Printers have evolved like all computer related peripherals and will continue to do so. The typewriters of the 20th century got gradually replaced by computer connected printers because the computers provided an extremely convenient environment to prepare documents with complete freedom to edit them before printing it.
Similarly, the engineering drawings, which were always hand-drawn on large sheets of paper with extreme care to maintain accuracy of dimensions and scale, could ultimately be drawn using the computer environment before printing them using plotters.
Plotters basically provide a mechanized way of drawing using pens.
A mechanical clamp picks the relevant pen or marker and moves either left or right across the sheet while the plotter moves the page either forwards or backwards.
Using these movements of pen and page together, the drawings were plotted on to the sheets.
In short, if you are an engineering or architectural, then having one of the best plotter printers becomes quite essential.
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Plotter Printer Comparison Table
USB, Ethernet, WiFi
USB, Ethernet, WiFi
USB, Ethernet, WiFi, WiFi Direct
USB, Ethernet, WiFi Direct
What Is A Plotter Printer?
A plotter printer is a type of printer which is specifically designed to print graphics and photos in relation to architectural or engineering drawings.
The technology used in plotter printers is that of inkjet printing.
You may as well imagine an inkjet printer which is structurally wide and designed to pass a continuous sheet through it having widths of up to around 42 inches.
The major design focus of plotter printers is print accuracy and detail. So, they tend to be slower than usual printers.
Generally, the plotters are equipped to handle cut sheets as well as rolls. Automatic horizontal cutters cut the sheets off the rolls once printed.
Like with all inkjet printers, the inks used in plotter printers are mostly dye inks or pigment inks or both types in combination. Similarly, a number of inks may be utilized to obtain better printing results.
The plotter printers are usually setup on a stand because it helps in handling continuous roll of paper sheet.
The plotters always come mounted on a stand due to this reason. The plotter printers have an additional convenience advantage that they can have a compact design and therefore be placed on a desk instead of being setup on a stand. This usually depends upon the model and size that you choose.
List of Best Plotter Printers
The following is the list of best A1 and beyond plotter printers for architectural and engineering use.
- 1HP Designjet T100 – 24 Inch (A1) – Affordable
- 2Epson SureColor T3170 – 24 inch (A1) – Robust and Famous
- 3Epson SureColor T5170 – 36 Inch (A0) – For Large Designs and Schematics
- 4Canon imagePROGRAF iPF770 – 36 Inch – The Plotter Printer for Optimum ROI
- 5HP DesignJet Z9+ – 44 Inch – The King of Best Plotter Printers
5 Best Plotter Printers Reviewed
1. HP Designjet T100 – 24 Inch (A1) – Affordable
- Ideal for: Architects, engineering, and...
- Media Sizes: 8.3 to 24-in wide sheets; 11 to...
- Media Handling: Sheet feed; roll feed; input...
- Print in-house with the world's smallest...
The HP Designjet T100 is a wide-format color printer for printing diagrams and photos upto D size (24 inches wide). This plotter printer also has support for rolls and cut sheets. Also included with this printer are ADF and automatic horizontal paper cutter.
It’s dimensions and weight make is a rather compact printer among its category of printers.
HP names it as the world’s smallest plotter and it can be conveniently placed on a desk. So, you can place it on a desk or assemble it on a stand.
Since it is affordable (relatively), it is also suited for students of AEC (Architecture, Engineering and Construction). As such, if you are student or a beginner designer, then this is one of the best plotter printers for you.
The T100 uses a basic combination of CMYK colors with CMY colors as dye inks and black as pigment ink.
Although higher count of inks is used in color printers quite often, the T100 manages pretty well with ink combination it has.
The results you get with this plotter printer are above par overall. The graphics quality is average and photo quality is above par.
The text quality is average, but that is sufficient for plotter printers of basic level. You would be more concerned about the quality of graphics and photos.
In case of monochrome printing, traces of spurious color might be seen in the printouts and the pictures may also show graininess. Hence, your need should be mostly for color printing if you wish to opt for this brand and model.
