Standoffs and Spacers Buyer’s Guide: Things You Need To Know

In the world of hardware, standoffs and spacers are classified as Electronic Hardware.   These mechanical components are used to connect and position PC circuit boards, gears, instrument panels, and doors within assemblies.

Differences Between Standoffs and Spacers 

Let’s jump right in on their differences. 

While both standoffs and spacers have a hex or round shaped body and two openings, the main difference between them is in the opening hole/thread.  Spacers have an unthreaded inside clearance hole. Standoffs, on the other hand, are threaded on both ends, with either external, male threads or internal, female threads.

Now let’s take a look at what they’re used for.

Primary Uses of Standoffs and Spacers

Standoffs and spacers are primarily used in electronic hardware.  Typically uses include:

  • Position parts within an assembly
  • Reduce component contact
  • Elevate stacked sections
  • Ensure room for heat dissipation
  • Separate or create space 

Available Materials and Finishes for Standoffs and Spacers

There are a variety of materials and finishes available for both standoffs and spacers including:

  • Aluminum – popular because of its ratio of weight to strength. It’s also light, non-magnetic, plus it performs well in severe temperatures. Another bonus: it has insulating properties.
  • Brass – used in making high-quality standoffs. Brass is conductive, resists corrosion, and it’s non-magnetic. It is more expensive than and also heavier than aluminum. Brass is  usually plated zinc or nickel; it can be soldered for grounding.
  • Plastic/nylon – superlight, nonconductive. These spacers and standoffs are resistant to chemicals and solvents. One property to note: nylon absorbs moisture, which can affect dimensions along with other properties.
  • Steel – used for its strength, it’s heavier than aluminum. Steel does not resist corrosion like stainless steel, aluminum or brass. However, it’s often zinc plated for added resistance to corrosion.
  • Stainless Steel –  strong, conductive, and nonmagnetic, stainless steel offers excellent corrosion resistance.

Common finishes/platings include:

  • Clear anodized
  • Nickel
  • Gold iridite 
  • Zinc plated

There are over 20 common finishes that are available.  

Along with these common materials and finishes, 316 stainless steel, alloy and other exotic materials, as well as special diameters and lengths are also available in certain sizes and/or for special order. These types of materials and sizes usually require a little lead time.

Standoffs and Spacers Sizing Available Off-the-Shelf

Available right off the shelf, standoffs and spacers are available in these stock sizes:

Inch sizes off the shelf:

  • 3/16 – 1/2 body diameter
  • 1/4 to 2” long with threads starting at 2-56 running through 1/4-20 
  • Clearance holes ranging from #2 through 1/4”

Metric stock sizes are available as:

  • M3.5-M6 body diameter 
  • M2.5, M3 and M4 threads

The lengths and threads available depend on the diameter of the body; not all size configurations are always available. If you need nonstandard lengths, sizes or materials, MF Supply can help.  

Here’s How to Get an Accurate Quote

Like most hardware, Standoffs and Spacers have their own nomenclature.  They are named by OEM part#, Milspec part#, or by size and material description.  When requesting a quote or ordering by description, be sure to specify: 

  • Body diameter
  • Body shape (hex or round)
  • Body length
  • Clearance hole size (Spacers) or Thread size & gender (male or female) of both ends (Standoffs)
  • Material and plating

As an example, a popular standoff size is a 1/4 Hex x 1/2 Long x 10-32 male standoff in stainless steel. 

Other Factors to Consider

One of the best ways to save on cost and cut delivery time is to cross the OEM brand part on your bill of materials to a functional equivalent. Among the most popular brands are: Amatom, Concord, Globe, H.H. Smith, Lyn-tron, Microplastics, Keystone, Pem, RAF, Unicorp, as well as national catalog brands Mcmaster-Carr, Grainger, MSC Industrial.

Standoffs and spacers sometimes show up under their Mil-spec numbers, which can be crossed to commercial equivalents. Common Mil-spec series include NAS42, NAS43, NAS61, NAS1056, NAS1057, NAS1829, NAS1831. Where applicable, Mil-spec parts are DFAR compliant with full paperwork.

This is a handy Functional Equivalent check list to see if you must use an OEM brand or if your customer will allow you to cross to a functional equivalent.

If you’re looking for an accurate, high-quality manufacturer & distributor of Standoffs and Spacers, partner with MF Supply. They have both the most common and unusual Standoffs and Spacers, including commercial and mil-spec parts in inch and metric, special sizes, materials, and platings. You can review their catalog and easily place your product order, right here! They live up to their tagline: MF Supply, The Right Screw for you!  

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