Iím new to the forum, so hello to everyone! It looks like this is the place for discussing the technical side of plotters, so I hope that someone will have some good advice to share.
Stated briefly, I have a project where I need to rapidly produce simple raised graphics for blind users. There are many ways to create tactile graphics, but most all of them wonít work in my situation. Producing them by hand is possible at low cost, but there are too many to produce by hand in any reasonable amount of time. Braille printers/embossers are available, but producing tactile graphics with those yields lines of widely spaced dots instead of solid lines.
I thought that a plotter of some type might be able to do what I need. Iíve read that using plotters to engrave is possible, but that many lower cost models donít hold up well when used for lots of engraving. However, these people were engraving metal. For my purposes, I have lots of thin and flexible plastic sheets that I can use. When working the idea manually, I place the plastic sheet on a rubber mat, then draw the graphics with a blunt stylus. The results are great, but, as I said above, some automated help is needed.
First, Iím not certain about the possible data formats that most plotters can accept. I see many that support HPGL2, and am fairly sure that some support image formats like BMP. However, I suspect that models supporting BMP are plotters that are really some form of large format inkjet, where as Iím fairly sure that I must use a pin-based plotter. It would be useful if the graphics designer/editor was able to submit simple black and white graphics files, rather than requiring that they have experience with plotter control languages or CAD software.
Next, the plotter itself only needs to be able to work with a surface that is roughly the size of a standard sheet of paper (8.5X11 inches) or smaller. Larger surface support is fine, but not required. The amount of pressure used by the pin will need to be adjustable, or else it will punch through the plastic. The plotter should also be able to handle a volume of at least a few hundred jobs per month. Hopefully, any suggested plotters will have a pin accessory that is appropriate for this sort of work (needs to be blunt/rounded, rather than the sharp engraving tools that Iíve seen). If such an accessory isnít available, Iím fine with having a machine shop make one, as long as the pinís design isnít so odd that it would be difficult to create something compatible.
If it helps, I can compromise in several areas. High speed operation isnít required. Even a single page/job every 10 minutes would be helpful. Quiet operation is also not important. It would be preferable if the size were appropriate for an office/desktop environment, but, if not, that can be accommodated. Reliability and any features that can ease the production workflow are higher priorities than low cost.
Is what Iím proposing reasonable, or am I about to run in to all sorts of problems? If my idea is reasonable, Iíd love to hear recommendations of plotter models that might be a good match. It looks like pin-based plotters are rarely used now, but Iíd like to use something currently in production if possible (where replacement parts/service is still available).
Thank you very much in advance for any info that youíre able to share.
Purchase a CNC router (capable of the max X-Y movement needed) & a CAM software that will import BMP.
There are very many options..