ForumsHardware ← Front panels and driver spelunking

This is a post about some extreme DIY shenanigans for general interest and later reference.

We are getting close to complete prototypes now and finishing up some of the smaller details. One of the parts I'm finishing is the back panel that holds the USB jack. This panel will also serve as the nameplate. has a very inexpensive service for milling aluminum plates. One catch is that you have to make your design using their software which is clunky and Windows-only.

We are, to put it mildly, detail-oriented, and the nameplate logo has to look good, right? So we need our own typography on the plate. The only way to get a custom graphic into their software is to import an HPGL file with the engraver paths. I do my design work on the Mac in Adobe Illustrator, a program I've been using for about 20 years, and am very comfortable with.

So the problem is: get an Illustrator outline from my Mac over to an HPGL file on Windows XP. Piece of cake.

The first way I tried was exporting a PDF, then opening it in the Windows shareware ViewCompanion Premium, which can export HPGL. I tried this, and the resulting HPGL did not import into Front Panel Designer. It showed up as an empty drawing with a size of 0.0394" x 0.0394".

The next way I tried was by installing a driver for an HP pen plotter on Windows, and printing the PDF to a file using this driver and Adobe Reader. Tracking down the right driver was somewhat hard. Then more disappointment: the same empty drawing resulted.

At this point I was just about ready to give up and pay Frontpanelexpress to do the design work as a custom job. I couldn't think of another route to making the HPGL file that made any sense. As a shot in the dark I searched for "print to HPGL." That turned up a DIY page from 1997 with a reference to a Roland plotter driver working on XP. The link to the driver itself was gone, but the Wayback Machine had a link to the old Roland page with, miraculously, the XP driver. And so I installed it and it worked just like that.

Hi Randy,
That sounds like some of the fun I have been having recently with HPGL! I solved some of my problems with the latest release of Inkscape, which now natively exports HPGL.

Would you be able to post the link to the driver you mentioned because I couldn't find it? (although that may be because wayback machine is overloaded..)



Thanks for the Inkscape link! I didn't know there was something like that.
Check email for driver.