Pen plotters

Updated on .

This is a list of the pen plotters I’ve found that can be built, roughly grouped by their kinematics. I’m considering building those in bold.

Single-belt XY

It’s possible to hook up a single belt in a clever way to move the pen in both the X and Y dimensions. They’re also called T-bots. This adds some complexity to the control software, but doesn’t require a stepper motor on the moving portion of the plotter.

Some of the less-polished plotters are below:

Two-belt XY

Using two belts for XY motion is a straightforward system that’s suitable for smaller plotters.

Core XY

The Core XY platform comes from the 3D printing community and uses belts arranged along the perimeter of a square that encloses the plotting area. It’s even more complex to control than the single-belt XY system, but it’s also more rigid because the pen is supported on both sides.

Moving paper

Like a modern inkjet printer, these devices move the entire sheet of paper back and forth for the Y axis. This was a common approach for commercial plotter designs.

Hanging

These are large-format plotters that draw on vertical surfaces, with the pen carriage attached to pulleys at the two top corners.

Arm

Like a robotic arm in two dimensions, these devices move a single arm from one corner of the work area with a pivot partway along the mechanism.

Polar

There aren’t many examples of these kinds of plotters because their range is usually an arc, while paper is a rectangle. An arm pivots around a platform with the arm moving the pen closer to or further from the pivot point.

Integrations

These are modifications made to other CNC machines to support pen plotting.

One-off

These designs don’t exactly fit into any of the other categories.