It’s been a couple of years since I did the first iteration of this post, and I definitely think it’s time to do a refresh. As we all know, a lot can change in a few years, especially when it comes to technology products. Again, I’ll make the same shameless plug – please consider Richter’s for your next plotter! We can ship anywhere in the US, and we have a network of installers that can make this process as painless as possible from you. We’re a small, family-owned business, and appreciate you supporting a local business over the big boxes of the world.

If you need a little help beyond this blog post or if you just don’t feel like reading the whole thing, give me a shout! I’ll make sure you get the right piece of equipment. E-mail: Phone: 215-723-3900 x107.

Again, the focus of this post is technical plotters. The graphic plotter space is a little less complicated, and is much more nuanced in terms of the differences between them. If you’re looking for a graphics plotter, you may as well just contact me and I can give you the quick rundown.

On to the good stuff!

The first question you should ask yourself when considering a plotter purchase is, “How much am I going to print?” Each manufacturer builds a line that fits users that print anywhere from a handful of drawings per week to a hundred drawings per day. It’s not enough, however, to establish general print volume, I would also encourage you to consider your average batch size. There is a difference between printing 50 drawings per day in 5 sheet sets, and 50 drawings per day that you print all at once. Drop yourself into one of these brackets:

  • Lowest: Printing 5 sheets per week or less
  • Low-Low: Printing 5 sheets per day or less, batches are 5 sheets or less
  • Mid-Low: Printing 5-20 sheets per day, batches 5 sheets or less
  • Mid-Mid: Printing 5-20 sheets per day, batches 5 to 20 sheets
  • High-Mid: Printing 20-50 Drawings Per Day in batches of 20 sheets or less
  • High-High: Printing 20-50 Drawings Per Day in batches of 20-50
  • Highest: Printing 50-200 Drawings Per Day
  • Production: 200+ Drawings Per Day – If you’re printing this much, just give me a call!!

Next, let’s look at scanning needs. Scanning, in my opinion, mostly comes down to convenience. Getting scans done at a local repro shop isn’t expensive, but it does involve corralling your originals, getting in your car, waiting for them to be scanned, putting them on a flash drive or having them e-mailed to you, and then driving back. If you decide you do need a scanner, do you just need something for record keeping, or is scanning accuracy of utmost importance to you? Put yourself into one of these brackets:

  • No scan: I don’t need scanning
  • Reference Scanning: I will do low-volume scanning and for reference only
  • Professional Scanning: I need to be able to batch scan at high volumes or I need high-DPI scanning for high-fidelity reproduction and electronic storage

Next one is an easy one: do you need a single roll, or double roll? If you are printing two different sizes   interchangeably, getting a plotter with two rolls is very helpful to minimize the time changing out rolls. Note, double roll units are only available on the higher-echelon plotters.

  • Single Roll
  • Double Roll

Last thing to consider would be print width. Technical plotters are either 24”, 36” or 44” wide. 90% of the machines we sell are 36” wide, but if your volume is low (think “lowest” from our earlier brackets) you’re probably fine with a 24” machine, and maybe even if you fit yourself into “low-low.” On the other side, if you are one of the folks who absolutely HAS to print 44” wide, congratulations, you just cornered yourself into one of two options. 😊 Luckily, they’re both very solid options.

Alright, got your selections? Here we go!

