Pen plotters

This is a list of the pen plotters I’ve found that can be built, roughly grouped by their kinematics. Emphasized links seem the most promising.

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.


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


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.


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.


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


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