Posted by Kevin Vaughan on Mon, Nov 01, 2021 @ 09:15 AM

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There is no doubt that digital workflows have made some significant changes to the design and build process in recent years. However, take a look around and you can still find plenty of paper construction drawings out there.


Because of this, there is still a very explicit need for large format printers. Likewise, it is good to know some specifics about the latest technical plotter technologies geared directly towards line drawings, aerials, schematics, etc.


If you are in the market for a new blueprint plotter, there are some important things to keep in mind. We’ll dive into these and suggest some various machines for you. Nevertheless, when considering a plotter purchase, the first thing you should do is take a hard look at your company's workflow.



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Some things to think about when picking a plotter


Are you looking to print CAD drawings or more high-end graphics?

Do you have a preference toward Inkjet or toner-based technology?

Do you need to print color, B/W, or both?

What types of print media would you like to print on?

What is your estimated print volume? (Usually stated in either sheets or square feet)

Do you want 36-inch output or perhaps another size?

What kind of print speed would serve you best?

How many users will access the printer?

Do you need multifunction (copy/scan) functionality?


This article focuses on new Canon plotter options. While there are other manufacturers, this information is dedicated to the Canon portfolio. 


A word about used plotters

You may feel that there are some great deals to be had on used plotters, but beware, they can be very risky investments. Often used machines are traded by brokers who do not pack or ship these units properly. I could tell you horror stories of some of the shipping damage that I have seen through the years. Honestly, it is best to go through a reputable dealer. 


If you are considering used equipment, do your homework and make sure that it is still supported by the manufacturer. Getting a great deal on a used plotter doesn't do you any good if you have the machine fails 6 months later and you can’t find replacement parts.


This type of situation quickly relegates that “bargain plotter” to boat anchor status in a heartbeat.

How Much Do You Need to Print?


As with all print equipment, duty cycle and print speed are both great contributors to the user experience. Which brings up another great point - don’t simply make a decision on a new plotter based on the spec sheet.


Gray Button Print on Modern Computer Keyboard.


Reviewing system specs can give you some great insight, but they miss all of the nuances of the human interactions like how the machine neatly stacks printed sheets so you don’t have to hand sort a nasty mess of drawings.


Or getting a new machine only to learn that the entire system needs to be pulled away from the wall to load paper. Make sure that your new system will be one that the entire office will enjoy using.


Scanning Drawings to Digital Files

Need to scan drawings? You should consider a MFP (multifunction printer) that includes a wide-format scanner mounted on the printer. This new single-foot print design adds the extra functionality without wasting valuable floorspace. 




Scanning is not something that everyone needs, but often, companies are defaulting to purchase an MFP (multifunction printer) that includes a plotter, wide-format scanner, and often a dedicated controller PC.


You need this feature if you have physical sheets that you need to reproduce (copy) or scan to a digital format, such as PDF.


One or Two Paper Rolls?

Some Canon imagePROGRAF models today give you the option to have either 1 o 2 media rolls. This greatly increases the convenience of the system as you can load two different size rolls or paper types to print on demand.


Often our customers keep a roll of 36-inch paper and another roll of 30-inch paper loaded. This lets them print Either 24”x 36” ARCH Ds or 30”x 42” sheets without having to change anything physically on the machine. How convenient is that?


How Wide Do You Need to Print?

Typically, technical plotters are either 24”, 36” or 44” wide. The most common size out of those is 36-inches. One reason for this is because a 36-inch plotter printer machine is capable of printing any size up to 36”x 48” (Which is now uncommon).




There are certainly situation, such as GIS, or Oil & Gas when a 40”+ is needed, but generally speaking, a 36 inch system gets the job done 90%+ of the time.

If space is an issue, or there are budget constraints, then there are some 24-inch options for both plotters and MFPs. But beware, you are limited to a max sheet size of ARCH D (24”x 36”).


Use Every Drop of Ink in the Tank

The exclusive Canon Sub-Ink Tank System allows virtually all of the available ink in a tank to be used before having to replace it, helping to eliminate wasted ink.




