Surface roughness is a widely used index of product quality and in most cases a technical requirement for mechanical products. Achieving the desired surface quality is of importance for the functional behavior of a part. This paper is aimed at providing current knowledge on the association of surface roughness with function in grinding. Main roughness parameters, adopted by ISO standards or not, are described. The correlation between surface roughness and the desirable function of the surface are discussed. A model is established for describing the generation of the 'ideal' ground surface profile to predict theoretically the work piece roughness. But the model is found to be of limited practical use. It is necessary to adjust the empirical values to the analytical expression obtained in 'ideal' model.© (2010) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.