Printers and Plotters

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Printers produce a hard copy of the output on paper. There are three main types of printer: Dot matrix, Inkjet and Laser. The following table compares the three types.

Dot Matrix Inkjet Laser
Initial cost Low Medium High
Cost per printed page Low High Medium
Speed Low Medium High
High volumes No No Yes
Noise level High Low Low
Print quality Low Medium High
Print graphics No Yes Yes
Print in colour No Some Some
Print source Ink ribbon Ink Toner powder


A plotter consists of a device that can move paper both backwards and forwards. On the top of the device one or more pens are able to move horizontally across the paper. The combined movement of the pens horizontally across the paper and the vertical movement of the paper allows complex continuous diagrams to be drawn.

Some plotters allow different colour pens to be used to create diagrams in multiple colours.

In other types of plotters, the paper lies on a flat bed. The mechanics of the plotter are so designed that the pens can move both across and down the paper to create the diagram.