The empty tanks can also be replaced on-the-fly without stopping the printer. This is extremely useful during your long print jobs. Not only does this greatly enhance the dynamic functionality of the plotter and give you peace of mind that no ink is discarded when the ink tanks are replaced.


Canon Wide Format Plotter & Printer Options (From Smallest to Largest)


Canon TM-200 - 24 inch plotter

The TM-200 CAD printer is not only ideal for printing technical documents, CAD line drawings and GIS maps, but also posters, signage and displays.




The small 24-inch form factor makes the Canon TM-200 an extremely versatile printer. Since this is a 24-inch printer, you are limited to a max print size of ARCH D (24”x 36”).

This is a great solution for small offices or home offices that print 5-10 sheets per day and less than 3,000 square feet per month.

More info about Canon TM-200

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Canon TM-200 L24ei - 24 inch MFP (Plotter with scanner)

The Canon imagePROGRAF TM-200 MFP L24ei, large format imaging system is an affordable scan-to-copy/file system for low volume and entry-level users.


TM-200 MFP L24ei_Right Slant


With a 24 inch scanner, this MFP is designed for architects, engineers, consulting firms, small offices and K-12 schools that require a minimal learning curve when it comes to new equipment.


Offering more than just the scan-to-copy functionality, this imaging system gives you the ability to scan to USB, scan to copy and archive, scan to multipage PDF and scan to your PC as well as reduce and enlarge images.


This is a great solution for small offices or home offices that print 5-10 sheets per day and less than 3,000 square feet per month.


More info about Canon TM-200 MFP L24ei

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Canon TM-300/305 plotter

The TM Series is a fantastic 36 inch general purpose printer that allows you print everything from construction drawings, GIS maps, posters, signs, and more.


TM-305_Left Slant

The TM series is built with Canon patented technologies and is nearly 60% quieter than previous models. The new Canon LUCIA TD inks are fade proof and water resistant.


The difference between the 300 and the 305 is simply that the TM-305 includes an internal 500GB hard drive. This is beneficial to spooling larger, more complex files, job spooling, and some other advanced features.


Be advised the the TM-300 and TM-305 are only 1-roll printers. For more on-board paper capacity, you need to consider either the TX-series are the new TZ-30000.


The TM-300 and TM-305 are great solutions for small offices or home offices that print 5-50 sheets per day and less than 4,000 square feet per month.


More info about Canon TM-300/305

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Canon TM-300 L36ei - 36 inch MFP (Plotter with scanner)

Like the Canon TM-200 MFP L24ei, the TM-300 MFP L36ei utilizes a simple Colortrac Lei scanner. As with all Lei units, this is positioned as an affordable, entry-levle scan-to-copy/file system for low volume users.


TM-300 MFP L36ei_Right Slant


With a 36 inch scanner, this MFP is also designed for users to need a “no frills” package with a minimal learning curve.

Likewise, the TM-300 Lei offers more than just the scan-to-copy functionality. This imaging system gives you the ability to scan to USB, scan to copy and archive, scan to multipage PDF and scan to your PC as well as reduce and enlarge images.

This is a great solution for small offices or home offices that print 5-10 sheets per day and less than 4,000 square feet per month.

More info about Canon TM MFP Lei

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Canon TM-300/305 MFP Z36 (Plotter with scanner)

The Canon TM-305 MFP T36 Scan-To-Copy/File/Share system that has everything needed to copy, scan, archive and share maps, drawings, renderings and posters.




It combines the powerful and reliable TM-300 or TM-305 plotter with the latest Colortrac Z36 color scanner.


This multi-component system gives you the opportunity to be more productive by being able to print and scan at the same time. The new Win 10 AIO (All-in-One PC) has an all new intuitive GUI design for simplified printer management.


Like the plotter-only versions of the TM-300 and TM-305, these MFP versions are perfect for small offices or home offices that print 5-50 sheets per day and less than 4,000 square feet per month.


