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This is a hardware question. Is there a class of plotters that are portable and accept sharpies?

The use case: I have a burlap sack. It will be taking very specific potsherds from an archaeological dig. It needs an indelible QR code (or bar code) printed on the burlap. (Stickers have far far too short a lifetime). It was my thought that a plotter that uses sharpies and that works in the field would be the optimal solution for this problem.

Is a portable plotter the right solution? If so, who makes them? If not, what is a better solution?

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Your best option may be to get an ink-jet printer and print labels that you then put on the burlap. –  martineau Nov 20 '12 at 7:43
    
Unfortunately, ink-jet labels don't last long enough, unless you can show that there's archival grade labels that aren't sticker based and that use ink that lasts. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Nov 20 '12 at 7:44
    
There are archival quality inks. As for the labels, you can always use any paper of your choice and just cut the labels out of it and affix them using any substance you like. –  martineau Nov 20 '12 at 7:49
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I wonder if an embroidery machine set up to do a QR code may be a better idea - Its quite nearly a plotter, and you could make fabric labels as needed to sew on. Amusingly the first device that comes to mind when I think of the 'class' of machine you want are the old lego pen plotters. –  Journeyman Geek Nov 20 '12 at 9:42
    
@Journeyman, are there fabric inks that are acceptable? for that kind of sewed label? –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Nov 20 '12 at 11:15
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Better solution would be to use image recognition - like kooaba. Take a picture of the burlap seam with your phone, then recognise it to list the contents. Burlap actually has an irregular pattern, so it is recognisable (like a finger print), but your image recognition would need to be trained for that kind of recognition -- and I've only ever used shape-based recognition, so I don't know how close we are.

It is more common to SEW your tags into the burlap seam. Are you sewing your bags shut?

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