Q & A: Basic CNC Terminology You Should Know – Part 1 of 3

Posted April 24, 2019 5:26 pm   Published by    BobCAD-CAM ">

Machinists that are new to manufacturing can find themselves in quite the hole when starting out. There is a lot to process at first, whether it’s learning how to use the new machine they just got or learning how to operate their software. Today’s article aims to alleviate some of the hardships of getting started by naming and defining some of the basic terminologies that are used in CNC manufacturing regularly.


What does CAD stand for?

Computer-Aided Design.
bobart cad image

What is CAD used for?

2D and 3D drawing/designing on a computer.

What does CAM stand for?

​Computer-Aided Manufacturing or Machining.

What is CAM used for? ​

To create a program to machine or manufacture.
bobcam cnc software turning

What is the purpose of BobCAD-CAM?

To be profitable in developing, programming, selling, supporting and servicing a designing and machining software solution for manufacturers and job shops throughout the world.

What does 2 Dimensional mean?

​Flat, no shape X,Y.
2d geometry in bobcad cam software

What does 3 Dimensional mean?

Has shape, contours X,Y,Z.

What is machining?

​Manufacturing parts.

What is a machinist?

​One who operates a (manufacturing) machine.
cnc machinist

What is a machine shop? ​

A structure that houses machines.

What industries are artistic CAD-CAM primarily used for? ​

Sign Makers and Cabinet Makers. Woodworking industry but not limited to woodworking.
bobcad artistic cnc software for sign making

What does NC stand for?

​Numeric Control.

What does numeric mean? ​

A number or numeral.

What types of machines do BobCAD-CAM products work with? ​

Mills, Lathes, Routers, Plasmas, Lasers, Waterjets, and Wire EDM.
laser cnc machine

What does CNC stand for? ​

Computer Numeric Control.

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What is a post processor? ​

A translator. Post Processors are used to generate NC programs that are specific to each individual CNC machine controller. The Post Processor drives the format of the G or M-code that will be produced and ultimately instruct your machine how to create your part.

What is G-Code?

​A set of instructions understood by CNC equipment. G stands for Geometric and Code has to do with the systematic collection of numbers or symbols that are put together as a language to give instruction. It’s the language produced by a CAM system that is sent to the machine to make the machine cut the part.
bobcad creates cnc software g code

In CAD, what is a solid?

​A series of shapes used to design something. Sphere, Cube, Cone, Cylinder, and Torus are the 5 basic solids also called Primitives.

What is depth? ​

The distance a tool is cutting into a part, Z axis.

What is machining? ​

Manufacturing parts.
rotors created with bobcad cnc software

What is a dimension?

The measurement of something… height, width & depth.

In machining, what is a tool?

​The cutter that removes material from your part.

What is a toolpath?

The path the cutter takes to remove material from the stock.
bobcad cnc software created toolpath

What is a 2D toolpath?

​X-width (horizontal) and Y-length (vertical) movement a cutter takes 24.

What is a 3D toolpath? ​

X, Y, and Z-depth movement a cutter takes.

What is a tool database?

​A customizable library for cutting tools.

What is a controller?

​It’s what our software communicates with to make the machine cut the part or program that the CAD-CAM software created
cnc software controler

What is threading? ​

The process of machining a cut that spirals down the length of a cylinder

Alright, that concludes part 1 of our 3-part introduction to CAD-CAM terminolgy. Make sure to join us tomorrow as we continue to run through the list of CNC vocabulary that you are sure to hear on a daily basis in the shop! See you tomorrow.


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