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Outputting HP-Gl/2 from Mac to a plotter

Jon E


I've got an unusual problem that I hope someone can help with.

I'm a paper-engineer who uses Vectorworks for designing children's pop-up books. I'm running Vectorworks 10.5.1 on Mac OS 10.3.9.

I used to print out my prototype outlines onto card and then cut them out by hand using a scalpel, but I've recently bought a Summacut D60 signwriter's vinyl cutter that will do the cutting for me. The cutter is essentially a plotter that uses a tiny knife instead of a pen.

At the moment I have to export my cutting outlines from Vectorworks as epsfs so that I can import them into the signwriting software (called MacSign) that drives the cutter. The cutter driver is an integral part of the signwriter software and can't be accessed directly by other applications. Unfortunately the cutter manufacturer does not produce an independent driver for Mac OS X, which is why I currently have to use this roundabout route.

However I notice that the cutter control language can be reset to HP-GL/2, so if I could get a HP-GL2 driver for Mac OS 10.3.9, I might be able to cut/plot directly from Vectorworks.

Can anybody tell me how I could get hold of such a driver?

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I had already looked at the Gimp-Print site, but none of the models on the 'supported printers' page seem to be plotters. I may be out of my depth here, but I assume that means that gimp-prints output is 'rasterised' rather than in a vector-based form that is needed by a plotter.

Will check out Macro Enter though. Thanks.

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Just got following response from technical support at Microspot, who produce the X-RIP software available from Macro Enter.

"There is no HP-GL/2 inkjet driver for Mac OS X as Mac OS X does not have support for vector data."

I guess that knocks it on the head.

If anyone thinks they might have a way to drive a SummaCut directly from Vectorworks in OS X then drop me a line @ jon@scribblestreet.co.uk. (I know Magisign produce a cutter plug-in for Illustrator, but Vectorworks is much better equipped for pop-up design)

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I just want to confirm, VW11.5 cannot output .plt (HP-GL/2) files am I correct. My printshop prefer this format (but can also do Acrobat/pdf) so I guess I should look for an alternative - the VW viewer would be best should it not or is it tricky for a non VW user (ie print shop worker) to use? Other suggestions welcome.


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I know that there are plenty of HP plotters that will run on OS X, but my understanding is that OS X can only output to them in a rasterized format rather than the vector-based hp-gl or hp-gl/2 formas that I need for my cutter.

Having just googled it, it looks like the designjet 430 is an inket plotter, so I'd assume it works off rasterized output. I'm looking for an OS X driver that will drive a pen-type plotter (so that each line is individually drawn by moving the pen). This requires some sort of vector based output (which Microspot claim OS X does not support). Can you confirm if one of the output options from your driver is vector based? There is nothing on the HP site to suggest this - but then there's no Mac drivers on for the the 430 either.

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Hi Jon,

Have you considered using VirtualPC and a windows plotter driver? Looks like Winplot6.7 might work if you can use a usb cable to connect to the cutter.

Winplot 6.7


FlexiSign will drive most vinyl cutters, and runs in OSX. I guess it depends on how desperate you are or how much $$$ you can spend on the problem.


Unfortunately I can't give you a direct printing method from VW, as both options above require you to export a file.

Good Luck,


[ 06-06-2005, 07:19 PM: Message edited by: Chris Dordoni ]

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Thanks for the suggestions Chris, but the MacSign software that was bundled with the cutter WILL drive the cutter in OS X. The problem is the driver is integral to the Macsign software so I have to keep importing epsf files from VW (where I do my design work) into Macsign every time I want to cut.

I am just looking for something to drive the cutter directly from VW.

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Mac OS 10 cannot create HPGL 2 files. It's a file format that only a select few printer drivers in OS 9 were capable of after expensive software.

However, creating a PS file is a similar file format that any print bureau should be able use. Even if they say they don't take PS files, you can create a PS file and change the file extension from PS to PLT and they will never know the difference.

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Just out of interest, what printer should be selected when creating the PS file. Do you need to find out your print services plotter type and download the necessary drivers.

Update: I have been looking around the forums and have learned a bit more. Apparantly you need to add a new printer in print center and use the correct driver for the plotter that your print service uses. I did this and emailed a test .ps file to our local service. They use a HP 1055 and a software called reprodesk (apparantly the industry standard). They were not able to print from the .ps file and changing the extension to .plt had no effect.

The reason I would like to get this to work is that the SAVE AS PDF function in OSX 10.2.8 is simply not good enough. The prints are too chunky. The lineweights do not match the quality of those printed natively through VW. I am able to directly compare the prints on our offices HP 800ps. Increasing the Application Print Resolution to 600dpi does not help.

The amount of posts about this issue shows how important it is. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Has anyone been able to get prints from .ps files from a service bureau using reprodesk.


OSX 10.2.8, VW 10.5.1

[ 06-28-2005, 02:14 PM: Message edited by: ga ]

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I was able to get prints from a print shop in Washington DC by sending them post script files. This was several years ago, but I recall there were some minor problems with printing gray tones that we use to identify a wall type.

We have been sending PDF files to our print shop for a number of years and this system has worked easily and flawlessly. If you use Adobe Acrobat to create the PDF files, the print quality is superior to the PDF creation function that is part of OSX. Any print shop should be able to print PDF files.

