Like we’ve said time and time again, GSMArena is chuck full of true geeks and between us you can find veritable experts on anything ranging from drones, electric personal vehicles, IoT and smart home gadgets, cameras and all the way to electric and hybrid vehicles and everything in between. We have a fair bit of experience with laser engravers too – both using and reviewing them, so when we got the chance to spend some time with the DAJA DJ6 laser engraver we didn’t hesitate.
The specs on the DJ6 are in line with what you can expect from a $179 engraver. It is worth noting that originally DAJA asked just $129 for the DJ6, butthe company’s IndieGoGo page now asks $179 with $199 even being quoted as regular MSRP, outside of the “early-bird” special period. Then again, the kickstarter page for the same engraver can still get you one for $149.
Like we said, specs-wise, the DJ6 is quite in line with its competitors. It has 3W laser power, which is on the higher-end of the scale for hobby lasers of this size and price. Measuring 167 x 167 x 165mm, the 1.65kg unit is also fairly compact and feels nice and solid with its metal shell. It is also an open-frame design, which allows you to engrave on larger objects. Probably the biggest negative in its specs sheet has to be the limited engraving size – just 80 x 80 mm. If you are careful enough and line things up right, you can stitch together more than one engraving area, which is kind of neat though. Here is the full specs sheet for you to check out.
Specs are a great place to start, but what is the DAJA DJ6 actually like to use. Let’s kick things off with a quick hardware overview.
Design and hardware
Like we mentioned, the DJ6 is very well constructed. Its metal frame feels solid and sturdy and unlike many of its competitors in the same price bracket, there are no actual exposed “guts”. Everything is neatly enclosed and out of sight.
The device actually comes in two separate parts. The L-shaped stand is perhaps even more solid than the main body of the device. It is made of thick metal and slots into one of the sides of the engraver.
Put the two together and you get the basic setup, which you are most-likely to use the DJ6 in. The stand is surprisingly stable and crucially does not vibrate from the motion of the laser head moving around, which would have harmed accuracy. Also, most things you put under the engraver in this configuration tend to end up within the focus sweet spot of the laser, which DAJA says is between 3.5 and 6cm.
Of course, the reason the stand is detachable in the first place is to facilitate weirder use cases. If you want to carve on anything bulkier or more oddly-shaped, you can rig-up a mounting system of your own. Just be mindful of that focus range and, of course, refocus the laser accordingly.
Speaking of, focus is done manually by rotating a small ring on the outside of the 3W laser module and trying to get the dot as small as possible on thesurface you are about to engrave.
Laser focusing process
To facilitate this the DJ6 has an idle laser mode, which by default is just 10% of its power. This is meant to be used as a focus reference, as well as during engraving area preview, which we will get to in a bit.
Even in the low-powered state, you are not really supposed to look at the laser beam directly as it will cause eye damage. DAJA includes a rather small and flimsy sheet of green protective plastic, which works well with the DJ6’s 450nm blue laser. You are always supposed to look through it while setting up the engraver and ideally avoid looking at it at all while it is actually engraving.
The included green protective sheet is rather small and there is no real way to properly attach it to the rest of the unit. On the flip side, that does make it fairly portable. Still, we wish that it either covered all sides of the device or DAJA supplied glasses of that material instead.
Another thing we don’t particularly appreciate about the design of the DJ6 is the fact that it is hard to store without the base attached, since the laser and parts of its assembly actually stick out on the bottom.
There are a few buttons on top of the DAJA DJ6 and their functionality is quite limited. Once the unit is turned on, the arrow keys manually move the laser head around. The middle button starts or stops area preview for the last engraving the device has memorized. Since that is the case, we believe there should be a way to engrave the last project more than once without sending it over to the DJ6 every time, but we didn’t manage to make it work and there is no mention of such a feature in the manual.
Speaking of sending tasks over to the engraver, there is a Type-B full-sized USB connector on one side of the unit, right next to the barrel jack and power switch. The DAJA DJ6 uses a [email protected] adapter for power, which is naturally, included in the box.
Working with the DJ6
A laser engraver doesn’t have nearly as much of a learning curve as say a 3D printer. Still, there are some subtleties. Generally, the workflow has you selecting and cleaning the working surface first, then figuring a way to get it under the DJ6 so it’s within its focus range. Then you need to either prop the protective green piece up on the printer between your line of sight and the laser point or just hold the piece up to your face as glasses. Only then can you safely turn the DJ6 on and start rotating the focus knob to get the best possible focus on the surface. While you can get away with some slight curves on the work surface, flat is preferable.
