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The purpose of this glossary is to provide information for people (guests and new members) who may not be familiar with some of the terminology used and activities that are performed within FamiLAB.

The entries in this glossary are intentionally brief to give basic information. For additional information, researching the listed terms can be accomplished by going to Wikipedia and by going to the official websites listed under select entries.

Contributions and edits to the glossary can be performed by any FamiLAB wiki user. However, please respect the purpose and methods of keeping the entries brief and alphabetized.

3D Printing

3D printing (or additive manufacturing, AM) is any of various processes used to make a three-dimensional object. In 3D printing, additive processes are used, in which successive layers of material are laid down under computer control. These objects can be of almost any shape or geometry, and are produced from a 3D model or other electronic data source. A 3D printer is a type of industrial robot.

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) (chemical formula (C8H8)x· (C4H6)y·(C3H3N)z) is a common thermoplastic polymer. Its glass transition temperature is approximately 105 °C (221 °F). ABS is amorphous and therefore has no true melting point.
ABS is a terpolymer made by polymerizing styrene and acrylonitrile in the presence of polybutadiene. The proportions can vary from 15 to 35% acrylonitrile, 5 to 30% butadiene and 40 to 60% styrene. The result is a long chain of polybutadiene criss-crossed with shorter chains of poly(styrene-co-acrylonitrile). The nitrile groups from neighboring chains, being polar, attract each other and bind the chains together, making ABS stronger than pure polystyrene. The styrene gives the plastic a shiny, impervious surface. The polybutadiene, a rubbery substance, provides resilience even at low temperatures. For the majority of applications, ABS can be used between −20 and 80 °C (−4 and 176 °F) as its mechanical properties vary with temperature. The properties are created by rubber toughening, where fine particles of elastomer are distributed throughout the rigid matrix.
Please also read about PLA, which is another type of 3D printing material.
ABS is a commonly used type of filament in 3D printing, which is why it's in this glossary.

Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is a vector graphics editor developed and marketed by Adobe Systems.
Adobe Illustrator was first developed for the Apple Macintosh in December 1986 (shipping in January 1987) as a commercialization of Adobe's in-house font development software and PostScript file format. Adobe Illustrator is the companion product of Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop is primarily geared toward digital photo manipulation and photorealistic styles of computer illustration, while Illustrator provides results in the typesetting and logo graphic areas of design. Early magazine advertisements (featured in graphic design trade magazines such as Communication Arts) referred to the product as "the Adobe Illustrator". Illustrator 88, the product name for version 1.7, was released in 1988 and introduced many new tools and features. As of 2011, the Adobe Illustrator 88 file format is used in the MATLAB programming language as an option to save figures.

Android (Operating system)

Android is a mobile operating system (OS) based on the Linux kernel and currently developed by Google. With a user interface based on direct manipulation, Android is designed primarily for touchscreen mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers, with specialized user interfaces for televisions (Android TV), cars (Android Auto), and wrist watches (Android Wear). The OS uses touch inputs that loosely correspond to real-world actions, like swiping, tapping, pinching, and reverse pinching to manipulate on-screen objects, and a virtual keyboard. Despite being primarily designed for touchscreen input, it also has been used in game consoles, digital cameras, regular PCs (e.g. the HP Slate 21) and other electronics.
As of July 2013, the Google Play store has had over one million Android applications ("apps") published, and over 50 billion applications downloaded. A developer survey conducted in April–May 2013 found that 71% of mobile developers develop for Android. At Google I/O 2014, the company revealed that there were over one billion active monthly Android users, up from 538 million in June 2013. As of 2015, Android has the largest installed base of all general-purpose operating systems.


Arduino is an open-source computer hardware and software company, project and user community that designs and manufactures kits for building digital devices and interactive objects that can sense and control the physical world. Arduino boards may be purchased preassembled, or as do-it-yourself kits; at the same time, the hardware design information is available for those who would like to assemble an Arduino from scratch.
The project is based on a family of microcontroller board designs manufactured primarily by SmartProjects in Italy, and also by several other vendors, using various 8-bit Atmel AVR microcontrollers or 32-bit Atmel ARM processors. These systems provide sets of digital and analog I/O pins that can be interfaced to various extension boards and other circuits. The boards feature serial communications interfaces, including USB on some models, for loading programs from personal computers. For programming the microcontrollers, the Arduino platform provides an integrated development environment (IDE) based on the Processing project, which includes support for C and C++ programming languages.
For more information, please visit the official website: Arduino

ARM (Advanced RISC Machines) Architecture

ARM is a family of instruction set architectures for computer processors based on a reduced instruction set computing (RISC) architecture developed by British company ARM Holdings.
A RISC-based computer design approach means ARM processors require significantly fewer transistors than typical CISC x86 processors in most personal computers. This approach reduces costs, heat and power use. Such reductions are desirable traits for light, portable, battery-powered devices—​including smartphones, laptops, tablet and notepad computers, and other embedded systems. A simpler design facilitates more efficient multi-core CPUs and higher core counts at lower cost, providing improved energy efficiency for servers.


