What is the difference between spacers and shims?

metal shims
Spacers and shims are both used to create precise gaps or separations between objects or components, but they serve slightly different purposes and have distinct characteristics:


  • Purpose: Shims are primarily used for making fine adjustments, filling gaps, or correcting misalignments between two surfaces.
  • Material: Shims are often thin, flat pieces made of various materials, including metal such as steel.
  • Application: They are commonly used in construction, machinery alignment, and manufacturing to achieve precise tolerances. Shims are often inserted or placed between surfaces to compensate for irregularities or variations in dimensions.
  • Thickness: Shims are usually thin, with thicknesses ranging from a fraction of a millimetre to several millimetres.


  • Purpose: Spacers are primarily used to create a defined and consistent gap or distance between objects. They are often used to maintain a specific separation between components.
  • Material: Spacers can be made of various materials, including metal, plastic, rubber, or other materials, depending on the specific application and requirements.
  • Application: Spacers are commonly used in assembly processes, machinery, and structural applications where a consistent gap is necessary. They can also be used to prevent friction between components or to provide insulation.
  • Thickness: Spacers are typically designed with a specific length or thickness to ensure a uniform separation between objects.

Key Differences Between Spacers and Shims:

Adjustment vs. Separation: The primary difference lies in their main function. Shims are often used for fine adjustments and corrections, while spacers are used to maintain a consistent separation or gap between objects.

Thickness: Shims are generally thinner and designed for precise adjustments, while spacers can have varying thicknesses, depending on the intended gap requirement.

Application Focus: Shims are often associated with alignment and levelling applications, whereas spacers are more commonly associated with maintaining a specific distance or gap between components.

While both shims and spacers play roles in achieving precise configurations, shims are more focused on making fine adjustments and correcting misalignments, while spacers are designed to create consistent gaps or separations between objects.

Datum Laser employ cutting-edge laser technology to manufacture precision metal shims from 0.05-0.5mm, tailored to your application.

Our team of specialists collaborate with clients to design customised solutions that precisely align with their unique needs. Contact us today to discover how we can fulfil your precision-cut shim demands.


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