Then comes the tricky part – getting the engraving task to the unit. That can be done in one of two ways – via the PC software and through the USB cable or wirelessly via a mobile app. All seems fine in theory, but one of the biggest issues the DJ6 has is with its software.
Once you do manage to get a task going, the DJ6 can mostly be left unattended. It is not particularly speedy, which is usually the case with hobby-grade engravers. On the plus side, the DJ6 is not particularly loud. The thing to keep in mind while it is working, other than avoiding directly looking at the laser beam is the smell. There is always going to be smell when you burn away any material. Certain things like plastics and rubber can be unhealthy when inhaled. The DJ6 does have a small fan on the inside, but that is mostly meant to dissipate heat from the laser. Unlike professional engravers, nothing is really enclosed or properly ventilated, so you have to take care of that yourself.
We start with the PC software, since it is presumably the more advanced one and likely easier to work on more complicated projects. It makes sense, most of the time you won’t be able to just download a random image off of the internet and engrave it with no alterations. At least if you want the result to look good.
Unfortunately, despite our best and persistent efforts, we didn’t actually manage to get the PC software working. The driver for the DJ6 seems to install fine, but the software itself is very sketchy. Its installer wants to dump all of the files in a hardcoded directory in the C: drive, which Windows Defender was not particularly happy about and Avast went haywire, outright putting the installer in the virus chest. After some further examination, we also found out that even if we did get the software to work, a big chunk of it is in Chinese with no translation available, which lead us to abandon our PC efforts altogether.
DAJA did provide us with a video overview of the main features of its PC software, which anyone really interested can check out:
So for our review, we focused on the mobile app, as we imagined most people will face issues identical to ours and give up on the PC software. We certainly hope DAJA addresses this and quick, at which point we’ll gladly revise it.
DAJA advertises app support for both Android and iOS. We didn’t really manage to find a store listing for the latter, nor the former, for that matter. However, the Android APK is available for download and we side-loaded that. Things aren’t exactly looking great in the ease-of-use category thus far. That being said, at least we managed to get some sort of software working.
The way you are meant to actually connect the phone to the DJ6 is quite weird as well. The wireless part of the DJ6 and probably the entirety of its logic, as well, seem to be working on some kind of ESP controller board. At least judging by the name of the Wi-Fi device’s name. That’s right, the DJ6 does not use Bluetooth, but Wi-Fi instead and in a rather unusual way. Instead of creating a Wi-Fi hotspot for you to connect your phone to, you have to enable the hotspot feature on your phone and then set its password to “aaaabbbb”. Then you power on the DJ6 and it scans all of the nearby Wi-Fi networks and tries the above password until it connects to what should be your phone. That’s very, very weird approach, especially since you can easily make a Wi-Fi hotspot with an ESP board. We can definitely help DAJA’s software engineers with that, if they want to reach out.
DAJA app basic interface and options
Anyway, once everything works properly, you see a “Connected” text in the top left corner of the app UI and can start playing around with options. In our experience, connection was quite unstable and often dropped, which is far from ideal.
The top app menu has a slider to adjust the idle power of the laser, which we already went over. You are going to want this at the default 10% or lpwer. There is also an odd menu for selecting engraving quality, with just a single option in it. And a “Tutorial” section, which brings up a few pages of instructions in Chinese. We still managed to figure out the options despite this mess.
Power for cutting and engraving options
First, you’ll want to check out the Laser tab. It has a total of four sliders. The first two control the laser in its default “engraving” mode, while the other two actually control its “cutting mode”. There is no obvious way to switch between the two, but if you add an element to the work area and then click on the Edit tab, you will notice the “Picture processing” selector. One of the options there is cutting. We aren’t quite sure what kind of difference the switch between engraving and cutting makes, but we did have a lot more success trying to actually cut through a test piece of paper in cutting mode. You’ll still have to experiment with combinations of values and modes on your own, but DAJA does provide a table of suggested values for different materials as a starting point.
Since we are already on the Edit tab, this is where you can adjust the position and rotation of any element on the work area, also its contrast and whether it is meant to be done in black and white or using some shading in grayscale, which lets the software dynamically adjust the laser speed and power to get lighter and darker areas.
