Printers, plotters and plotter printers all serve the same basic function. Printers designate a broad device category of which plotters and plotter printers comprise a subcategory. In other words, plotters are printers, but not all printers meet the specifications to be considered plotters.
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The primary function of printers is to generate documents from data that includes photos, text, graphics, labels and spreadsheets. A computer or data card provides the content for the printout. Most everyday printers limit paper sizes to 8.5 inches wide for letter- and legal-sized documents and may have additional functions, such as scanning and faxing. A wide-format printer used as a plotter has a single function: printing. Plotters and wide-format printers can generate large-sized documents such as architectural blueprints or posters that are greater than 8.5 inches wide.
According to Work.com, plotter printers range from impact or dot-matrix printers for basic schematics to high-resolution inkjet printers that produce detailed photographs as oversized prints. Most plotter printers use impact or inkjet printing technology with top-loading or roller-fed paper slots. Types of regular printers include impact printers, inkjet printers and laser printers, and paper may feed from the top in slots or from prefilled paper trays.
A plotter printer can produce printouts larger than 8.5 x 11 inches, or letter size; large-format printers can also generate large prints. A plotter printer and a wide-format printer may be on a stand and include a roller accessory on the back to hold a roll of paper that feeds into the machine. Depending on the size of the unit, everyday printers may not require a special stand and can be placed on a table, shelf or cabinet with easy access to paper supplies.
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