A plotter is a method of image creation using pens rather than ink cartridges. It prints using vector graphic commands as opposed to raster printing so it is ideal for replicating fine art. Vector graphic commands are not as memory intensive as printing the same image on an inkjet or laser based printer. Typically they are applied in an environment where detailed drawings are required but where time is not an issue as they can take a long time to print an A0 sized drawing to the restricted mechanical movement of the pens.
They are not good at replicated solid areas but can hatch out an area using lines. Plotters, in the original sense of the word, are not widely used anymore and have been replaced by wide format inkjet printers which are now widely referred to as plotters. Inkjet plotters are really just wide format printers. The complex requirements of architectural designers and even sign writers, has necessitated the move to inkjet plotters or wide format printers. Now, when the term plotter is mentioned, it is a wide format printer that is being referred to.
Plotter prices will vary according to their specification. Plotters, essentially being wide format printers, will be fitted with memory, processors, network cards, printer heads and ink tanks. The size and quality of each component as well as the manufacturer of the plotter will heavily influence plotter prices in the UK. When comparing plotter prices it would be wise to also consider the running costs of the plotter as the serviceability and cost of supplies for the plotter will affect the overall cost of ownership. Plotter ink replacement cartridges vary in price according to the manufacturer and according to whether the cartridges are original or compatible. Compatible plotter ink cartridges may be cheaper to buy but may not provide the same yield or reliability as original brand ink cartridges. In addition, many manufacturers will not honour warranties if it is believed that non-approved supplies have been used as compatibles have often been connected to premature mechanical and electronic failures.
Pricing information for UK plotter suppliers must be used as a guide only as after sales service is as, if not more, important than the initial cost price. The running cost of a plotter is directly related to the service schedule because any operational interruptions due to incorrect maintenance can cause unnecessary costs to be incurred. This includes job cancellations due to the inability to deliver prints within a specified period of time and the cost of making alternative arrangements due to the broken plotter sitting in the corner awaiting a part or parts. If the plotter supplier does not have personnel sufficiently trained to repair the plotter that has been purchased, particular if it is a newly released model, there will be servicing errors as the engineers are ‘learning on the job’ whilst attending the client’s premises. When comparing UK plotter suppliers, ask to see the manufacturer issued training certificates for their service engineers proving that the engineers are trained on that specific model of plotter. Plotter prices start from around £1500 and can go up to tens of thousands of pounds. In the plotter market HP plotters and Canon plotters are trusted brands worth considering.