Adding images to the work area
Adding an image to the work area is straightforward. The app lets you choose one from storage, capture a photo with a basic camera viewfinder or select from a set of built-in designs, which only include a few basic ones.
Once the image or any other element, for that matter, is added to the workspace, you can adjust its scale and positioning, as well as rotation and invert it all by dragging around and with the attached buttons.
Overall, it’s a good way of adjusting things, but the one major flaw it has has to do with the actual working area. It is hard to determine how the provided grid relates to the actual working area of the DJ6. The work area is not scaled properly to the phone’s display and requires scrolling horizontally to get from one edge of the X axis to the other, which is far from ideal. Furthermore, you can’t just stretch an image from one side all the way to the other side of the area and expect to get the biggest possible 80mm x 80mm carving the DJ6 is capable of. Instead, at some seemingly arbitrary point, the app starts complaining that you have exceeded the maximum working area of the engraver.
Another particularly annoying limitation of the app is its inability to handle transparent PNG images. Actually, any PNG images. All you get to select is JPEG, which then the app automatically processes and punches any white background out of – which is rather inconvenient.
It is actually needlessly hard to arrange, scale and properly line up an element within the DAJA app. It needs a lot of work to get proper mapping and clear scaling and positioning guidelines and limits.
Adding text to the work area
If all you want to do is engrave text, it is arguably a bit easier to do than working an image. The font selection is rather limited and all of the issues with adjusting and scaling the text once it is on the work area are still there, though.
Shapes • Doodles • Barcode • QR code
Despite the glaring issues, we have to admit that DAJA’s software team at least managed to include a few nifty options for creating extra elements to engrave. These include basic shapes, doodles, as well as interfaces to generate a barcode or a QR code from input.
Once you get all of the elements you want to engrave on to the work area, there is really only one way to actually align things – trial and error via the “Preview” button in the bottom right of the app. Once pressed, it starts to trace the path of your created engraving on top of the actual item with the laser at its idle power level. You can then proceed to do adjustment – a good, even if basic system overall, but one that is made endlessly frustrating by the fact that the DJ6 and the app lose connection all of the time.
Preview and engraving
Starting the engraving process is done from the “Carving” button. It has play/stop and pause buttons. The way the DJ6 works is that the app analyzes your creation, generates what we can only assume is a G-code command list for the motions and power the laser needs to do and then transfers that over to the DJ6 and tells it to start. After that you can disconnect your phone, which has both upsides and downsides. It’s convenient, since you are free to use your phone, but not ideal since the included pause and stop buttons are the only control you have over the engraver while it is working and half of the time they don’t do anything since the connection is spotty.
You can check out DAJA’s own usage instructions and app overview in these screenshots:
DAJA DJ6 instructions
All things considered the software can be made to work, but it really needs a lot of work before it’s anything but full of frustration.
The DAJA DJ6 produces quality engravings. This is actually a surprising reality for most budget engravers we have encountered. Apparently, it’s not that complicated or costly to achieve good and consistent quality with a laser. The DJ6 advertises a rather standard 0.05mm of resolution for its accuracy and claims to be able to handle: paper, wood, plastic, stone, leather, cloth, bamboo and metal paint.
It’s product images also show some more “out-there” engravable materials, like an egg and bread.
We tried a few things ourselves. DAJA conveniently included some scraps of leather, a few wood blocks and some cardboard with our unit.
DAJA DJ6 engraving results
You can see the carvings from yourself. The DJ6 managed to deliver solid results on most surfaces we tried. The resolution was definitely there and all of the lines and edges are clean. The only issues we experienced are with consistency and those are likely mostly down to software. For instance, some areas of an otherwise simple carving, like the cat one, ended-up a but uneven after cleaning up the engraving.
It’s nothing unexpected from a budget engraver, though. We would say that the DJ6 performs perfectly adequately for its price. You just have to go in with correct expectations.
We’ll keep the conclusion short – we definitely like the overall compact design and especially the solid build of the DAJA DJ6. Its carving area is a bit on the smaller side, but its 3W blue laser is on the higher end of the power scale for a budget unit. On a hardware level, the value is definitely there for a $150 product.
However, our experience was all but ruined by the software. We didn’t even manage to get the PC app working and the Android one has severe issues all around. Getting anything properly aligned is a nightmare and connectivity between the phone and engraver is done in awkward and best and non-operational on many occassions. DAJA really needs to put a lot of effort into software to properly back its otherwise good hardware offering.