Introduction: Miniature Laser Engraving

Picture of Miniature Laser Engraving

If you've read my previous article, where I added a 2 Watt Laser to a Shapeoko 2 you know something about the many things that can be made with a CNC controlled laser. The larger Shapeoko 2 laser is powerful and can accomplish many things, but it isn't great with really small engravings. It also takes a fair amount of setup -- including to some degree restricting access to the room while the laser is running.

I recently learned about a new, very affordable Miniature Laser Engraver. This machine is a lot of fun! It currently costs less than $90 U.S. Unlike my Shapeoko 2 based laser, it takes almost no setup time, there is no need to generate and then manipulate gcode files, and it can be set on the dining room table where you can be engraving within minutes! The kit, available from, includes a set of safety goggles. You may want to obtain additional sets of goggles so that others can watch the engraving process, but this machine is also small enough that you could simply cover it with the shipping box while it runs -- or build a box out of laser-safety acrylic.

In this Instructable, I will demonstrate engraving on several different materials as well as show step-by-step what is involved in making and engraving and image.

Step 1: Capability...

Picture of Capability...

The machine that I have is called a NEJE DK - 5. It can produce an image that is approximately 38mm square. The image above will give you a rough idea of what the machine can do. You'll notice that 38 square millimeters is not very large, but also notice that even the small print is engraved well enough to be readable (even if you do need a magnifying glass to see it!)

It is important to notice that a 72 point font is not 1" tall as it would be if printed from a desktop printer. Instead, it turns out to be about 7mm tall.

Despite not being able to produce large engraving, the engraver produces excellent results in small images -- something my Shapeoko 2 can't do without changing the belts.

Step 2: Engravable Materials...

Picture of Engravable Materials...

The NEJE DK - 5 model includes a 500mW blue laser. It is capable of burning/engraving paper, wood, some plastics, chocolate, leather and other similar materials. It is not able to engrave in metal or stone.

Material is held to the acrylic base by two rubber bands. You will find that some materials will hold better with some double sided tape.

Step 3: Setup...

Picture of Setup...

Setup involves two steps. The first is installation of the driver that ships with the device on a micro SD card or which can be downloaded from the manufacturer. After the driver is installed the engraver program can be run from the same media. I've tested it on two different Windows 10 machines.

CAVEAT: I had two initial problems. The first one was images not printing completely because I had left a small piece of the shipping foam under the acrylic base plate. Make sure you don't make the same mistake. The second problem that I had was also with images not printing to completion. This turned out to be a problem with my USB hub. When I replaced it with a new powered USB 2 hub, everything worked perfectly from there on out.

The second part of setting up to engrave is to generate an image. This is easy. Use a program like Microsoft Paint to create a 512 x 512 pixel image. Save the image as either a JPEG or a PNG file.

You can now drag and drop your image into the Laser Engraver program. Once there you can rotate the image if necessary. Then click "Send Image to Machine". Once the image is stored in the laser engraver, it will "draw" (not engrave) a rectangle around the area where the image will be engraved. The rectangle traced will only include those parts of your image with engraving (non-whitespace) in it.

Step 4: Engraving Chocolate...

Picture of Engraving Chocolate...

As you can see from the images, chocolate can be engraved. Each of these engravings were done using only a single pass. The rose was done on a carmel filled Ghirardelli chocolate square (which had a slight crack prior to engraving). The other image is the back side of a Hershey bar segment. A second pass would produce a deeper image.

There was no change in the flavor/taste of the chocolate.

Many foods could be engraved. I tried a slice of cheddar cheese and was surprised to see that it really only sweat where the laser drew on it. I had hoped for burn marks, but it may have had too much moisture. I also had no luck engraving on a marshmallow. :)

Step 5: Engraving on a Bamboo Turner...

I picked up an in expensive ($1.47) bamboo turner at Walmart. As you can see from the photos, it engraves very well. Only a single pass was required to produce an image that still looks great after being washed in the dish washer.

Step 6: Engraving a Leather Cell Phone Case...

Picture of Engraving a Leather Cell Phone Case...

Leather (or maybe this is simulated leather) engraves very well and looks great. Even the small text shown in the images can be read clearly (though I need reading glasses to read the smaller print.) The results are crisp and clean.

