• Absolute Coordinates

    Absolute coordinates are expressed relative to a fixed position, whereas relative coordinates are expressed relative to the cutting tool’s current position.

  • Accuracy

    Accuracy is the difference between the desired and actual dimension of a measurement.

  • Auto Tool Changer (ATC)

    An auto tool changer (ATC) switches between multiple toolheads without stopping the production cycle for additional setup.

  • Axes (x-axis, y-axis, z-axis)

    An axis is an imaginary line used to measure distances and describe positions within a cartesian coordinate system. The X-axis and Y-axis are typically parallel to the ground (horizontal) and perpendicular to each other. The Z-axis is typically perpendicular to both the X-axis and Y-axis (vertical).

  • Ballscrew

    Ballscrews drive an axis of a CNC machine using a leadscrew and ball bearings for low friction, high efficiency, precision motion.

  • Block

    A block is the smallest unit of G-Code representing an operation that a CNC machine could perform. Printed, a block is represented as a line of text.

  • Boring

    Boring is the process of enlarging a pre-existing hole using a single-point tool.

  • Cartesian Coordinate System

    A cartesian coordinate system uniquely describes each location in a plane with a pair of numbers measured in the same unit of length. Named for philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes.

  • Chamfer

    A chamber is beveling applied to smooth an edge.


    Chips are unwanted pieces material removed during manufacturing, especially metal.

  • Collet

    A collet is a kind of clamp used to hold a tool or workpiece during manufacturing.

  • Computer Assisted Design (CAD)

    Computer Assisted Design (CAD) is the use of computer software to design objects to be manufactured.

  • Coordinates

    Coordinates are sets of numbers that describe positions within a defined space.

  • Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM)

    Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) is the use of computer software to control machine tools in the manufacturing of workpieces.

  • Cycle Time

    Cycle time is the duration a machine works on a single part.


    Deflection is the shift in position or vibration of a workpiece due to insufficient hold, which can cause inaccuracy.

  • Depth of Cut (DOC)

    Depth of cut (DOC) refers to the amount of material removed on each pass of the tool.

  • Dimension

    A dimension is the measurement specified in the design document for a feature of a part.

  • Drilling

    Drilling is the process of penetrating the surface of a workpiece with a multi-point tool to make a round hole.

  • Emergency Stop (E-STOP)

    An emergency stop (E-STOP) is a switch that, when activated, immediately halts all machine motion and prevents the machine from running.

  • Feedrate

    Feedrate measures the motion of the tool relative to the workpiece during cutting, whereas speed mesures how fast the spindle rotates the cutting tool.

  • Frame

    The frame is the structural component of a CNC machine that supports all compontents related to linear motion, securing workpieces, and spoilboards.

  • Gantry

    The gantry is a structural component of a CNC machine that travels along one horizontal axis and supports the spindle as it travels along the perpendicular horizontal axis.

  • G-Code

    G-Code is a programming language used by CNC machines to describe and execute various motions through a defined geometrical space. G-Code also defines various offsets and sub-routines, like tool changes.

  • Jogging

    Jogging is the manual operation that causes the machine to move along an axis.

  • Limit Switch

    Limit switches signal when the machine has reached the farthest position along an axis.

  • Linear Guide Rail

    Linear guide rails provide a straight track for low-friction high-precision motion.

  • Machine Zero (home)

    Machine zero (home) is the farthest positive position along each axis.


    An offset is a pre-defined distance used by the CNC controller to account for variable like tool length and wear.

  • Origin

    The origin is the point from which a set of coordinates references its position. For absolute coordinates, the origin is a fixed location, whereas relative coordinates usually reference the current location.

  • Part Program

    A part program is the series of numerical instructions the CNC machine uses to produce a specific part.

  • Relative Coordinates

    Relative coordinates describe a position with reference to a non-fixed origin point, whereas absolute coordinates reference a fixed origin point.

  • Repeatability

    Repeatability is the ability of a CNC machine to accurately reproduce a part continuously.

  • Router

    A router is a tool used to hollow out an area in the face of a workpiece.

  • Servomotor (servo)

    A servomotor is an actuator allowing for motion with precise control of position, velocity, and acceleration.

  • Setup

    Setup is the process of preparing the CNC machine and workpiece for production, including securing the workpiece and installing tools.

  • Shroud

    The shroud is a guard or barrier that wraps around the tool, often attached to a dust collector.

  • Speed

    Speed is the rate at which the spindle turns the cutting tool.

  • Spindle

    The spindle is a motor that turns the cutting tool.

  • Spoilboard

    A spoilboard is the replaceable table surface which allows the cutting tool to pass through the workpiece without damaging the machine’s frame.

  • Stepper Motor

    A stepper motor rotates through a set number of discrete steps based on how many electrical pulses it receives. Similar to a servo, but with less precise motion.

  • Tool Offset

    A tool offset is the pre-defined measurement of the distance between the position of the spindle and the cutting edge of the tool along the Z-axis.

  • Tool Path (toolpath)

    The tool path is the series of coordinates the machine moves through to complete an operation.

  • Touch Off

    Touch off is the process of defining the position of a workpiece or tool length by touching the tool to the workpiece or a known location.

  • Trial Run (dry run)

    A trial run (dry run) executes the part program without any part in the machine to confirm the tool path.

  • T-Slot

    T-slot table surfaces provide standardized aluminum tracks that accept various fasteners (clamps, etc.) to secure the workpiece.

  • USB

    USB, or universal serial bus, is a common port standard used to transfer data from various storage devices, including thumb drives and PCs.

  • Vacuum Pump

    Vacuum pumps provide suction to secure workpieces during manufacturing.

  • Workpiece

    The workpiece is the object being manufactured and/or the stock material used to manufacturer it.