Lastly, the communication options are Ethernet, Wi-Fi and USB 2.0. No wireless direct print option is available like Wi-Fi Direct or NFC is provided.
Learn More About: Best Printers for Graphics Design
Dimensions: 23.3 x 13.1 x 6.3 in (W x D x H)
Weight: 18.6 lbs
2. Epson SureColor T3170 – 24 inch (A1) – Robust and Famous
- Breakthrough Print Speeds — produce...
- Easy to Operate — large, intuitive 4.3" LCD...
- Compact, Clean Design — ultra small...
- Replace Ink Less Often — high-capacity...
If you are looking for a famous, highly sought after and feature rich option, the Epson Surecolor T3170 might be one of the best plotter printers for you.
It is basically a compact 24 inch plotter printer that you can squeeze onto a desk. Most plotter printers are humongous and even require a dedicated room for themselves.
This printer uses four inks; cyan, magenta, black and yellow and these inks are quick to dry while also being colorfast. It uses Epson’s pigment based XD2 ink which is an aqueous formulation and hence it makes the ink quick to dry.
The T3170 paper handling uses sheets or roll paper up to 24 inches wide. The 24 inch width gives one a lot of room to utilize.
Because of that reason alone this printer is great for printing banners. An ADF for A3 printing is also available.
Another great feature of this printer is that it has high capacity ink cartridges along with the standard ones. That being said the T3170 does a fairly large amount of printing.
Although the T3170 is a great wide format printer, it cannot produce borderless 24-inch prints, another drawback is that the ink that it uses is in aqueous form so the printed materials are not water resistant so this is more likely to be used indoor.
Connectivity options on this printer are also good; you get Ethernet and also the option to connect with Wi-Fi if you want to do things wirelessly. It also has the support to connect to another computer through USB but unfortunately it lacks the support for flash drives.
Learn More About: Best Printers for Small Business
Dimensions: 38 x 20 x 9 inches (W x D x H)
Weight: 59 pounds
3. Epson SureColor T5170 – 36 Inch (A0) – For Large Designs and Schematics
- Breakthrough Print Speeds — produce...
- Easy to Operate — large intuitive 4 3" LCD...
- Compact Clean Design — ultra small...
- Replace Ink Less Often — high-capacity...
Epson’s Surecolor T5170 wide format printer is the ideal printer to be used for printing large blueprints, line drawings, graphics and also posters that too with the posters being up to 36 inches.
This feature is greatly appreciated by many users and is undoubtedly a great one.
The printer also prints at blazing fast speeds; printing A1/D size prints in almost 31 seconds. These printing speeds can really help one in doing things quickly especially when in a hurry.
The high printing speed doesn’t stop the printing from printing high quality prints.
As a matter of fact, the printer prints really high-quality printouts according to user reviews. This is what makes the printer useful for printing blueprints and stuff.
It also has Precision Droplet Control; what it does is that it gives outstanding clarity of images and also offers commercial grade reliability with the Nozzle Verification Technology.
The precision to detail in this printer is great ranging up to 2400dpi.
Like its sibling the T3170, this printer also uses 4 color pigment inks instead of dye-based ink for superior results.
The paper handling supports up to 36 inches sheets or rolls with horizontal trimming, as well as having an ADF for up to A3 size.
The T5170 has superb connectivity options: Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct and USB 3.0. The connectivity options alone can make this among the best plotter printers in the market.
Dimensions: 50 x 28 x 36 in (W x D x H)
Weight: 101 lbs
4. Canon imagePROGRAF iPF770 – 36 Inch – The Plotter Printer for Optimum ROI
If you are looking for a large format printer that is solid to be used in small offices then the Canon iPF770 is a printer that should be considered.
It is a 36 inch Large format inkjet printer that uses high density print head to create high detailed prints.
The Canon IPF770 uses pigment Reactive ink set. It also uses two channels of pigment black for more precise lines. The five color pigment reactive set works to ensure the color accuracy of the print and also it ensures the print longevity.
Along with this printer the users also get a variety of software that is helpful in monitoring the printer’s status and also in improving its productivity.