Video of part of the engraving process is also included. Note that the full image took about 20 minutes to engrave.

Step 7: Engraving on a Plastic Cell Phone Case...

Picture of Engraving on a Plastic Cell Phone Case...

Some plastic material can also be engraved. The images here show a plastic iPhone case that was engraved with a single pass of the NEJE mini laser engraver.

A mini laser engraver opens up a whole new world of possibilities for personalizing small items.


DenisA10 (author)2017-01-19

what software do you use, I want to put names in mine, it is fun, software sucks.

I make wood pens and want to put names on them.

PicEngraver (author)2016-01-24

Hi Andy,

Thank you for this Instructable. Mine just arrived today, and I will be converting it to run with GRBL and, of course, Pic software.
All the best,
John Champlain

sailorjohn34 (author)PicEngraver2016-11-26

How do you plan to run GRBL on this machine? I have been thinking about replacing the board with an arduino uno so that I can add a cooling fan, a work light, and maybe even another axis. I have the arduino uno and the cnc shield. I've started building one from scratch but I threw that project out the window and replaced it with one that's built out of a flatbed scanner and a printer head drive assy. I haven't finished this yet, but when done it will be able to "engrave" 10" wide (X) by 14" long (Y)

bball5 (author)sailorjohn342016-12-30

Do you have build plans for using a scanner a printer head? I've been beating my head against a wall trying to figure out how to use my 2 old "all-in-one"s and this seems like a great idea

PicEngraver (author)sailorjohn342016-12-09

Sorry, but I shelved this project for a while, and quite frankly, I forgot about it.

My intention was, however, to use an Arduino UNO and Sparkfun stepper drivers, and throwaway the electronics that came with the machine. I planned to use my own software, too.


I've ordered a slightly larger base model, same 500 Mw output (bigger platen). I'm wondering how long your unit took to arrive? It seems interminabley long to me, but I did order around a week and a half before Chinese New Year! (Happy Year of The Monkey.)



als_liahona (author)PicEngraver2016-01-24

Thanks John! That will be interesting! I still need to upgrade the belts and etc. on my Shapeoko 2 laser the way your article outlines!

For those reading this that don't know already, John has done amazing work. His PicEngrave software is great. You can see it featured in my Shapeoko 2 CNC Laser article ( as well as in this article by PicEngraveToo:

qdogg (author)2016-01-12

What does one need to know & what kind of software needed to use the miniature laser engraver you mentioned? I'm thinking about getting one, but I need to be prepared since the poor instructions aren't going to be very helpful.

sailorjohn34 (author)qdogg2016-11-26

When I ordered mine, I didn't know anything about CNC of any kind other than I thought it was really fascinating. Now I've modified my carver so that it's got manual seek buttons. It took about a week of reading and watching youtube to figure out how exactly everything works.. but the day I pulled it out of the box, I printed off about 10 items. My wife and I used it this year to make christmas ornaments out of wood. I love it. It's as simple as... select an image, drag it to the carver software, send to printer, check alignment/ centering of item then select your desired burn time, and hit start... It's very easy.

hplasm (author)qdogg2016-01-15

Note that despite what the advertising says- on ALL sites that sell these- there is NO MAC software included, nor available for download.

Despite this, I received mine within a week of ordering from Gearbest, and the build quality is just fine. Now I'll need to draw a pentagram and use Windoze... :( until I can figure something out.

als_liahona (author)hplasm2016-01-15

Yes, it is very frustrating to have a severely overpriced computer that can't do what you need it to do... ;) Those macs are always just one byte short of a full fruit. But they make them look good. :)

It's not the world's best solution, but you might try VMware Fusion with a copy of Windows for things like this. But frankly, you can probably buy an old Windows PC (laptop) or even a new week but usable Windows Tablet (they have some that are less than $100 out there) that you could use for this special purpose. Just be sure what you get has a USB port. Some of the cheap tablets don't or else they only have a micro-USB port in which case you'll need an adapter.

