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What’s the Difference Between Scanner & Plotter? 2 Key Devices

In the realm of digital technology, the number of tools available for various tasks can be overwhelming. Among these, scanners and plotters are two indispensable devices that serve distinct functions. Understanding their differences and applications can help you to understand which type of device you might need. Herein, we’ll delve into the intricacies of scanners and plotters, shedding light on their unique features, purposes, and benefits.

Scanners: Capturing and Digitizing

A scanner is an input device designed to convert physical documents, images, or objects into digital formats. It utilizes technology to capture the details of a document or image, translating them into a digital representation that can be stored,  shared electronically, and possibly edited.  Like a camera, that’s commonly used to capture people, places, and scenery; a scanner is commonly used to digitize printed material, documents, and artwork.  Though the scope of uses for both can be far more vast.  It is important to note that while both a camera and a scanner are both devices for capturing images, the types of things that they each capture are completely different.  And when utilizing images by utilizing the wrong device, simply provides inferior results.  An example of this could be trying to take a picture of yourself utilizing a scanner or copy machine!

Types of Scanners:

Best large format inkjet printer, Wide format digital printer, Large plotterFlatbed Scanners: Featuring a flat, glass surface onto which the document or image is placed for scanning. They are versatile and suitable for a wide range of items, including photographs, pages from books, some materials, and artwork.

Plotter scanner for rent, Oversized scanner near me, Large format digital printing, Large format printing servicesSheet-fed Scanners: These scanners are optimized for processing multiple sheets of paper in rapid succession. They are commonly used in offices for tasks like scanning documents, like contracts, invoices, and records.

Book Scanners: These scanners have a cradle to hold books, with the scanner module over the cradle.  These scanners are most exclusively utilized to scan books and magazines.

HD Ultra ScanStation PRO, Kodak Scanners, Large format printing companies, Blueprint plotter, Large format plotter printer, Digitize blueprintsWide format scanners, or large format scanners: Roll-fed scanners that are used to capture architectural or engineering blueprints, maps, schematics, etc.

3D Scanners: These scanners scan 3 dimensional objects.

Fine Art ScannerFine Art Scanners: Put the artwork on a table that moves through the scanner without ever touching the artwork.


  • Digitizing Documents: Scanners play a crucial role in converting physical documents into digital files.
  • Organization: Digitizing simplifies more efficient organizing of source material, reducing clutter and facilitates clearing up office space.
  • Sharing Information: Digital documentation can easily be shared virtually anywhere in the world.
  • Archiving: Institutions and businesses use scanners to preserve historical documents, and other valuable materials in digital form.
  • Image Editing: Photographers and graphic designers use scanners to capture high-quality images for editing and manipulation in various software programs.


  • Preservation of Physical Copies: Scanning documents ensures their long-term preservation, it stops the aging process for documentation, reducing the risk of loss or damage.
  • Enhanced Accessibility: Digital files are easily searchable and can be accessed remotely, promoting efficient collaboration and sharing.

Plotters: Transforming to Print

In contrast to scanners, plotters are output devices that produce physical copies of digital designs or images. They create intricate, large-scale reproductions by precisely laying ink or toner onto media utilizing a process within the technology.  A plotter is a wide format printer.  Where it gets a little confusing is when a scanner is combined with the printer (ie. the scanner is in the top portion of the equipment and the print engine is under), this combined equipment is sometimes called a “plotter” (really confusing), or “MFP plotter” (a little less confusing)!

Types of Plotters:

Printing Plotters: These plotters use ink or toner. They are commonly used for technical drawings, architectural plans, and artistic renderings.  Within printing plotters, there are three types of technology commonly used today (Pen Plotters are passe), they are:

  • InkJet Plotters
  • LED Plotters
  • Laser PlotterEpson T5770DR 36" color plotter

Within Printing Plotters there are a plethora of different printing applications (types of plotters for the intended use), they are:

  • Technical Plotters
  • Photo Plotters
  • Graphics Plotters
  • Sublimation Plotters
  • Direct to Garment Plotters
  • Rigid Substrate Plotters

Cutting Plotters or Contour Cutters: Instead of using ink toner, cutting plotters employ a sharp blade to cut out shapes from materials like vinyl or paper. They are extensively used in industries like sign-making and fashion design.ValueCut Contour Cutter Plotter


  • Engineering and Architecture: Plotters are indispensable tools for creating detailed blueprints, architectural plans, and technical drawings with utmost precision.
  • Design and Prototyping: Industries that require accurate representations of designs, such as fashion, automotive, and aerospace, utilize plotters for prototyping and pattern-making.
  • Signage and Graphics: Cutting plotters are commonly used to produce vinyl decals, stickers, and other custom graphics.


  • High Precision: Plotters excel at producing precise, detailed reproductions with consistent quality.
  • Versatility: Cutting plotters, in particular, can work with a variety of materials, opening up a wide range of creative possibilities.

In Summary: Bridging the Gap

In summary, scanners and plotters are pivotal devices in the world of digital technology, each serving a unique purpose. Scanners are input devices, bringing physical documents into the digital realm, while plotters are output devices, transforming digital designs into tangible, real-world creations printed onto media. Understanding their capabilities and applications empowers individuals and businesses to harness the full potential of these indispensable tools, unlocking new levels of productivity and creativity in the process.

Explore our selection of reliable wide format plotters and scanners at AZ Overland Blueprint. We offer quality equipment with the peace of mind that comes from dealing with a trusted source.  If you are seeking information or want to purchase a wide format plotter or large format scanner contact us today!  Or, call us now at (602) 224-9971!

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