It took me several months of thinking and saving before I decided to buy a drafting machine. I'm gonna go over the reasons why I decided to invest and my impressions of the AxiDraw SE/A3 and its results.
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The plotter acts like a robotic arm on which you can attach a variety of writing instruments. A software commands its drawing head to raise, reposition, and lower itself on a flat surface so you can use it for almost any drawing or writing task that might normally be carried out with a handheld pen.
Its accuracy and its ability to draw on various materials, approaches that of a skilled drawer, but it remains a controllable machine and it seems important to me to consider it as such. Let's try to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of this tool and the opportunities behind its usage.
As a creative developer, the plotter came to me as an answer to a personal question, "How can I get out of computer screen and code complexity ?".
It has the same advantages and constraints as graphic programming, making it a powerful tool to use for generative art purposes. Working with simple vector shapes allows one to focus on the drawing aesthetics by playing with the tools and the surface of its realization.
Finally, seeing your design gradually reveal itself offers a very pleasant experience for a developer whose focus often lies on running things real time.
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If you start looking at plotters, you'll find that they come in all shapes and sizes. They can cover letters as well as entire walls and their prices range from $80 to $800. Here is a non-exhaustive list of plotters available on the market.
For my part, I chose the AxiDraw SE/A3, which is the top of the line plotter from Evil Mad Scientist. This is the third iteration of their AxiDraw line, which is distinguished by its reliability. It cost me $800 and here are its specifications.
For those familiar with AxiDraw, it differs from the V3/A3 model with a machined solid aluminum base and a price $200 higher. To be honest, my choice between these two models comes down to avoiding any regrets. And that's the case, RobotShop delivered me the machine in Paris in under 4 days with a set of accessories described below.
The user guide allows you to run the plotter in less than 30 minutes, but also dives into each tweak to get the best out of it. I use Inkscape and the AxiDraw extension for my drawings, it contains all the necessary utilities and optimizations so you never have to worry about hardware nor software.
If I had to find a flaw before showing you drawings, it's that the electronic control board where the motor and the power supply are connected seems a bit vulnerable when you have to move the machine. I also heard the magnetic easel from AxiDraw wasn't very good.
Next chapter, we will look at all the drawings I made in the two months after receiving the plotter.