 as well as entire paper rolls. In addition to printing plotters, there are also outgoing plotters. The functional principle of a cutter-plotter is basically very simple: The device automatically cuts lines with a cutter through the material that is on the cutting mat. The cutter receives the correct line arrangement from the plotter file, which is read in accordingly. Here one can again think of the functionality of a printer that only prints what it receives as an order. A print plotter works according to the same principle, which draws lines on a foil with a marking element.

What completely new possibilities does this offer?

Plotters offer the user numerous possibilities. In this way, the devices can also work and produce on large sheets of paper or rolls and still have a high-quality print resolution. In addition, plotters are able to print on a variety of materials, which gives the user a great deal of freedom in terms of flexible design. The most important attributes of the plotter are not only speed and accuracy, but also reproducibility and efficiency. This enables companies in particular to put creative projects into practice in a targeted manner. Samples and templates can also be saved, which means that future jobs can be completed faster, more cheaply and more efficiently. In addition, the use of a plotter achieves a completely new quality when printing or cutting the motifs.

In which areas are plotters used?

Plotters are divided into several categories. The small plotters, which are similar to a normal printer, are widely used in the private sector. Here they are used to put creative ideas into practice. Photo plotters are mainly used to create master copies. In advertising, however, cutting plotters and laser plotters are often found, which are often used for vehicle lettering. There are also pen plotters, which are often used by architects to print out large-format construction plans and drawings. In addition, the devices are often used by the research industry for earthquake research. Here they are used, among other things, to display the deflections during an earthquake.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of plotters compared to normal printers?

A plotter can print on a wide variety of flat materials, such as aluminum, sheet steel, plastic, cardboard, and more. With a normal printer, however, the list of materials is limited to paper and cardboard. In addition, plotters usually have a significantly higher resolution and can also work without problems on very large sheets of paper. In addition, the respective templates and graphics can be saved so that the pattern can be drawn a few thousand times with a plotter without any loss. However, the use of the devices also has some disadvantages. Compared to printers that work with printer cartridges or toner, plotters take up a lot of space due to their impressive size. In addition, the devices are also significantly more expensive than conventional printers.


A plotter is a piece of hardware that can be used to perform tasks similar to those of a printer. However, such a device does the tasks assigned to it completely differently, so that graphics, images, photos and the like can be produced in particularly high quality.

Plotter: what exactly is it and what is it used for?