With the bundled software we also get a plug-in for Microsoft Office, optimized module for AutoCAD and we get PosterArtistLite.
One of the best features of this printer is the high-volume continuous printing.
The printing is also very fast and this particular feature is great to get things going on fast and to meet with deadlines more quickly.
This printer also has a bunch of accounting tools for calculating ROI and staying lean.
Unfortunately though, this printer lacks in connectivity. The printer only offers USB 2.0 and Ethernet connectivity. It misses out on WiFi.
Also Read: Best Pigment Ink Printers
Dimensions: 4ft x 28inch x 3.5ft (W x D x H)
Weight: 138.89 lbs
5. HP DesignJet Z9+ – 44 Inch – The King of Best Plotter Printers
The market for large photo merchandising is growing more and more as the days pass by and with that the demand for great photo quality is also increasing.
HP’s DesignJet Z9+ takes care of that by providing high resolution prints. This printer uses two rows of print nozzles; with each nozzle printing at 1200 dpi.
With the speedy printouts another great feature is the V-Trimmer. Meaning that the printer has an integrated vertical trimming facility in it, it saves space and also eliminates trimming errors.
While most plotter printers only have horizontal cutters, with the vertical cutter you can size up your sheets any way you like.
The HP Z9 also has its own spectrophotometer for color accuracy to achieve expanded color gamut.
HP pixel control also gives consistent color control which allows the user to save time and money also the output will also look great regardless of the medium being used.
The HP Z9 is also a dual roll printer which is a great plus point since dual roll printers are essential for high volume printing. We also get the option to load two rolls of different media and then let the printer do all the working.
Surprisingly enough, it has no Wi-Fi. It supports Gigabit Ethernet though and USB. The printer does have WiFi Direct though for connectivity wirelessly with compatible Android, Chromebook or Apple devices.
Lastly the HP Z9 also has a 500 GB HDD inside it with more virtual memory so that it will be able to process complex and graphic intensive prints easily.
Very few architectural or engineering firms would want to print 44 inch wide schematics and blueprints. If you are one such firm, then this is perhaps the best plotter printer for you.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
What is Postscript?
Postscript is a printing language developed by Adobe which translates text, graphics and photos into printer readable format.
The postscript was developed with the objective to provide the printers with that specific information which allows for high quality printing results.
Postscript is a comprehensive language and enables printing on any printer with very similar, if not same, results.
The Portable Document Format (PDF) from Adobe uses postscript and can print the document to any printer with same results.
What is a Printer Driver?
A printer driver is a language that translates the text, graphics and photos to be printed into a format that the printer understands.
Every printer is dependent on a driver to be able to print. Printer drivers are like postscript but specific to printer models.
What is a Spectrophotometer?
A spectrophotometer is an electronic instrument which can accurately measure the quantities of various compounds at atomic level.
What this means that when a color is being printed, the printer knows its exact composition in terms of how much of which ink is present in it.
Consequently, the colors can be generated with great accuracy and shades with minute color differences can be printed accurately.
What is the Meaning of ROI?
The abbreviation ROI stands for Return On Investment. It is a percentage which compares your expenses with your revenue.
An ROI of 10% means that your revenue is 10% more than your expense.
The notion of ROI becomes important when operating a plotter printer since they have a high printing cost.
With the advancement in printer technology, engineers were able to replace the extremely complex and expensive, yet painfully laborious plotter drawing using pens, with inkjet printers which can print photos and graphics in addition to drawings that were the plotters only scope.
The best plotter printers can enable any firm to quickly dish out high quality schematics and single line diagrams for their clients.
The only issue with plotter printers is that they are expensive to procure and to operate. Therefore, the ROI has to be justifiable.
Andrew White is the founder of TechGearoid, a leading technology review & information website that is designed to help consumers make better decisions when it comes to their IT purchases. As a specialist tech writer (nerd) with over 10 years of experience, he enjoys writing about everything there is to do with modern technology & the newest market innovations. When he isn’t providing value for his readers, he’s usually drinking coffee or at the beach. Andrew lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife and family.