  • Lowest, No scan, 24”
    • Andy’s Pick: HP T250
    • A fine second option: HP T230
      • HP made some nice improvements to their lower end equipment recently. They’ve streamlined the footprint to make it even smaller, updated the touchscreen, and kept the versatile rear tray for cut sheets. The T250 and T230 are essentially the same plotter, it’s just the T250 is a tiny bit faster, and a tiny bit more expensive.
  • Lowest or Low-Low
  • , No Scan, 36”
    • Andy’s Pick: Canon TM-300
    • A fine second option: HP T650
      • I’m a big fan of the TM-300 in this segment. They give you the ability to print on 500’ Rolls (compared to HP’s 150’ rolls). This means less roll switching and lower paper costs. Also, ink cost per square foot is lower on the Canon as well. There isn’t anything wrong with the HP, it’s just that the Canon gets everything right at a good price point. Granted, the HP is cheaper, so if you just want to spend less money, that’d be where I’d point you. But I like the TM-300 here if you can afford it.
  • Mid-Low, No Scan, 36”
    • Andy’s Pick: Canon TM-300
      • Really the only unit that fits this group in my opinion, the TM-300 is a great option for those who find themselves here. For more notes on the TM-300, see above.
  • Mid-Mid, No Scan, 36”
    • Andy’s Pick: Canon TM-305
      • Again, the only unit that fits into this group but it’s a great machine, and honestly I think the TM-305 or TM-300 could fit the vast majority of end-users. It’s a great machine that improves on the TM-300 by adding an internal hard drive, 20 sheet stacking basket, and USB port for printing from a thumb drive. It’s also on a couple hundred bucks more than the TM-300, so you might want to go for it even if you don’t think you need it.
  • High-Mid, No Scan, 36”
    • Andy’s Single Roll Pick: Canon TM-305
    • Andy’s Double Roll Pick: Canon TX-3100 DR
      • The Canon TM-305, again, is perfect for almost everybody. The 500’ roll is a huge difference maker for paper costs (HP’s T1600 maxes at 300’). I can’t speak for everyone that sells wide format paper, but our cost difference between 300’ and 500’ rolls of paper is a couple bucks, so the 500’ rolls drastically reduce total ownership costs. If you need a double roll option, the Canon TX-3100 DR is probably more than you need, but it costs roughly the same as HP’s T1600 DR, and in my opinion, is a better machine.
  • High-High, No Scan, 36”
    • Andy’s Single Roll Pick: HP T1600 / HP T1600ps
    • Andy’s Double Roll Pick: Canon TX-3100 DR
      • HP’s T1600 upped the ante when it upgraded it’s 50 sheet stacker to a 100 sheet stacker, and that’s the primary reason it gets an edge over the TM-305 in this scenario. If you’re batching out jobs bigger than 20 sheets with regularity, the 20 sheet basket just isn’t going to cut it. HP has done a lot of good stuff with this line by improving the touchscreen and user interface as well. Conversely, the TX-3100 with it’s 100 sheet stacker is more expensive and might be hard to justify over the T1600 SR. When it comes to double roll options in this space, same as above. The TX-3100 DR is better, and is roughly the same cost as the T1600ps DR.
  • Highest, No Scan, 36”
    • Andy’s Double Roll Pick: Canon TZ-30000
      • If you’re in the highest bracket, just do yourself a favor and get the Canon TZ-30000. This thing is awesome. Printing 4 D size drawings per minute, automatic roll loading (yes for real, it’s awesome), 700ml inks, 100 sheet integrated stacker (which is a MASSIVE improvement over their TX series). This thing can do it all, and it’s worthy every penny if you have the print volume to justify it.
  • Lowest, Low-Low, or Mid-Low, Reference Scanning, 24” or 36”
    • Andy’s Pick for ease of use: HP T830 (24” or 36”)
    • Andy’s Pick for the technically minded: Canon TM-200 MFP L24ei / Canon TM-300 MFP L36ei
      • The really defining factor for me in this decision is actually ease of use. The TM series from Canon is more robust and offers better scanning options and also has the same advantages as above (500’ roll capacity vs 150’, better ink costs). However, the HP T830 is just easier to use. If you feel like you’re able to get into a more complex control panel with tons of options, I’d go for one of the Canon units. If you need simple operation, go with the HP. I would also recommend you go with the Canon if printing is more important than scanning
  • Mid-Low, Professional Scanning, 36”
    • Andy’s Pick: Canon TM-300 MFP Z36
      • Canon also gives the option of pairing their TM-300 plotter with their higher-end Z36 scanner. This scanner is And luckily, they also pair it with the TM-305, the TX series, and the TZ as well. You can run a
      • scan, and before officially saving, you have the option to edit the scan. You can remove stains by adjusting black and white point, crop the image, tilt adjust, and inverse colors (handy for those old blueprints). It’s entirely possible for you to put in a sheet of paper and have it come out better than the original.
  • Mid-Mid, Professional Scanning, 36”
    • Andy’s Pick: Canon TM-305 MFP Z36
      • I love this scanner for all of the reasons mentioned above, and Canon pairs it with the extra advantages of the TM-305. 20 sheet stacking basket, USB drive, and internal hard drive. Win-win!
  • High-Mid, Reference or Professional Scanning, 36”
    • Andy’s Single Roll Pick (Toss Up!): Canon TM-305 MFP Z36 or HP T2600ps
    • Andy’s Double Roll Pick: HP T2600ps DR
      • HP does pretty much everything right with the T2600ps DR. It’s incredibly compact, integrates a 100 sheet stacker, has 2 rolls, and the scanner sits right on top. They’ve also made significant improvements to the scanner and user interface. For single roll, you could go either way. The Canon is a bit cheaper, which may give it the nod for me, but the HP stacker is quite a bit better. Really, you can’t go wrong!
  • High-High or Highest, Reference or Professional Scanning, 36”
    • Andy’s Double Roll Pick: Canon TZ-30000 MFP Z36
      • Canon pairs the beastly TZ-30000 with the best scanner on the market. If you need the most complete wide format printer you can get, the TZ-30000 MFP Z36 is it. As previously mentioned, it has the 100 sheet stacker, up to two 500’ roll capacity, automatic roll loading, and up to 700 mL ink cartridges. This might be the closest thing to plotter perfection we’ve ever seen.
  • So you need a 44” printer…
    • Andy’s Pick: Canon TX-4100 (Single Roll or Double Roll, MFP or Print-Only)
    • An OK second choice: HP T1700 (Single Roll or Double Roll)
      • The Canon TX-4100 is the exact same machine as the TX-3100 series (which obviously you know by now has single or double roll configurations, and the option of adding the scanner). All of the normal beastliness of the TX-3100 but in a 44” form factor. If you aren’t feeling the TX-4100, HP does have a 44” option as well in the T1700, but there’s really no contest between the two. It has no stacker at all, so all prints just drop into the basket below the printer. It does have a nice updated control panel, but other than that the TX-4100 rules the day between the two.

Have more questions? Did I raise more questions than I answered? Shoot me an e-mail or give me call. I’m always happy to help. 215-723-3900 x107 /