Best Wishes.

hplasm (author)als_liahona2016-01-15

I bought this on the strength of the MAC drivers, but wouldn't spend an extra penny on MS software (sic). I'll try a copy of NT that I have lying around somewhere, else I'll have to get serious... ;)

als_liahona (author)hplasm2016-01-15

Interesting. Having written software extensively for multiple platforms, I don't know why you would think MAC drivers are strong, but to each his own. Your attitude towards Windows was justified a decade ago, but not so much any more.

FWIW, the Windows driver appears to be similar to an FTDI usb-serial driver, providing a COM port for the software to open. I have a capture from the debugger of all of the reads and writes to/from the device when sending an image and kicking off the engraving. I was trying to debug the problem I had with the software early on. There does not appear to be much to it. Having said that, you could probably just as easily get the developer of the Windows software to write Mac software if they think it will help them sell more units.

hplasm (author)als_liahona2016-01-16

Ah- I see you misunderstand. I don't see the MAC drivers as 'stronger' than windows, whether they are or not, I see them as Missing.

The kit is advertised as Windows and Mac compatible, but there is no Mac software at all.

Think of it as a filling station advertising Petrol and Diesel, but when you arrive, it only has Petrol pumps. No use to say "Well, you could always buy another car just to use the fuel here."

I have asked the vendor about it, but have had no reply.

Perhaps you could publish your findings on the protocol? I'm sure there are lots of people on here who would like to write something to use this device, say on a Raspberry Pi or Beaglebone or some such device.

I can see the GUI if I run the .exe on Wine, but getting the USB connection may be a bit of a challenge... ;)

als_liahona (author)hplasm2016-01-16

I see. I did misunderstand. And you are right that lists Mac, but the site where you get the software does NOT. That's not good.

I don't want to jump into potential legal issues from disclosing what I found as I tried to debug a particular problem, but I'd be happy to show someone how to capture the same output and they can worry about whether or not the software grants them the right to use what they find or not. (Generally speaking this type of reverse engineering is LEGAL as long as you are not producing a competing product, but find out for yourself from a lawyer -- which I am not -- as things may be different in your jurisdiction.)

USE AT YOUR OWN RISK: What follows will only make sense if you have a little bit of experience with debugging applications on Windows. If you don't, you will not want to try this.

The key is to connect windbg.exe (Debugging Tools for Windows) to the engraving program. Before clicking on the button that opens the selected COM port, set a breakpoint on CreateFileA (newer versions might be Unicode in which case use CreateFileW):

bp kernel32!CreateFileA "da poi(esp+4);g poi(esp);r"

Then let it run and when it breaks after opening the COM port, EAX will hold the HANDLE of the COM port.

At that point you can clear that breakpoint, or change it so it doesn't keep stopping there "bp kernel32!CreateFileA "da poi(esp+4); g". (This will display the name of the file being opened but then continue, where as the previous version of the breakpoint displayed the file name, continued until CreateFileA returned, and then stopped so that you could examine the return value in EAX.)

With the file handle known, you can know watch for and log reads and writes to the handle with breakpoints like the following. Change the "370" to whatever the handle value (value of EAX) from above was:

bp KERNEL32!WriteFile "r @$t1=poi(esp+4);r @$t2=poi(esp+8);r @$t3=poi(esp+c);.if(@$t1==370){.echo 'COM WRITE';db @$t2 @$t2 + @$t3};g"
bp KERNEL32!ReadFile "r @$t1=poi(esp+4);r @$t2=poi(esp+8);r @$t3=poi(esp+c);.if(@$t1==370){.echo 'COM READ';db @$t2 @$t2 + @$t3};g"

Those 2 breakpoints will check to see if the handle matches ($t1 == 370) the value from CreateFile on the COM port, and if so, it will spit out "COM READ" followed by the data read, for ReadFile, and similar for WriteFile.

After that, turn on logging to a file (look up the help for the .logo command, or use the option in the menus), and let the program continue. You will then capture all reads and writes to that file. Each time you execute a command in the program, like "Send to Machine" you can break into the debugger first, use .echo "About to click Send To Machine", and then continue and click the button. By so doing you can record all of the commands and then parse them to see what is happening.

