Roland DPX-3300 Flat-Bed Pen Plotter

  • A1 size
  • HPGL (Hewlett-Packard Graphics Language)
  • 8 pen
  • Serial (RS-232) and parallel interfaces
  • Made in about 1987
  • Electrostatic paper hold-down
  • Good pens for it are “Staedtler 323 Triplus Colour Fibre” and “Pilot V-Ball” (0.5 or 0.7) but they need adapters.

Running from the HackSpace PC

The PC on the desk by the Sawgrass printer has the relevant software installed. There's now an extension cable plugged into the plotter that reaches there, but is a bit to in-the-way to leave in permanently. If you want to print from this PC, plug it into the USB port and follow the Inkscape (or whatever) instructions below.

The default settings for the plotter should be saved, but they're as in the Inkscape example. It was coming up on COM3 for us, but windows is weird and this could change.


The serial→USB converter is based on an FTDI chip. you might need a driver for this. I think it's the one here: but this is untested as it works on my machine (if this driver works for you can you update this please?

You can send images to the plotter from Inkscape.

First, make sure everything you want to plot is converted to a path by highlighting each thing in turn and selecting “Path > Object to path”. This should work with most vector images and text. With any raster images, you'll need to process them into a vector before plotting

SAVE YOUR WORK. The plotter extension seems quite crash-y, so make sure to save your work before trying to plot it.

Connect your computer to the plotter if not already.

Find out the serial port of the plotter. On windows, this is done by openning the commandprompt and typing 'mode'. There should be a COMXX commection (eg COM10). You'll need this later.

In inkscape, go to Extensions > Export > Plot

Enter the settings as in this image:

Note particularly that Serial Flow Control MUST be hardware. Without this, you may get partial plots, but you'll get errors in them.

Hit apply to start. It may take a little time (up to a minute or two) for it to start plotting.

The origin point is in the center of the plotter. This is marked by arrows drawn on masking tape. By default, Inkscape will locate the bottom left-hand corner of your plot at the origin (that is, the bottom left-hand corner of the things to actually plot, not the inkscape document). There is a check box 'center origin' on the Inkscape plot plugin popup. If you check this the center of your plot will be located at the center of the plotter.

If you stop a plot mid-way (e.g. by killing inkscape and turning off the plotter), the serial adaptor can still hold some of the plot in its buffer, so make sure you turn off the plotter AND unplug the adaptor from your computer to kill power to the serial adaptor to purge this.

Bristol Hackspace map. This one takes a while to plot as is A3. It uses three different pens:  bristol.svg

There are some 3D printed pen holders in the box. Note that not all of these work and they can be a bit finikey. For the plotter to pick up a pen, it has to detect a pen in the appropriate slot. There's a small microswitch that the pen had to depress. If it doesn't the plotter will pick the next available pen. We're currently experimenting with a few different designs to get to work properly and hold a range of pens.

You can check the pens are working before starting your plot by using the pen select buttons on the plotter. If you can press the appropriate button and the plotter picks up your pen, then the pen holder is being properly detected and it will work properly when you start your plot.

The CAD model for the pen holders can be found here on Onshape. You can open the “Configuration Panel” on the right hand side (second icon down, looks like a white cube with a table on its top left) and choose different pen sizes (right click a row and select “switch to” and the model will update). You can then right-click on the model and “export” to get an STL ready for slicing and 3D printing.

If you create a free Onshape account you can “copy” the CAD file so you can create your own branch and edit it to add more configuration sizes/correct errors in the model. Update the link above with your improved version.

The default pen force seems to be tuned to felt-tip pens. For Gel pens, you need more force. You can change the force mid-plot by pausing it, holding down Fast / Pen Force and selecting the pen force you want. It can also be set up in Inkscape.

Git repository of useful HPGL-generating software, in C for Linux:

  • equipment/roland-dpx-3300
  • Last modified: 8 months ago
  • by microangelo