Manufacturing Precision Shims – Micron Laser

Manufacturing Precision Shims

by Bryan Roberts .

on June 17, 2020
“Precision shims?” Is that an oxymoron? Isn’t the whole point of advancing manufacturing technology to increase the accuracy and precision of the end product, and not to engineer a fudge factor into the design?  Should the future of modern engineering still include the same technology construction workers employ when hanging a door within ⅛ inch of square?  The answer, albeit counterintuitive, is yes.  In fact, fudge factors are an inherent element of bleeding-edge science and technology regardless of scale. From the immense Einsteinian Cosmological Constant to the quantum mechanical Density-functional theory and everywhere in between, leaving wiggle room in the equation (or design) is what allows for improved accuracy.    

Is it efficient or elegant? Of course not.  That’s not the point. The point is that it works. Precision shims are the mechanical equivalent of fudging between the infinite precision of CAD models to the finished part accuracy.  Aerospace, Automotive, Bio-Medical, Circuits, Industrial, and many more, all implement precision shims, washers, and spacers to meet critical tolerances. 

The question in many instances moves from “How accurately can this part be produced?” to “What is the most accurate methodology for manufacturing precision shims?”  If you were to account for every type of commonly manufactured materials, whether it be metal, plastic, ceramic, or rubber, laser cutting offers the most cost-effective accurate shims. As shims are typically a single step in the manufacturing process, which may require frequent design adjustments, and quick turnaround time to add to an assembly, lasers cutting ticks all the boxes.  

Unlike stamping, lasers require little if any tooling setup. Additionally, material thickness or even material composition changes can be made on the fly. If an engineer is unsure of the best material for the application (e.g. titanium or tungsten carbide, polycarbonate, or acrylic) laser again comes out ahead.  Laser processing is typically most cost-effective in small quantities. Therefore, it is not uncommon for shim designs to specify multiple materials in the same build. 

Micron Laser Technology specializes in laser-cut precision shims, washers, and gaskets. For more than 20 years, MLT has perfected laser processes and techniques that allow our customers to push the envelope of manufactured parts in nearly any material. Additionally, we can supply all of the most common materials, or manufacture from customer supplied stock. If you would like to learn more about how Micron Laser can improve your products and processes subscribe to this blog and check out our website


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