Patient Tag 2/3: Material

This is the first of two challenges related to the Patient ID Tag project. Be sure to read Patient ID 1/3: Introduction before you begin.

The goal is to use a field deployed laser machine to engrave and cut the patient tags. So we need your help to identify a material that is:

  • Almost indestructible: The identifier has to be water and wear resistant so that it can still be readable / scannable even if the patient (or the identifier tag) had to spend some time in an wet or harsh environment.
  • Easy to engrave and cut  ( 1 pass for engraving and 1 pass for cutting ): Avoid metal.
  • Economical – to keep costs down.

The tag itself is 30x34mm. Exact dimensions of the various elements in the tag (holes, text, QR code) can be found in this laser cutter file, available in .ai format and in .svg format.

Please share your experience working with the material that you suggest, and any testing data you have in comparing it with other candidate materials.

If you have questions, or wish to discuss with your fellow makers, please use the comment space below.

When you’re done with this first part of the challenge, why not try Patient Tag 3/3: Scripting?


  • labcoat Reply

    What kind of laser cutter are we using? Is it strong enough (and equipped) to cut aluminium?

    What about just using the laser to etch, while using a die cutter to stamp out tags from a relatively thin aluminium sheet?

    • jeanmarie Reply

      In the field you will have a small CO2 laser cutter 40watts, able to cut materials like wood, acryllic, leather, fabric, and more, up to ¼ inch. Engrave and mark glass, stone, tile, and more.
      But without the capability to cut metal.

  • Andy Lee Reply

    I think the two common ways for dealing with this wold be to either use rowmark plastic which has high contrast. or etch away the anodizing on aluminum tags.

    We can help with fabricating and provide a quote on any of these at our webiste

    • GHL Reply

      Thanks Andy. We’ll definitely consider the rowmark product for proof of concept in the lab, but at the moment we’re particularly keen on exploring a sustainable material that can be sourced easily and/or cheaply in the field. Supply chains in humanitarian work can be complicated, and locally available resources should be favoured.

      We’re avoiding aluminium solutions because we only have a 40watt CO2 cutter available to do both the etching *and* the cutting.

      But please keep the suggestions coming.

  • Marc Roth Reply

    I’ve created a GitHub repo for this. I’m thinking that in addition to the ability to etch and cut these, the really important part is that we have a database that is secure and/or has no data in it that requires security as well as some software that will take some kind of identifying information and create the 3D barcode. Abricate ^ mentioned above his hosting a GitHub repo for this if anyone wants to contribute. These are not simple ideas to scale. What is missing is a clear call to action for developers to get onto this project so that the crowd can do what it does. Once we get to a system of methods, some of our internal code (not open sourced) can be applied to helping make the files that are output from this software (the open source part) universally function across the globe on any kind of machine. In theory the same parts could also be 3D printed if and when there are no lasers available.

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