Difference Between Printer and Plotter

Printer vs Plotter

Most of us are aware of printers in one or the other form. The most commonly used printers are ones used with computers to take a printout or hard copy of word files from your computer. They are also used to download forms and other information from various sites on a piece of paper. Plotter is a special type of printer that makes use of a pen to create images on paper. Plotter prints vector graphics, whereas printers print alphabets and numerals. There are few similarities and many differences between a printer and a plotter that will be talked about in this article.

There was a time when plotters used to be a preferred printing device of those who desired large maps and other architectural designs to be copied by their computers. Thus, professionals working on CAD and CAM relied heavily on these plotters. However, with advancement of technology, this function is easily performed by wide format printers and the word plotter is more of as misnomer today. The major difference between a plotter and computer printers that we see in homes and offices lies in the fact that plotter is able to draw lines, whereas conventional printers draw figures through dots. In comparison to a printer that can produce printouts of A4 size papers, plotters can draw plans and layouts of buildings on very large papers, sometimes even 36 inch wide. This obviously makes plotters very large in size when compared to printers.

A plotter has a movable head that holds a pen like you would hold a pen in your hand. As the paper is fed into the plotter, the head moves forward and backward, creating lines that finally result in drawings of buildings. As a plotter draws lines, it obviously takes more time to draw an image than a conventional printer, which proceeds making dots on paper. Software that makes heavy use of a plotter is auto CAD, which is used prominently by those involved with architecture and engineering. After drawing a map using auto CAD, a plotter can directly print the map on a piece of paper.

There is a misconception that plotters cannot create images. Of course they are not designed to draw images like conventional printers, but they are capable of producing some basic images. With a plotter one has the advantage of making very large size drawing, which is advantageous in case of posters. However, a plotter takes a very long time and the quality of the image is also not up to the mark, which is why people prefer laser printers to plotters. Plotters come with a special feature that allows users to rip out the paper from the plotter without tearing the paper. This is because of a cutter that comes along with plotters.

In brief:

Difference Between Printer and Plotter

• Plotters belong to a sub category of printers

• All plotters can be considered printers, but all printers are definitely not plotters.

• Plotters are used to draw line images, whereas printers are used to draw images through dots

• A plotter holds pen and draws lines, whereas printers make use of laser technology

• A plotter can draw very large images that are of use in architecture, whereas printers can not make use of large papers.