A desktop plotter is a versatile tool that uses line drawings to form an image.
A desktop plotter is a device that uses pens to draw graphics and images, rather than the printheads, nozzles, and ink cartridges used in regular printers. Mainly used to produce architectural and engineering drawings, the plotter has a flat vacuum bed or table and a movable arm to accommodate pens. A main pen is also included, as well as a pen cartridge and spare pens. Desktop plotters use vector graphics to draw and can be up to 50 feet (15.24 meters) wide. A special roll mechanism feeds the paper into the machine, while another rolls up the paper after being pulled.
A desktop plotter can be used to create diagrams and layouts.
The movement is controlled by a robotic arm, or several of them to accommodate more sophisticated designs. Paper can be held by staples, but is usually held to the surface by an electrostatic charge generated by the system. On large plotters, a vacuum system is used, which is turned on after the paper is placed on top of the machine. The beam sits above the table, on which a pen moves along the length of, and the beam moves along the length of the table plotter, allowing movement of the X and Y axes.
The pen plotter is not designed to print text, but an inkjet head can be incorporated if text or annotations are required when printing. It is also possible to turn a machine into a flat cutting plotter by attaching routing and milling tools to the arm. Cardboard to metal materials can be cut using this setting.
Computer software is used to control a desktop plotter. Computer-aided design (CAD) software can help design what needs to be drawn on the plotter, using a computer. The processor inside most desktop plotters is programmed using Hewlett-Packard Graphics Language (HPGL), while All Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code (BASIC) or IBM Mathematical Formula Translating System (FORTRAN) languages are used to program and operate older models. Most machines have read-only memory (ROM) that allows the pen and arm movements to be programmed by the user.
Computer files that contain the data to be plotted are called plot files. These files are read by a plotter management program, from which a desktop plotter’s settings can be adjusted. Whatever the format of the file created by the computer, the program converts it into a format known to the plotter. A parallel or serial cable is connected from the computer to the desktop plotter and data can even be e-mailed from CAD systems to plotters in a different location.