Bluetooth is a wireless technology standard for exchanging data over short distances (using short-wavelength UHF radio waves in the ISM band from 2.4 to 2.485 GHz) from fixed and mobile devices, and building personal area networks (PANs). Invented by telecom vendor Ericsson in 1994, it was originally conceived as a wireless alternative to RS-232 data cables. It can connect several devices, overcoming problems of synchronization.
Bluetooth is managed by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), which has more than 25,000 member companies in the areas of telecommunication, computing, networking, and consumer electronics. The IEEE standardized Bluetooth as IEEE 802.15.1, but no longer maintains the standard. The Bluetooth SIG oversees development of the specification, manages the qualification program, and protects the trademarks. A manufacturer must make a device meet Bluetooth SIG standards to market it as a Bluetooth device. A network of patents apply to the technology, which are licensed to individual qualifying devices.

CAD (Computer Aided Design)

Computer-aided design (CAD) is the use of computer systems to assist in the creation, modification, analysis, or optimization of a design. CAD software is used to increase the productivity of the designer, improve the quality of design, improve communications through documentation, and to create a database for manufacturing. CAD output is often in the form of electronic files for print, machining, or other manufacturing operations.
Computer-aided design is used in many fields. Its use in designing electronic systems is known as electronic design automation, or EDA. In mechanical design it is known as mechanical design automation (MDA) or computer-aided drafting (CAD), which includes the process of creating a technical drawing with the use of computer software.

CNC (Computerized Numerical Control)

Numerical control (NC) is the automation of machine tools that are operated by precisely programmed commands encoded on a storage medium, as opposed to controlled manually via hand wheels or levers, or mechanically automated via cams alone. Most NC today is computer (or computerized) numerical control (CNC), in which computers play an integral part of the control.
In modern CNC systems, end-to-end component design is highly automated using computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) programs. The programs produce a computer file that is interpreted to extract the commands needed to operate a particular machine via a post processor, and then loaded into the CNC machines for production. Since any particular component might require the use of a number of different tools – drills, saws, etc., modern machines often combine multiple tools into a single "cell". In other installations, a number of different machines are used with an external controller and human or robotic operators that move the component from machine to machine. In either case, the series of steps needed to produce any part is highly automated and produces a part that closely matches the original CAD design.


A hackerspace (also referred to as a hacklab, makerspace or hackspace) is a community-operated workspace where people with common interests, often in computers, machining, technology, science, digital art or electronic art, can meet, socialize and collaborate. Hackerspaces have also been compared to other community-operated spaces with similar aims and mechanisms such as Fab Lab, Men's Sheds, and with commercial "for profit" companies such as TechShop.
Please Note: FamiLAB is a registered 501(c)(3) public charity. Our funding comes from membership dues, class revenues, and sponsorships from local companies. If you’d like to support FamiLAB, please use our Contact form – if you’d like us to target your sponsorship to a specific areas (public education, children’s education, etc.) we have several programs that can meet your needs..)

iOS (Operating system)

iOS (originally iPhone OS) is a mobile operating system developed by Apple Inc. and distributed exclusively for Apple hardware. It is the operating system that presently powers many of the company's mobile devices, including the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
Originally unveiled in 2007 for the iPhone, it has been extended to support other Apple devices such as the iPod Touch (September 2007), iPad (January 2010), iPad Mini (November 2012) and second-generation Apple TV onward (September 2010). As of January 2015, Apple's App Store contained more than 1.4 million iOS applications, 725,000 of which are native for iPad. These mobile apps have collectively been downloaded more than 75 billion times. It had a 21% share of the smartphone mobile operating system units shipped in the fourth quarter of 2012, behind Google's Android. By the middle of 2012, there were 410 million devices activated. At WWDC 2014, Tim Cook said 800 million devices had been sold by June 2014.

