Investing in quality equipment is paramount to your business’ success. You want machinery that is up-to-date, can work with a diverse set of materials, and is reliable for any project you have in mind.
You may be debating between a commercial flatbed cutter and the various other types of plotters. You might not even know the differences between the options. A commercial flatbed cutter is a machine that uses a large, flat work surface and an X-Y cutting head to perform a number of tasks, including cutting, creasing, embossing, and more. A plotter is a printer that interprets commands from a computer to make line drawings with one or more pens. A plotter cutter is a cutting device that can digitally produce designs for signs or art, and can accurately handle different cutting processes for your projects.
These are just the tip of the iceberg–not all plotters are created equal, so it’s important to know the different types. Plotters can make or break your project, and understanding the needs of your jobs will help you select the right one.
List of Plotter Types
Plotter cutters combine the functionality of a plotter and a cutter, which is useful if you need to both print and cut using the same device. You can print on your vinyl or cut an MDF board with a plotter cutter, for example, but there is more to plotters than printing and cutting. Each type of plotter has a different, yet specific, use.
Here are some different types of plotter cutters, along with the benefits of each:
Drum plotters are one of the most popular types of plotters. They work by moving the pen on a single-axis track while the paper moves on a cylindrical drum. Hence, the name. The drum moves the paper left and right, while the pen draws up and down. You have the option to utilize multiple pens as needed.
Using a drum adds another axis during printing, which means you can create graphics up to the size of the drum. This also means you have greater versatility in printing, especially for a wide variety of large documents.
A flatbed plotter operates by fixing paper on a flat surface while the pens draw the graphics or images. The pen is typically attached to an arm on the plotter, allowing it to move over the material with ease. The bed of the flatbed is actually a flat vacuum bed that keeps the material still.
Flatbed plotters are great because they can use a variety of colors of pens, which results in eye-catching graphics. Like the drum plotter, the bigger your flatbed, the bigger your projects can be. However, flatbed plotters are typically offered in larger sizes than drum plotters.
These plotters use an electrostatic method of printing. That means there are no pens in this printing process. The electrostatic method of printing creates images out of small dots on specially treated paper; all you need to do is run the paper through the device to allow the image to appear. Because they do not use pens, these plotters produce images faster than those using pens.
Inkjet plotters are another popular choice. These plotters push beads of ink directly onto the material you are printing on and print in three or four color palettes. Tri-color inkjets use cyan, magenta, and yellow the way a standard printer does. A four-color inkjet includes the aforementioned colors as well as a black cartridge. Four-color inkjets are ideal for print jobs that need the clearest black.
Inkjet plotters stand out because they are environmentally friendly. The ink is water-based, meaning there are no hydrocarbon-based solvents or volatile organic compounds. Another factor is that water-based ink adds less weight to paper, making mailing and transport of inkjet printed materials more affordable.
There are many types of plotters out there. We explored the capabilities of drum plotters, flatbed plotters, electrostatic plotters, and inkjet plotters–each operates in a unique way and can benefit your business or projects. If you are still unsure which type of plotter is the best fit for you, call the experts at AirMark. AirMark specializes in printing material manufacturing, and our team will set you up with a plotter you feel confident in.