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Metal shims are thin pieces of metal used to fill gaps between surfaces, pieces of equipment, and fastenings. Shims come in a variety of forms, including circular washers and thin strips. Shim stock is metal sheet material that is manufactured at a pre-set thickness specifically for use in shims. It typically features a taper or wedge end that allows it to slide into narrow gaps. Stainless steel is the most common material used for shim stock due to its strength, hardness, and corrosion resistance.
Stainless Steel Grades, Alloys, and Tempers
The most popular stainless steel shim stock materials include:
- Grade 17-7: Precipitation-hardened chromium-nickel-aluminum steel with high strength, medium-range corrosion resistance, and minimal distortion when exposed to high temperatures. Ideal for use in washers, springs, bellows, and diaphragms.
- Grade 17-4: The most popular precipitation-hardened stainless steel grade. It is tougher than 17-7, with the same level of corrosion resistance and strength. 17-4 SS is highly ductile but requires high-powered forming equipment. This grade is used in aircraft turbines, oil refinery equipment, chemical manufacturing, and nuclear reactors.
- Grade 301: Grade 301 is an austenitic stainless steel with 17% chromium, 7% nickel, and high carbon content. It exhibits high tensile strength, but lower corrosion and temperature resistance. 301 works well in high-strength operations with no exposure to moisture, corrosives, or high temperatures. Common 301 SS applications include exterior automotive components, stoves, railcar structures, and trailer parts.
- Grade 302: Grade 302 SS is austenitic, with 18% chromium and 8% nickel. It has high carbon content to enhance strength while providing good corrosion resistance. It does not handle high temperatures, so it is ideal for low-heat industrial applications, including stamping, wire forming, spinning, fastening hardware, and pressure vessels.
- Grade 304 & 304L: An austenitic chromium-nickel alloy, Grade 304 has the same percentage of chromium and nickel as 302 but with a maximum of 0.08% carbon content. Due to its superior corrosion resistance, SS 304 is used for stainless steel appliances, commercial food processing surfaces and equipment, outdoor structures, plumbing, piping, cookware, and fasteners.
- Grade 309: Grade 309 has a chromium content of 23%, which makes it better suited for high-temperature applications. It exhibits exceptional resistance to corrosion and oxidation at room temperature. High carbon content enhances the strength of Grade 309 but makes it less resistant to corrosion in high-moisture. Grade 309 is ideal for use in furnaces and incinerators, paper mills, oil and gas refineries, and thermal process equipment.
- Grade 316 & 316L: Stainless steel Grade 316 features high levels of chromium and nickel, with a high level of molybdenum, for outstanding corrosion resistance. It withstands corrosion in marine environments, which makes it ideal for chemical manufacturing, marine operations, oil and gas refineries, and medical equipment.
- Grade 321: Grade 321 stainless steel includes titanium, for a more stable corrosion-resistant formulation. It is especially resistant to corrosion at extremely high temperatures. This makes Grade 321 SS perfect for aircraft exhaust systems, furnace and bellows components, heating elements, mineral processing, and burner piping.
- Grade 410: Grade 410 stainless steel plate consists of 12% chromium, for optimal corrosion resistance. It can be heat treated to enhance strength, hardness, and ductility. Stainless steel Grade 410 provides corrosion-resistant plating for ladders, turbines, process pumps and valves, oil and gas processing, and fastening hardware.
- Grade 430: Grade 430 features the same level of corrosion resistance as 304, but with a higher level of formability. It is resistant to nitric acid and can be bent, formed, and drawn more easily than other stainless steel formulations. It is typically used in appliance liners and panels, automotive trim, and heating element supports.
For complete information about the above stainless steel grades, alloys, and tempers, please refer to Trinity’s product guides.
Benefits of Stainless Steel
Depending on the grade, stainless steel offers numerous benefits, including:
- Exceptional Corrosion Resistance: Stainless steel shims are ideal for industrial applications because they are highly resistant to corrosion in both oxygenated and non-oxygenated environments due to their high chromium content.
- Pleasing Aesthetic: With its bright surface finish, stainless steel offers high aesthetic appeal. It can be polished to achieve desired finishes after fabrication.