This does not help with the initial question regarding the cutter, but it may help with "ga"s question.

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Thanks for the reply CEA.

It seems a shame that VW users have to buy additional software in order to send out their files for printing. The built in OSX Save As Pdf may be enough for some, but the reality is that we should be able to get the same quality from the service bureau that we get printing natively through VW to our own plotter. PDF is not good enough.

Katie, are you certain about changing the .ps file name to .plt. Do you know of others that have successfully used this method. I dont want to waste my time going down a blind alley.

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First let me say that I use PDFs. Yes, I do use Acrobat to create them. Acrobat is a highly useful program that allows the exchange of all types of documents and allows them to be marked up with comments.

As for your path toward a solution; it seems to me that you need to be starting with your print bureau and not with Katie and NNA.

The print bureau should be telling you what they need and what they are able to do. NNA has the VW Viewer which your bureau could use.

My opinion is that PDF is here to stay. It is a standard that allows you to create a file that can be used by your print bureau, by your client, by your engineer, by anyone. No special software or techniques are needed.

Why not bite the bullet and use PDF. I am sure that you will eventually.

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Thanks for the reply Kevin,

I like PDF. My print bureau wants PDF (or .plt), but without buying acrobat the quality isnt high enough. They also have the VW viewer but the cost of having them open each file (sometimes up to 500) and printing them individually is astronomical compared to PDF or .plt.

You may disagree, but I really feel that it should be possible to send out for printing without using additional software.

The only reason I am asking Katie is because she mentioned the method of changing .ps to .plt. This would be ideal for us if we could get it to work. So I would appreciate it if Katie (or anyone else) could confirm that this method works.

If it doesn't, than I will have to look into buying acrobat for the office.

Thanks for your help


ps alanmac I'll look into that method you described. thanks

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Use this procedure with OSX Panther (the process is similar for Tiger but a bit easier)

I discovered it purely by accident after being very frustrated with the quality of the OS X Panther Save to PDF option on a Mac. (The standard of VW drawings printed that way is very bad with poor linework and lousy colours. In my view it verges on the unuseable.)

This procedure produces very good results.

- When printing select Output Options and choose Save as File : Postscript. This creates a postscript file. (Do not select the PDF option!)

- Double clicking on this postscript file will open it up in Preview. In doing this Preview converts the PS file to a PDF file.

- Save As a PDF file by just adding .pdf to the file name.

- Do a get info on the file created (Command+I) and change the 'Open With' application to Acrobat Reader

The quality is excellent - the linework is crisp and the colour translation is good.

The only drawback is it can only be done one sheet at a time.

(Elsewhere on the NNA site I have read that to use Batch printing you need to purchase Adobe Distiller for OS X so that you can select it as a Printer.)

[ 06-30-2005, 11:41 AM: Message edited by: mike m oz ]

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Thanks mike,

I had already found that info after alanmac pointed me to it. Thanks anyway.

In the interim I have had some success with postscript files. Although they do not work with Reprodesk (changing the extension to .plt does not work), you should be able to print them if your print bureau has a mac. All they need to do is to drag and drop the .ps files into the relevant printer in Print Center.

The .ps file even includes the required number of copies embedded within them. The quality is excellent. They are indistinguishable from files printed natively from VW. Having the .ps files archived makes it very easy to reprint set off drawings previously issued. Although the files are big, they seem to reduce dramatically when zipped. Using mikes method above it is possible to view and check the prints on screen.

I haven't found this method anywhere else on the boards so I hope people find it useful. It may take a bit of coercing with your local print service but the improvment in quality is worth it.


ps Sorry for hogging your discussion Jon E. I dont know if this helps you in any way.

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OK, So this is a little off topic, but I see that a few of you are using MAC OS X with the HP DESIGNJET 430. I am having major compability issues with the two talking. What is the secret for these two items to talk, (other than dropping the plotter from a roof???)

Any help will be greatly appreciated here.

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*IF* as the originator of this thread has stateed, the output device required and HPGL file to cut paper, then a PDF, or a PS or postscript file will NOT work. If you examine witha a text editor either a PDF file or an HPGL file you will see and entirely different set of commands.

If this cutter gizmo works similar to a "old fashion" pen plotter: Move Pen; Pen Down; Move Pen; Pen Up - etc. etc. youe can see why ONLY HPGL will work.

A snipit for HPGL ".plt" file:

... IN;SC;PU;RO90;IP;IW;VS15

Here IN initlializes the plotter and starts plotting

SC sets the scale (none in this example)

PU is a Pen UP Command

Next, in this example is an RO - Rotate Coordinate - 90 degress this example etc. etc.

Here's the more crucial stuff for a pen/cutteer type of device - the HPGL commands for "drawing lines":



PUPA: "Pen Up" "Plot Absolute" (As the pen is UP this simply moves the pen (cutter) to the specified coordinates

PDPA: "Pen Down" "Plot Absolute" (as now, the pen is DOWN, we are now cutting (drawing) a line through a series of paired X,Y points - a continuous zizzag line if you will)

Anyway, that's why PDF/PS just may not work for the Originator unless we can get an HPGL format file.


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