We’re big fans of the AxiDraw, the impressive pen plotter that can write and draw anything in a precise manner. The newest iteration, called the AxiDraw V3 XLX retains its excellent functions, all while expanding its travel distance, allowing it to perform its talents on two side-by-side sheets of A3 paper.
To the unfamiliar, it’s a desktop machine that takes 2D images as input, which it then recreates in pen-and-paper form in an accurate manner. It’s like a printer, except instead of using ink in cartridges, you just mount a pencil, marker, or any other writing instrument to the plotting head to use that in place of ink.
The AxiDraw V3 XLX has a plotting area measuring 22 x 8.5 inches – that’s two US letter-size sheets lined up in a straight line. It can work on any paper that fits inside the plotting area, so you can use it to write greetings on this year’s batch of Christmas cards, pre-sign your entire checkbook, or draw a portrait of someone to give as a holiday present. Yes, you can totally pretend you drew the darn thing yourself. Want to draw on something larger than the plotting area? We guess you can break apart the 2D input into multiple sections, then have it plot a 22 x 8.5-inch section at a time. Yeah, there’s definitely room for error there, but it is a viable solution.
It has a plotting head that can hold the writing instrument either straight down or at a 45-degree angle, with the latter being ideal for writing instruments that don’t require the user to apply pressure, such as fountain pens and rollerball pens. Since paper has a tendency to move with a slight whiff of air, they offer an optional mounting easel, which uses clips to hold your writing material in place the entire time it performs its plotting tasks.
The AxiDraw V3 XLX, by the way, is a redesigned version of the original machine, boasting custom aluminum extrusions and smooth rolling wheels for the moving parts. According to creators Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories, the sturdy and more rigid construction allows it to produce finer quality output (within 0.0005-inch accuracy) than the previous generation. Features include a maximum travel speed of 11 inches per second, a native resolution of 2,032 steps per inch, and a physical footprint of just 28 x 3.5 inches (length x depth), although you will need extra space for the paper.
To use the plotter, simply plug it into a wall outlet and connect it to a PC via USB. It’s designed to work with Inkscape, the popular free vector graphics program that’s available on Windows, Linux, and Mac, so you can this with any of the major desktop system.s Do note, you’ll need to install a set of extensions for the software, which are all available for download from Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories’ website. Using the machine is very much like using a regular printer: you take a graphical image, use the extensions to send it to the machine, and wait for the darn thing to finish.
The AxiDraw V3 XLX is priced at $600.