- Easy Fabrication: Stainless steel is compatible with a wide range of fabrication services, including laser and waterjet cutting, stamping, CNC machining, and more.
- Long Service Life: Because of its corrosion resistance and the fact that stainless steel is more durable than other shim materials, stainless steel is the preferred choice in applications requiring long service life.
- Easy to Clean and Sterilize: Stainless steel can withstand frequent cleaning and sterilization without tarnishing, making them ideal for applications in the medical and food industries which maintain strict cleanliness standards.
- High Strength-to-Weight Ratio: Austenitic stainless steel grades are cold worked, resulting in increased strength while maintaining reduced material thickness compared to other materials.
- 100% Recyclable: Stainless steel can be continuously recycled. Over 50% of new stainless steel components are made of remelted scrap parts, saving money and resources.
Stainless Steel Shim Stock Applications
Stainless steel shim stock sheets and blanks are critical for applications that require high corrosion resistance in harsh operating conditions, including:
- Metal fabrication
- Tool and die spacing and alignment
- Spring clips, retainers, and washers
- Equipment alignment
- Medical and surgical devices and tools
- Food and beverage processing
- Machine repair and maintenance
- Pump and motor mounts
- Prototyping equipment
Stainless Steel Shim Stock at Trinity Brand Industries
Trinity Brand Industries is a leading provider of stainless steel shim stock products and services. With over three decades of experience with metal fabrication, we have the knowledge, skill, and capabilities to provide superior quality metal stock and finished products for a wide range of industries. See our product guides to learn more about our extensive selection of metal products. For more information, contact us or request a quote for your project!
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Red metals earned their name from the unique reddish tint they possess. Copper is the foundation of the red metals as it can be used in its natural state and it can be alloyed to create the other two red metals — brass and bronze. Although these metals have a similar hue, they possess different qualities, compositions, and properties that make them suitable for some applications over others.
Copper is one of the oldest metals discovered and has been in use for over 10,000 years due to the expansive range of benefits copper and its alloys offer. Red metals are extremely versatile, making them a popular choice in a wide array of applications, including musical instruments, marine hardware, HVAC systems, and electrical components.
Benefits of Brass
Brass is created by adding variable amounts of zinc to copper. Zinc increases the ductility and strength of the copper and the resulting brass material is a lighter color than the original copper. The benefits of Brass and brass shim stock applications include:
- Low Friction: Brass is a soft metal that produces a low friction rate, making it a good choice in applications where sparking should be avoided. This red metal is also a good electrical and heat conductor.
- Corrosion Resistant Shims: Marine environments often opt for brass shims for tuning and piping because brass is corrosion-resistant. Even in environments where gasoline, alcohol, fuel, or oil may be present, brass has shown strong resistance qualities.
- High Malleability: Brass shim stock’s softness and low melting point make it suitable in a broad range of applications, particularly in machinery. They are useful in creating accurate alignments, leveling surfaces, filling gaps, and more.
- Recyclable: Brass isn’t ferromagnetic, making it highly recyclable. Because it doesn’t possess magnetic qualities, it can easily be separated from other metals using a magnet.
- Antimicrobial: Because brass is a copper alloy, it has inherent antimicrobial properties. Copper naturally eliminates certain bacteria, making it a good option for shims that require sterilization, like the medical and food industry.
Benefits of Bronze
Bronze is a copper alloy most commonly combined with tin. However, silicon, aluminum, phosphorous, and manganese are also commonly used to create bronze. The addition of these elements increases bronze’s hardness. Bronze has a high aesthetic appeal and is excellent for surface finishes, has high dimensional precision, and is cost-effective. Bronze shim stock benefits and applications include:
- Durability: Bronze is commonly used in musical instruments due to its durability. It can withstand repeated impacts making it a good candidate for bells and cymbals as well as windings of steel and nylon strings on guitars and pianos.
- Expandability: Bronze is the metal of choice in sculpting because it expands immediately before setting, bringing even the most intricate details in your artwork to life.
- Corrosion-resistant: Manufacturers of furniture trims, ship hardware, automobile parts, hardware mounts, coins, ship hardware, and wall panels prefer to use bronze because it is corrosion-resistant and has a unique color.