So if you are programmer that should be fairly easy and you will have most of what you need. The other side will be the driver that opens the device, and I have NOT looked at how it works, and probably will not for lack of time. Hopefully they will rectify the issue with not having a Mac driver or at least remove it from the listing on the website.

What would be really cool is if they wrote the USB driver portion using the UMDF (User mode driver framework) and released it for ARM/IoT devices. Then you could use a Raspberry Pi running Windows 10, and set it up with a Web Interface, so you could design images on any device and submit them to the laser engraver. :)

hplasm (author)als_liahona2016-01-17

Thanks- that should make a good start :)

als_liahona (author)qdogg2016-01-12

Step 3 cover most of it. The software comes with the device on a micro SD card and can also be downloaded from a website. You create a 512x512 pixel image in whatever paint type program, save it as a .jpeg or .png, and then drag and drop it into their software. From there you click the "Send" (image to the machine -- some language like that) button. And then click the Engrave (again something like that) button.

You do need to focus the laser but that is only a matter of turning the focus ring until you get the sharpest, smallest dot possible before you start engraving. Before you start the engraving make sure to put the safety goggles on.

jimthree (author)2016-04-21

Does anyone know how these DVD/CD carriage based machines do end-stop detection?

sailorjohn34 (author)jimthree2016-11-26

They don't really use end stop. They tend to overrun bad if you move the axis prior to start up. They do a homing cycle upon start up, then once running they only move x steps in either direction. I hope this helps. I did manage to add 2 buttons on the empty ports of the board so that I can have manual seeking. This helps when loading and unloading material from the bed. The neje dk8 is enclosed with such small openings to reach thru.

ejnmn (author)2016-01-16

Als, I have the same or similar NEJE cutter. Mine is 300mw. I agree, its a lot of fun. However, the LiteFire software that came with it has been found by Symantec to have a virus in it. May just be my copy, but I can't fine it anywhere else that is clean, nor can I get any response from the NEJE wiki, which is brand new. Do you have any alternative software that you have used, or do you know where I can get a clean copy of Lite Fire?

joona.kallinen (author)ejnmn2016-09-11

It doesn't necessarely have a virus allthought your virus scanner says so. Contact Symantec and ask them maybe?

als_liahona (author)ejnmn2016-01-16

I've not heard of Lite Fire. The driver and program for the dk - 5 is available from You could see if that works. Out of curiosity, does Symantec give a name of the virus? Sometimes A/V products block based on heuristics and sometimes incorrectly, but if it gives the name of the malware it probably is infected. Sadly most American made A/V products block very little that is actually dangerous, but easily red-flag things that are relatively normal.

Having said that, I can't think of anything that the software that controls these devices would do that would ever be red-flagged.

Best Wishes with it.


Symantec hasn't been an American brand for several years. They have some offices in America, but they are owned by a company on the Indian subcontinent. On support calls, they identify with a name like "Joe" or "Sam", but all sound like you're talking with Apu Nahasapimiapetilon (Simpsons Character.)

I use it, and it flags BenBox as a backdoor virus. I checked Benbox with other antivirus products and they too flagged it. I have not checked LiteFire.

I'm not shocked by this, as NETGEAR and D-LINK (Chinese made routers and switches) are being reported by the computer press as having secret backdoors built into them. 9PC World and PC Magazine).

CERT states that over 90% of hacks on US computers come from China.

ejnmn (author)als_liahona2016-01-16

I don't have the name of the virus, as I have already cleared it, but I did find the link to trusfer on another instructable page. The instructions with the engraver had no such link. I did get a clean version there. If you look at the executable that they download when you say you are getting MyLaser (actually MyLarser) it is actually LiteFire.exe. Thank you for your help!

als_liahona (author)ejnmn2016-01-16

I'm glad you found working software. I'm not familiar with the MyLaser/MyLarser software, etc. The one I've used is called Laser_Carve/Laser_Carver.

FWIW, I should amend my last statement about "American made" anti-virus products... It really applies to almost all anti-virus product made in America or not. I just think American made ones should be better. It is a tough problem to solve, but there are certain things they all could do a bit better.