IRC (Internet Relay Chat)

Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is an application layer protocol that facilitates transfer of messages in the form of text. The chat process works on a client/server model of networking. IRC clients are computer programs that a user can install on their system. These clients are able to communicate with chat servers to transfer messages to other clients. It is mainly designed for group communication in discussion forums, called channels, but also allows one-to-one communication via private message as well as chat and data transfer, including file sharing.

Laser Cutter/Cutting

Laser cutting is a technology that uses a laser to cut materials, and is typically used for industrial manufacturing applications, but is also starting to be used by schools, small businesses, and hobbyists. Laser cutting works by directing the output of a high-power laser most commonly through optics. The laser optics and CNC (computer numerical control) are used to direct the material or the laser beam generated. A typical commercial laser for cutting materials would involve a motion control system to follow a CNC or G-code of the pattern to be cut onto the material. The focused laser beam directed at the material, which then either melts, burns, vaporizes away, or is blown away by a jet of gas, leaving an edge with a high-quality surface finish. Industrial laser cutters are used to cut flat-sheet material as well as structural and piping materials.

Linux (Operating system)

Linux (pronounced /ˈlɪnəks/ lin-uks or, less frequently, /ˈlaɪnəks/ lyn-uks) is a Unix-like and mostly POSIX-compliant[7] computer operating system assembled under the model of free and open-source software development and distribution. The defining component of Linux is the Linux kernel, an operating system kernel first released on 5 October 1991 by Linus Torvalds. The Free Software Foundation uses the name GNU/Linux to describe the operating system, which has led to some controversy.
Linux was originally developed as a free operating system for Intel x86–based personal computers, but has since been ported to more computer hardware platforms than any other operating system.[citation needed] It is the leading operating system on servers and other big iron systems such as mainframe computers and supercomputers, but is used on only around 1.5% of desktop computers. Linux also runs on embedded systems, which are devices whose operating system is typically built into the firmware and is highly tailored to the system; this includes mobile phones, tablet computers, network routers, facility automation controls, televisions and video game consoles. Android, the most widely used operating system for tablets and smartphones, is built on top of the Linux kernel.

Mac OS (Operating system)

Mac OS is a series of graphical user interface-based operating systems developed by Apple Inc. for their Macintosh line of computer systems.
The original operating system was first introduced in 1984 as being integral to the original Macintosh, and referred to as the "System". Referred to by its major revision starting with "System 6" and "System 7", Apple rebranded version 7.6 as "Mac OS" as part of their Macintosh clone program in 1996. The Macintosh, specifically its system software, is credited with having popularized the early graphical user interface concept.
Macintosh operating systems have been released in two major series. Up to major revision 9, from 1984 to 2000, it is historically known as Classic Mac OS. Major revision 10, from 2001 to present, is branded OS X (originally referred to as Mac OS X). Major revisions to the Macintosh OS are now issued as point revisions, such that, for example, 10.2 is substantially different from 10.5. Both series share a general interface design, and there has been some overlap with shared application frameworks and virtual machine technology for compatibility; but the two series also have deeply different architectures.

Maker/Maker Culture

The maker culture is a contemporary culture or subculture representing a technology-based extension of DIY culture[citation needed]. Typical interests enjoyed by the maker culture include engineering-oriented pursuits such as electronics, robotics, 3-D printing, and the use of CNC tools, as well as more traditional activities such as metalworking, woodworking, and traditional arts and crafts. The subculture stresses a cut-and-paste approach to standardized hobbyist technologies, and encourages cookbook re-use of designs published on websites and maker-oriented publications. There is a strong focus on using and learning practical skills and applying them to reference designs.

NFC (Near Field Communication)

Near field communication (NFC) is a set of ideas and technology that enables smartphones and other devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching them together or bringing them into proximity, typically a distance of 10 cm (3.9 in) or less. Each full NFC device can work in 3 modes: NFC target (acting like a credential), NFC initiator (acting as a reader) and NFC (peer to peer.) Most of the first business models, like advertisement tags or other industrial applications, have not been successful. They have always been overtaken by other technologies, such as 2D bar-codes or UHF tags.
The main advantage of NFC is that NFC devices are often cloud connected. Connected credentials can be provisioned over the air unlike a standard card. All connected NFC-enabled smartphones can be provisioned with dedicated apps, which gives the application huge benefits, like dedicated readers (as opposed to the traditional dedicated infrastructure of ticket), access control, or payment readers. All NFC peers can connect a third party NFC device with a server for any action or reconfiguration.