More info about Canon TM-300 MFP and TM-305 MFP

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Canon TX-3100/4100 MFP (Plotter with scanner)

The Canon TX-series are the models that are truly made for a shared workgroup environment. They are a little larger, more robust, and more capable than any of the TM Series.


Canon TX-3100 MFP - Features - TAVCO


Also, the Canon TX models can be configured with 2 paper rolls. So, you can load either two different sizes and/or types of media to print on demand.


These MFPs have been upgraded with faster printing speeds, an enhanced automatic roll loading function, and free-size borderless printing to improve productivity and efficiency.


Preprocessing technology between pages and a faster cutter speed help to achieve faster printing speeds than ever before.


This MFP includes a production CAD printer, Z36 scanner and intuitive system controller. Like other models, the TX-Series are powerful addition to Canon’s portfolio of large format printers.

There are two different size units available in the TX product line - the TX-3100 MFP is a 36-inch printer/scanner combo and the TX-4100 MFP is a 44-inch combination unit.


They are usually purchased as full functioning multifunction systems complete with a scanner and controller PC, but the TX series is also available in a plotter-only configuration.

As a more powerful platform, the TX-Series is a good fit for mid-size offices or locations that require a more dynamic printing resource.


These machines are reliable in printing environments that require up to 6,000 square feet per month (1000 D-size sheets per month).

More info about Canon TX-3100/4100 MFP

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Canon TZ-30000 MFP (Plotter with scanner)

Canon’s latest edition is both the fastest and most powerful. The new TZ-30000 MFP allows you to plot, copy, and scan faster than ever in full color. This innovative large format system is packed with new tech including automatic paper detection and an improved top stacker to hold up to 100 prints.




The innovative TZ series has more in common with more expensive toner-based plotters than it does with other inkjet systems. The single footprint chassis holds two internal media rolls, the latest generation color scanner, and an attached all-in-one touchscreen PC controller (Win 10).


Loading paper is a breeze! You simply load the roll of paper on the spindle, place it inside the drawer, and close the door – that’s it! The Canon TZ will automatically spin and load the paper.


From there, the imagePROGRAF TZ will automatically sense the media length, and width. You only need to select the paper type from the printer’s touchscreen display. And, unlike the other Canon models, the TZ comes standard as a two roll machine.


The Canon TZ 30000 features a new integrated Top Output Stacker that can stack up to 100 sheets of bond paper. An onboard advanced air flow separation system also helps reduce paper jams while keeping prints neatly in place. So, your days of bending over to untangle a jumbled mess of printed bond drawings from an inkjet printer catch basket are over.


Most TZ models purchased tend to be multifunction plotter and scanner units, but like other Canons, the TZ can be bought as a plotter-only configuration without a scanner and controller computer.


As the most rugged Canon imagePROGRAF model, the TZ-30000 is the best plotter for a networked workgroup printer with multiple users. It is capable of printing up to 10,000 square feet per month.


More info

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There is a lot to consider when investing in a new plotter printer or MFP system. It pays to do your homework beforehand before simply jumping in the lease expensive option. But, be careful. Don’t make your decision for the best plotter and printer strictly from the information that you read in the brochure and spec sheet.

Speak with a trusted manufacturer’s dealer and ask questions. As they say, the Devil in in the details, and when is comes to a wide-format technical printer, workflow and a good user experience in everything.

Which Canon plotter and printer suits you best?


This article was originally published in 2010 and updated in 2021. 

See the complete selection of wide format plotters and printers

Kevin Vaughan

Written by Kevin Vaughan

Kevin Vaughan is the Vice President of TAVCO and heads up Sales, Digital Marketing, and E-Commerce channels. With over two decades of experience, he has received various awards for sales performance and channel growth. Published articles focus on AEC technologies including laser scanning, 3D cameras, CAD software, and large format plotters. When he is not geeking out on new technologies, you can find him hanging with his wife and kids, playing guitar, or Scuba diving.