As many in the manufacturing industry already know, shims can be an essential component in equipment design. Made from a wide range of materials including metals and plastics, these pieces are inserted between two surfaces to align or adjust the fit of the two surfaces. These components perform the equivalent function of propping up a wobbly table by placing something underneath a table leg. Shims are available in a variety of shapes and materials, and used for a number of purposes. 

In addition, just as a shim can be used to make a wobbly table or chair safer in households, it can greatly reduce hazards and solve safety issues in industrial scenarios.

Gantry cranes in a South African container port

The Transnet National Port in Cape Town, South Africa is a rapidly growing port with an increasing number of container ships using its wharfs. As a result, local civil construction engineers were commissioned to improve and expand existing facilities to allow the port to handle more cargo shipping.

Naturally, meeting safety standards was a high priority, especially since the rail mounted gantry crane system originally installed presented a serious potential trip hazard along the quayside. (The height of the original quayside varied by 3.15 in either up or down, along the entire length of the quay.)

In order to resolve the trip hazard issue, the Port Authority approved a glass fiber reinforce plastic (GRP) power cable tray panel design, coupled with GRP leveling shims, and integral component.

The shims, also made of GRP in this case, were used to raise the GRP panels to the exact height needed for the cables and create a cable tray surface virtually level with the crane rails. GRP shims were bonded into place to make the finished cable tray sections solid and level, and create safe “trip free” areas around the port site.

Shims across Industries

Shipping and construction aren’t the only industries to benefit from the use of shims. Aerospace, military and defense, medical component, and mining are only a few of the industries that use shims for a number of purposes. Shims are a powerful component for many manufactured parts. In addition to GRP, they can be made from everything from aluminum to stainless steel to nickel. Shims are versatile and can be customized for any number of specifications and unique applications.

As with the Transnet National Port trip hazard issue, shims are more effective when incorporated into the design at the onset. Designing shims into product specifications eliminates the time and cost of putting precision tolerances on interacting components. Shims compensate for accumulated tolerances during assembly, and can align parallel and angular surfaces when interfacing elements are coupled, making the process more precise. They can also extend the performance lifetime of equipment by compensating for wear.

To learn more about shims in industry, please feel free to contact us,.