Benefits of Copper
Though it is often alloyed, copper is one of the only metallic elements that can be used in its unaltered state. Copper’s extreme versatility is due in part to its mechanical, thermal, and electrical characteristics. Benefits and applications of copper shim stock include:
- Corrosion-resistant: Copper is highly resistant to corrosion. This metal can withstand high-moisture applications such as plumbing, roofing, and outdoor applications.
- Ductile and Malleable: Copper is one of the easiest metals to work with in joining and fabricating processes. It resists cracking and can bend to form a wide range of shapes making it optimal for use in industrial, architectural, and automotive applications.
- Easy to Alloy: Copper can easily alloy with a majority of other metals, including nickel, zinc, and tin to enhance or add application-specific qualities.
Shim Stock at Trinity Brand Industries
For centuries, red metals have been important elements for advancing modern tools and technology. Due to their versatility, corrosion resistance, antimicrobial properties, and more, red metals are ideal for applications in architecture and construction to machinery and telecommunication.
For over 30 years, Trinity Brand Industries has continually provided quality shim stock to a wide array of industries. Our complete line of shim stock options includes rolls and sheets for the red metals such as brass shim stock, half-hard brass shim stock, copper shim stock, phosphor bronze shim stock, and more. Our commitment to quality has delivered lasting customer relationships. We are always committed to supplying USA-made materials that offer traceability and a Material Test Report (MTR) in all materials. To learn more, reach out to Trinity Brand Industries or request a quote for our products and services.
Many industrial tasks require precise positioning. In precision machining, for instance, both tooling and workpieces must be placed in exactly the right positions to achieve desired tolerances. These kinds of applications require shims—small strips of metal used to fill gaps between components to create a tighter fit or more level surface. Shims come in many shapes and sizes to meet various positioning requirements.
Although shims can be made from plastic or rubber, most are cut from very thin sheets of metals known as shim stock. Trinity Brand Industries offers a full catalog of metal shim stock materials, including carbon steel, stainless steel, brass, bronze, copper, aluminum, titanium, and electrical steel. To complement these options, we also offer punch-and-die sets so that clients can easily create consistent shims with minimal waste. Regardless of the application, we can supply you with the shim stocks you need to achieve proper precision and productivity.
What is Shim Stock?
A shim stock is a roll of thin gauge metal or foil used to create shims. Thin gauge cut sheet metal may be as thin as 0.0005 inch (0.0127 millimeter) to allow for fine positioning adjustments.
Since the material is so thin, stock can easily be cut into custom shapes using standard tools such as metal shears. For more complex shapes, or to achieve greater precision, users may also rely on stamping, laser cutting, water jet, machining, or other metal fabrication processes to customize their shims. Common stamped shapes include rings, which improve alignment and prevent axial motion, U-shaped slotted shims, which fit around screws to align and level equipment and flat shims to adjust the height of die sets.
How to Use Shim Stock
Shim stock is easy to adapt to any application, and the general process is similar whether you’re using sheets, rolls, or pre-cut shims.
- Determine the necessary shim thickness. Use feeler gages of increasing thicknesses to determine how large a shim will be required.
- Select the right shim stock. The previous measurement determines the ideal shim stock size for your application. In some cases, you may need to stack shims to achieve sufficient elevation, but use caution when combining more than four shims or when dealing with gaps larger than 0.15 inch. You should also choose the right type of metal for your setting. For example, in a highly corrosive environment, you might opt for stainless shim stock sheets.
- Cut the shim stock. Unless you’re working with a set of pre-cut shims, you will need to cut individual shims from the roll or sheet. For simple shapes, use metal shears. For more complex shapes, use a stamping kit or a dedicated press.
- Position the shim or shims. Finally, slide the shims into place and proceed with your process.
Common Shim Stock Materials
Metal shims can be made from a wide range of materials, and the best choice depends on the application constraints.
- Stainless steel: Stainless steel is one of the most versatile metals, offering a balance of strength, hardness, and corrosion resistance with each fabrication. Stainless steel is distinct from carbon steel because it includes chromium as an alloying element, which grants excellent corrosion resistance. Stainless shim stock creates strong, durable shims suitable for corrosive or outdoor environments and marine applications.