FWIW, I generally use Microsoft's Security Essentials and/or the Windows 8 and 10 equivalents. I find it to be as good as any others, less invasive than most (meaning also less of a drag on the system), and nobody should know Windows security like Microsoft. Of course, I also know what to look for, which helps. Staying upgraded and patched helps more than almost anything else other than avoiding questionable sites and content. Windows 10 may not be perfect, but it goes a very long way in improving security.

Microsoft's product has no outbound firewall function, rendering it way sub-par, It may or may not be purchased components, not written in the US. Microsoft will not reveal this detail, so that is a sort of confirmation they may have bought these components (Microsoft's Security Essentials) offshore.

Symantec is NOT owned or operated in the United States, it is now owned by a corporation based in India. Goood old Peter Norton bailed while the market was good and made a mint. There is only one AV product that is American based and wholly owned by a US company, but their name escapes me. ALL but the one (whose name escapes me) is foreign to the US. (I retired after 13 years in police work and spent the last 30 in computers and computer support.

ejnmn (author)als_liahona2016-01-17

Thanks for the help. I may try some of the other software to see if it has better/worse features.

Let me ask a question. Any tips on focusing the laser? When I put different heights of items in, and need to adjust the laser with the turn wheel, its very difficult to get it to the right focus.

als_liahona (author)ejnmn2016-01-18

Focusing can be tricky, but I've found a few things that help. One is to have a small piece of very thin white paper, or sometimes black paper (depending on the brightness of the beam) and to set it right atop the thing you are focusing on. If it is thin it will not make enough of a difference to really throw the focus off, but it makes it easier to see the pattern made where the beam hits.

Another thing that helps is to twist until it is as sharp as possible, then to be sure twist one way until it blurs, then the other way until it blurs so you have a feel for the range with the sharpest spot.

With this little laser, I generally find it easier to focus without goggles as long as I know there is very lower power to the laser. With my 2 Watt laser, even on low power it is bright enough that I usually wear the goggles and use the black-paper to help see when there is a good focus.

At the point where the focus is best, you will see a pin dot of light in the center and sometimes a star like pattern around it.

I hope that helps.

John T MacF Mood (author)ejnmn2016-02-09

ejnmn, I too use Symantec's product, and I recommend you submit the file to them requesting feedback. I have gotten four false positives from Norton's "Ultimate Security Package" over the last year, and the file may indeed be clean. But, best safe than sorry.

My tactic has been to submit it for analysis to see if it's a false positive, to be absolutely sure before trying to use it. My 2¢ worth.

thomas72 (author)2016-06-29

is the neje DK 8 pro 5 and upgrade over the DK 5 models you have here? are they able to micro laser engrave on acrylic?

als_liahona (author)thomas722016-06-29

Sorry, I don't know anything about the DK 8 pro. I am doubtful that they have a product that is capable of acrylic engraving. You could probably do some acrylic engraving (maybe dark colored acrylic) with a 2 to 5 W laser, but a CO2 laser is usually used for acrylic.

AssoF (author)2016-04-12


Just a word to say: This machine run GRBL, and bCNC can
pilot it under linux mac and windows (but seriously: give up with m$
products, bCNC can run on a.... Raspberry PI, web server included!!!)

als_liahona (author)AssoF2016-04-12

Interesting. Maybe yours runs GRBL, but I looked at what was being sent to my machine and it definitely was NOT gcode.

And it is fine that you love Linux and Mac and Raspberry Pi. They are all great, but so is Windows. I write code for all of these platforms and once upon a time I had a similar disdain for Windows, but not any more. It is my first choice now for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it has the best development tools hands down. :) No holy wars needed.

AssoF (author)als_liahona2016-04-13

Mine looks like more based on

(it need the "mylarser" software). What are the chips on the PCB of yours? I got an Arduino micro pro, two easydriver clone, et a ULN2003.

als_liahona (author)AssoF2016-04-13

Mine has an IAP brand microcontroller. An Internet search for it only brought up Chinese documents. It has a separate USB-Serial chip (CH304G).

