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Plotter vs Printer: Detailed Comparison

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People often confuse between a printer and a plotter. They think both are the same. However, they are not.

The way both printer and plotter work, their printing speed, and the output data format are different. In this article, we will learn how a printer differs from a plotter.

We will discuss the key distinguishing factors that will help you gain insights into the plotter vs. printer debate.

Let us get started with the discussion.

What Is A Printer?

A printer is a hardware output device connected to a computer that generates a hard copy of texts and even graphics. When you connect the printer to a computer system, it collects electronic data stored in the system and prints a hard copy of the same. In simpler words, the printer works by processing the soft copy on the computer to provide a hard copy.

Printers usually come in either wired or wireless devices. Wired printers have a USB cable to connect to the computers. Wireless printers use Bluetooth and infrared technology to connect to computer systems.

With advanced technology, wireless printers are the new norm. You can connect these devices to your laptop, tablet, smartphone, and even your cameras. No doubt the technology has made the printing task much easier than ever.

The significant feature of a printer is that you can connect a single printer to multiple computers, or provided the systems are compatible with the printing device. The software that are compatible with printers are Photoshop and any other image-editing program. These devices also support memory cards, scanners, digital cameras, etc.

What Are The Types Of Printers?

Printers usually come in two types. They are:

  • Impact Printers
  • Non-impact Printers

Depending on the technology used for printing, you can further classify the printers into the below:

  • Toner-based Printer
  • Dye-sublimation Printer
  • Inkless Printer
  • Liquid Ink Printer
  • Solid Ink Printer

Let us now learn about plotter and how it works.

What Is A Plotter?

A plotter is also an output device like a printer. However, you use it to print hard copies of large graphics and designs on papers like construction maps, architectural blueprints, etc.

Although many think that a plotter and printer are the same, they are not. A plotter is a peripheral component that you can either connect to your computer or use as a stand-alone device. After taking command from the computer, it prints images or designs on paper with the help of several automated pen-like instruments.

The significant feature of a plotter is that it helps you create designs and diagrams with precision and proper measurement. The applications of plotter include many industries like engineering, architecture, etc.

In the engineering field, they use a plotter to draw the automobile parts like the car engine, car shaft, and others. In the architectural industry, you can draw building plans, construction maps, and designs. The software that are compatible with plotters are Adobe Illustrator, Flexi, Corel, and CAD.

What Are The Types Of Plotters?

Plotters usually come in four types. They are:

  • Drum Plotter
  • Flatbed Plotter
  • Inkjet Plotter
  • Cutting Plotter

Let us move on to the differences between printers and plotters.

What Are The Differences Between A Printer And A Plotter?

Below is a table depicting the distinguishing features between a printer and a plotter. This comparative analysis will give you a quick understanding of both devices.

Plotter vs. Printer

Parameters Printers Plotters
Construction A printer is a hardware output device connected to a computer. It generates a hard copy of texts as well as graphics. A plotter is an output component used to print hard copies of large graphics and designs on papers like construction maps, architectural blueprints, etc.
Nature 

 

Printers are peripheral devices. Plotters come as standalone as well as

peripheral devices.

File Reading    The files that printers can read are PDF, JPG or JPEG, BMP as well as TIFF files. Plotters are able to read AI, DWG, and CDR files along with other kinds of files

available in vector format.

Cost   A printer is less expensive than a plotter. A plotter is more expensive.
Printing Speed     Faster than plotters. Slower than printers.
Format of output data The output data of a printer is in the format of pixels and bitmap. The output data of a plotter is similar to vector graphics or an image that is created using lines.
Line Drawing Printers can draw only one line at one time. Plotters can draw continuous lines from point to point simultaneously.
Software        

 

Printers are compatible with photoshop as well as other apps that are used for editing images. The software used for plotters are Adobe Illustrator, Flexi, Corel, and CAD.
Application     Used to produce or print texts, graphics, and images on a piece of paper. In specialized fields like engineering,

drawing as well as architecture.

Instrument A printer uses a pen or a needle to draw lines and figures on the page. A plotter uses several automated pen-like instruments for creating designs.
Resolution     

 

Highly dependent on

resolution.

Completely

independent of resolution.