- Electrical steel: Electrical steel refers to certain steel alloys engineered to have beneficial magnetic and electrical properties. The inclusion of silicon in varying proportions increases permeability and resistivity while decreasing magnetostriction. These alloys can be either grain oriented or non-grain oriented, depending on their method of production.
- Grain oriented electrical steel: Grain oriented steel has optimized magnetic properties only in the direction it was rolled.
- Non-grain oriented electrical steel: Non-grain oriented steel has good magnetic properties in all directions, rather than just in the rolled direction.
- Steel: Steel shims are among the most common, especially for indoor applications.
- Carbon steel: In contrast to stainless steel, carbon steel alloys have carbon as their primary alloying element rather than chromium. Low, medium, and high-carbon steels are available, with high-carbon steel being harder but less ductile than low-carbon steel.
- Blue tempered steel: Blue tempered steel is a form of high-carbon steel known for its high yield strength and high fatigue strength. It also has excellent thermal and electrical conductivity.
- 1095: 1095 is a high-carbon steel that features good strength, hardness, and durability. It can be ground to very tight tolerances for precision applications.
- 1075: 1075 has similar properties to 1095 carbon steel, although it has a lower carbon content. As a result, it is slightly softer but also more formable.
- Aluminum: Aluminum is best known for its excellent strength-to-weight ratio. It is also corrosion-resistant and highly formable, so it can be used to form intricate shapes. Aluminum shim stock is best used where weight is a significant concern.
- Brass: Like aluminum, brass is another non-corrosive, non-magnetic, and highly formable metal. Brass shim stock is popular for technical applications and electrical conductivity.
- Bronze: Bronze is a strong, formable, and ductile alloy of copper. Bronze shim stock has excellent corrosion and fatigue resistance as well as good electrical properties, so it is a popular choice for electronic applications.
- Copper: Copper is known for its ductility and electrical and thermal conductivity, which also make it a common material in the electronics industry. Copper shim stock is also highly resistant to corrosion, so it can be used outdoors or in corrosive environments.
- Titanium: Titanium is a low density metal with an extremely high strength-to-weight ratio. It also resists corrosion from many different chemicals, including chloride and chlorine-based substances. Used in aerospace and aircraft applications.
For help selecting the right shim stock for your needs, consult our full list of materials found in our product guide.
Shim Stock Applications and Industries
Shims can fill small gaps between components, elevate materials to be machined, align parts during repair, and more. As a result, shims are used in a diverse range of industries.
- Aerospace: Shims are frequently used to achieve the tight tolerances necessary in the aerospace industry or to position components for repair. In these settings, strong and corrosion-resistant shims are critical.
- Automotive: In the automotive industry, shims are used in both manufacturing and maintenance. They can adjust valve clearances or other spaces between parts. High-nickel bronze and brass shims are especially ideal for EV applications.
- Oil & Gas: Shims are useful for absorbing accumulated tolerances in pumps and motors, aligning mated components, and acting as thrust washers.
- Medical devices: Shims help establish and maintain the pinpoint tolerances needed for implanted medical devices, prosthetics, imaging equipment, and surgical robots.
- Marine: Corrosion-resistant stainless and brass shims are ideal for aligning and positioning applications within the marine industry.
Metal fabrication techniques such as laser cutting, waterjet cutting, machining, and stamping can be used to customize shims to suit these diverse applications. In addition to providing shim stock and tooling, Trinity Brand Industries performs comprehensive metal fabrication services to craft precision shims.
Shim Stock Solutions at Trinity Brand Industries
Shims play an essential role in helping clients achieve proper positioning and alignment for their projects. Shim stock is useful both for fabricators, who use the materials to create custom shims, and for end-users, who can quickly stamp or cut shims on-site. At Trinity Brand Industries, we are committed to supporting both types of users.
We offer a full range of standard and hard-to-find materials with custom cut dimensions, which you can learn more about in our product guide. We cater to both small and large-scale distributors, offering competitive pricing on orders ranging from several pounds to several metric tons. Whatever your application, TBI has the experience and sourcing network to meet your needs.
To learn more about our shim solutions—which include shim stock, pre-cut shims, and stamping tools—contact us or request a quote today.