Valkem (author)2016-03-17

Thanks for the instructable. I bought the NEJE DK-5 pro, and am running it from a Win10 Laptop. I haven't done much, but we've done a few small ones. The software was a minor pain to find, but after finding it, the driver installed fine, and the software works pretty well, for what it is. We're pretty happy with the little toy, for the price. Just finished one on a metal mason jar lid, for a Cub Scouts project, I need to tinker more, but it looks like it might work. I'm going to try one something like metal flashing, or a cut AL can. My laptop was a Win8, that I updated to Win10, if anyone needs to know.

als_liahona (author)Valkem2016-03-18

Glad it is working for you. Aluminum? You must just be removing paint or the anodized layer? It can't engrave/cut aluminum -- not even a 40 Watt CO2 laser can do that, but they all can remove the anodized top layer or paint.

Valkem (author)als_liahona2016-03-19

Yes, I see what you mean. I did get something that will work on the inside of a soda can, that I cut apart, but it's not really "engraved," but still legible and will work for our little project. I'm working on some leather stuff for our Cub Scouts tonight, and I was wondering what Font you are using. I'm working on focusing my laser, because while it's legible, it's not near as clean and nice as yours. Thanks again for the tips/advice. This is a nice starter set for my son and I, as well and a neat thing to introduce a bunch of cub scouts too.

als_liahona (author)Valkem2016-03-19

I use several fonts, but my favorite is Monotype Corsiva. There are a few others too. If your image isn't clear it is probably because the focus isn't quite right, or because the thing you are engraving is moving during the engraving process.

It is difficult to describe how to focus properly, but as you turn the dial on the lens, you will see the dot or a sort of diamond pattern come into to focus. Go to far and it will fall out of focus. Get that as sharp as possible.

I hope that helps. Good luck with the Cubs!

Valkem (author)als_liahona2016-03-21

Thanks for the advice.

Valkem (author)2016-03-19

I don't know if it's against the rules, I hope note. I use for photo editing also. It has more features than MS Paint, and the editor will let me invert colors easily. I've used it to reverse pictures for wood transfer projects.

John T MacF Mood (author)2016-02-19

I really like your tutorial, and particularly like the text used on the bamboo turner and the Hebrew text as well. I have the Hebrew character set installed on my system, and would appreciate it if you could send me the text or file, if you would be willing. It could make for nice gifts for my Jewish friends.

als_liahona made it! (author)John T MacF Mood2016-02-19

The image is attached (hopefully) now.

Thanks a lot!

jimthree (author)2016-01-31

Do any of you know if the laser driver is part of the laser module, or if its on the main PCB? I'm thinking about moving the laser onto my prusa i3 3D printer and wondering if I need to get a driver to power it.

reborne (author)2016-01-13

I've recently been given one of these for xmas (no issues with the company or delivery). I'm currently using it on a Windows 7 laptop as the Win 10 drivers didn't work :( Also, there appear to be 2 versions of the drawing software - the one you show is the one which works for me, the other doesn't on either computer.
I love it, and really like your engraving on food - going to give that a shot.
I'm now looking for a way to do bigger engravings - the size is far too limiting for me - so I'm just waiting for someone to come along with a cheap chassis build that the laser unit from this can go onto. I've got an HP printer/scanner which stopped printing cyan, but not too sure I've got the knowledge or patience to learn for that ;-)
Anyways, good article, really enjoyed it!

dragon fllyer (author)2016-01-05

Engraving chocolate? That is pretty nifty...!

als_liahona made it! (author)dragon fllyer2016-01-12

Thanks. I also tried something similar with a Symphony bar on a 40 watt CO2 laser. The goal was to cut all the way through the bar, but the new 40 watt laser isn't working right...

bmiller91 made it! (author)2016-01-08

This could be a "problem" or an instant "upgrade". Power is supplied by a standard USB cable and device came with a wall plug. Now, the driver should regulate current to laser so as long as wallwart meets minimum amperage requirement it should have no effect. Wrong. With the included wallwart the laser burned a nice black image on heavy stock paper (index card). When I used a high quality wallwart rated up to 2.0 amps it literally burned away the image!

The question is - was it under-performing with stock wallwart or is poor driver regulation over-driving with higher capacity wallwart and leading to pre-mature burnout? (Note I have 500mw version)

About This Instructable




Bio: I've been writing software since I was in the 6th grade, and working with mostly-digital electronics since High School. These days my career consists ... More »
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