Uses Printers are used to reproduce shadows, design elements, gradients, and colour images. Plotters are used to print architecture as well as engineering drawings.
Types 

 

They are of two types -impact and non-impact. They are of four types: Flatbed plotter, Cutting

plotter, Drum plotter, and Inkjet plotter.

Let us discuss about each parameter in detail for a better understanding.

1. Construction

Let us start our comparison with construction.

A printer is a hardware output device that you connect to a computer for generating a hard copy of texts and even graphics. It works by collecting electronic data stored in the system and then prints a hard copy of it.

A plotter is also an external device like a plotter. However, the only difference is that it is an output component used to print hard copies of large graphics and designs on paper. You can draw construction maps, building plans, architectural blueprints, etc.

2. Nature

Printers are peripheral devices. You can connect them to your computers, tablets, smartphones, and even cameras to print the text, images, and graphics. A printer works by processing the soft copy on the computer to provide a hard copy.

Plotters are of two types in nature. You can either use them as a peripheral component to connect to the computer. Else, you can use it as a standalone device that has its personal internal pre-processor.

3. File Reading

The types of files that a printer can read are PDF, JPG or JPEG, BMP, and even TIFF files.

On the other hand, plotters can read files like AI, DWG, and CDR files. Also, they can read other kinds of files that are available in vector format.

4. Cost

We all know that cost is the crucial deciding factor. If we compare the costs, printers are less expensive than the plotters.

Plotters are more expensive when compared to printers.

5. Printing Speed

The printing speed is yet another considerable factor. Printers are comparatively faster than plotters.

Plotters tend to have less printing speed when compared to printers.

6. Format of Output Data

The format of the output data for printers is usually in pixels and bitmap. The most widely used output format by these devices is pixels.

When it comes to plotters, the format of the output data looks almost similar to the vector graphic. Or, it can even be an image that is created using lines.

7. Line Drawing 

Printers can draw only one line at one time.

Plotters can draw continuous lines from point to point simultaneously.

8. Software

Printers are compatible with software like Photoshop as well as other apps that are used for editing images.

The software used for plotters are Adobe Illustrator, Flexi, Corel, and CAD.

9. Application

You can connect a printer to your laptop, tablet, smartphone, and even your cameras to get the print of images, graphics, and text on paper.

The applications of plotter include many industries like engineering, architecture, etc. In the engineering field, they use a plotter to draw the automobile parts like the car engine, car shaft, and others. In the architectural industry, you can draw building plans, construction maps, and designs.

10. Instrument    

A printer uses a pen or a needle to draw lines and figures on the page.

After taking command from the computer, the plotter prints images or designs on paper with the help of several automated pen-like instruments.

11. Resolution

Printers require high-resolution to produce or prints with perfect clarity. Whenever you expand any image for printing, the pixel size will get bigger. As a result, you may have a distorted output. Maintaining high resolution is a must if you want to get the output without compromising the quality.

Plotters are not resolution-specific. You can enlarge the image to any size, and the output will not lose its clarity.

12. Uses

You can use printers to produce high-resolution images and graphics. You can even use them to reproduce shadows, design elements, gradients, and colour images.

You can use plotters to create hard copies of large graphics and designs on papers like construction maps, architectural blueprints, etc.

13. Types

Printers usually come in two types. They are:

  • Impact Printers
  • Non-impact Printers

You can classify plotters into the below four types. They are:

  • Drum Plotter
  • Flatbed Plotter
  • Inkjet Plotter
  • Cutting Plotter

Conclusion

Printers and plotters are two external devices used for printing. You can use a printer to print texts, graphics, and images on a piece of paper. Plotters are used in specialized fields like engineering, drawing as well as architecture. Depending on the industry and application, you can choose the right device for your requirements. I hope this article helped you know the differences between a printer and a plotter. You can share this information with your friends, and let them know about these two devices.

Write to us in the comments section below, if you have any questions or need more information on the differences between printer and plotter. We will try to answer all your queries at the earliest.

Please share your feedback with us by posting your inputs in the comments below. If you feel that we missed out on any points, do not hesitate to let us know. We welcome your suggestions and would love to learn from you.

Stay healthy and stay safe!!!

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