PHP is a server-side scripting language designed for web development but also used as a general-purpose programming language. As of January 2013, PHP was installed on more than 240 million websites (39% of those sampled) and 2.1 million web servers. Originally created by Rasmus Lerdorf in 1994, the reference implementation of PHP (powered by the Zend Engine) is now produced by The PHP Group. While PHP originally stood for Personal Home Page, it now stands for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor, which is a recursive backronym.
For more information, please visit the official website: PHP

PLA (Polylactic Acid)

Polylactic acid or polylactide (PLA, Poly) is a biodegradable thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources, such as corn starch (in the United States), tapioca roots, chips or starch (mostly in Asia), or sugarcane (in the rest of the world). In 2010, PLA had the second highest consumption volume of any bioplastic of the world.
The name "polylactic acid" does not comply with IUPAC standard nomenclature, and is potentially ambiguous or confusing, because PLA is not a polyacid (polyelectrolyte), but rather a polyester.
Please also read about ABS, which is another type of 3D printing material.
PLA is a commonly used type of filament in 3D printing, which is why it's in this glossary.

Python (Programming language)

Python is a widely used general-purpose, high-level programming language. Its design philosophy emphasizes code readability, and its syntax allows programmers to express concepts in fewer lines of code than would be possible in languages such as C++ or Java. The language provides constructs intended to enable clear programs on both a small and large scale.
For more information, please visit the official website: Python

Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is a low cost, credit-card sized computer that plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse. It is a capable little device that enables people of all ages to explore computing, and to learn how to program in languages like Scratch and Python. It’s capable of doing everything you’d expect a desktop computer to do, from browsing the internet and playing high-definition video, to making spreadsheets, word-processing, and playing games.
For more information, please visit the official website: Raspberry Pi

RepRap (Replicating Rapid prototyper)

The RepRap project started as a British initiative to develop a 3D printer that can print most of its own components, but it is now made up of hundreds of collaborators world wide. RepRap (short for replicating rapid prototyper) uses an additive manufacturing technique called fused filament fabrication (FFF) to lay down material in layers; a plastic filament or metal wire is unwound from a coil and supplies material to produce a part. The project calls it Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) to avoid trademark issues with the "fused deposition modeling" term.

RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification)

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is the wireless use of electromagnetic fields to transfer data, for the purposes of automatically identifying and tracking tags attached to objects. The tags contain electronically stored information. Some tags are powered by electromagnetic induction from magnetic fields produced near the reader. Some types collect energy from the interrogating radio waves and act as a passive transponder. Other types have a local power source such as a battery and may operate at hundreds of meters from the reader. Unlike a barcode, the tag does not necessarily need to be within line of sight of the reader and may be embedded in the tracked object. RFID is one method for Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC).


Wi-Fi (or WiFi) is a local area wireless computer networking technology that allows electronic devices to network, mainly using the 2.4 gigahertz (12 cm) UHF and 5 gigahertz (6 cm) SHF ISM radio bands.
The Wi-Fi Alliance defines Wi-Fi as any "wireless local area network" (WLAN) product based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' (IEEE) 802.11 standards". However, the term "Wi-Fi" is used in general English as a synonym for "WLAN" since most modern WLANs are based on these standards. "Wi-Fi" is a trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance. The "Wi-Fi CERTIFIED" trademark can only be used by Wi-Fi products that successfully complete Wi-Fi Alliance interoperability certification testing.
Many devices can use Wi-Fi, e.g. personal computers, video-game consoles, smartphones, digital cameras, tablet computers and digital audio players. These can connect to a network resource such as the Internet via a wireless network access point. Such an access point (or hotspot) has a range of about 20 meters (66 feet) indoors and a greater range outdoors. Hotspot coverage can comprise an area as small as a single room with walls that block radio waves, or as large as many square kilometres achieved by using multiple overlapping access points.
Wi-Fi can be less secure than wired connections, such as Ethernet, precisely because an intruder does not need a physical connection. Web pages that use TLS are secure, but unencrypted internet access can easily be detected by intruders. Because of this, Wi-Fi has adopted various encryption technologies. The early encryption WEP proved easy to break. Higher quality protocols (WPA, WPA2) were added later. An optional feature added in 2007, called Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), had a serious flaw that allowed an attacker to recover the router's password. The Wi-Fi Alliance has since updated its test plan and certification program to ensure all newly certified devices resist attacks .

This page was originally created and may be edited mostly by LloydBlack.

The majority of the information in this glossary was retrieved from Wikipedia.