Standoffs and Spacers!? What the heck are those?

What the heck are Standoffs and Spacers?

Welcome back to our “What the heck is that?” series, refreshed for 2023. We close out March by (re) introducing you to Standoffs and Spacers. According to the dictionary, a Standoff is defined as “a stalemate or a deadlock between two equally matched opponents”. In the world of manufacturing and assemblies, Standoffs, and their cousin the Spacer, have an altogether different meaning which we will uncover today.

What are Standoffs and Spacers?

Often classified as Electronic Hardware, or Panel Hardware, Standoffs are hex or round shaped fasteners which have a body and two threaded ends. The threaded ends can either be an internally threaded opening (female) or an externally threaded post (male). They are commonly used to mechanically support and electrically connect and position components within assemblies.

Spacers are similar to Standoffs, however, Standoffs are threaded on both ends, and Spacers are unthreaded with an inside clearance hole.

Who uses Standoffs and Spacers?

Look inside an assembled circuit board, and you may be greeted by a variety of Standoffs and Spacers. In the world of Electronic Hardware, they are the standard for connecting and mounting circuit boards, panels, doors, and gears. Both are commonly used to properly position parts within an assembly, to reduce component contact, to elevate stacked sections, to ensure enough room for heat to dissipate, and to separate or create space between two objects. These guys are workhorses!

What do I need to consider when selecting Standoffs and Spacers?

Standoffs and Spacers are available in a variety of styles based on four main attributes: 1) shape 2) outer diameter of the body 3) body length and 4) thread size or clearance hole. Standoffs have a fifth attribute, thread type (we like to call it gender), as defined below.

Standoffs and Spacers can be hex, round or square shaped. The most common diameter of the body is ¼, but many other sizes are available. Metric diameter standards are M4.5 and M6, though larger sizes are available. Standard body lengths range from ¼ x 2″. Clearance holes and thread generally range from #2 through ¼. Special lengths and sizes are available – just ask!

Standoffs come in three main styles (genders):

  • Female-female: can be fully threaded or partially threaded on each end.
  • Male-female: have internal female threads on one end and male threads on the other. Threads are generally the same size.
  • Male-male: have external threads on both ends which may be of differing thread size.

What Materials are available?

Common materials include aluminum, brass, plastic/nylon, steel, and stainless steel. Common platings include clear anodized, nickel, gold iridite and zinc plated. There are over 20 common plating’s available! Here are some of the most common materials:

  • Aluminum: It is popular because of its ratio of weight to strength. It is light, non-magnetic, performs well in severe temperatures, and has insulating properties.
  • Brass: It is used in making high-quality standoffs. It is conductive, resists corrosion, and is non-magnetic. It is costlier and heavier than aluminum and is usually plated zinc or nickel. It can be soldered for grounding.
  • 18-8 Stainless Steel: It is strong, conductive, and nonmagnetic. This stainless steel offers excellent corrosion resistance.
  • Zinc plated Steel: Steel is used for its strength, but it is heavier than aluminum and does not resist corrosion like Stainless steel, aluminum or brass. It is usually zinc plated for added corrosion resistance.
  • Nylon 6/6: It is superlight, nonconductive, and resistant to chemicals and solvents. Nylon absorbs moisture, which can affect dimensions and other properties.

Lesson Learned, and considerations when selecting and using Standoffs and Spacers

  • Standoffs are sometimes referred to by their brand names, which can often be substituted by generic equivalents. Popular brands include: Amatom, Concord, Globe, H.H. Smith, Lyn-tron, Microplastics, Keystone, Pem, RAF, Unicorp.
  • To measure a Standoff or Spacer, measure the outside diameter of the body, the length of the body and the thread size. Determine if the standoff is a female-female, male-female or male-male. A typical Standoff might measure as follows: 1/4 hex X 1/2 long X 8-32 thread male-female aluminum standoff. This exact standoff is made and branded by at least 10 manufacturers. Note: the length of the male threaded post is standard and is not called out.
  • Standoffs and Spacers sometimes show up under their Mil-spec numbers, which can be crossed to commercial equivalents. Some common Mil-spec series include NAS42, NAS43, NAS61, NAS1056, NAS1057, NAS1829, NAS1830, NAS1831.

To see if using alternative brands or functional equivalents will work for your business, refer to our handy guide.

Standoffs and Spacers at MF Supply

Here at MF Supply, we supply some of the most common and unusual Standoffs and Spacers, including:

  • The full range of commercial and mil-spec parts in both inch and metric.
  • Specials sizes, materials and platings. Just try to stump us!
  • We are authorized distributors for Amatom, Concord, Lyn-tron, Microplastics and RAF and offer the full range of brand names and equivalents.

Visit our MF Supply website for more details or to check our Spacers and Standoffs currently in stock.

And if you don’t see it listed, as always, ask us. Our MF Supply team of sourcing experts can help you answer any questions or concerns you might have about our products. “Finding the right screw for you” is our tag line after all!

Book a one-on-one consultation with our President, Robin, to discuss how MF Supply can help you solve your Industrial Sourcing, Fastener, and Safety concerns.

MF Supply Work With Us

Six Reasons To Buy From MF Supply

  • Full eCommerce Enabled Website With Technical Manual Available 24/7 – Visit our website and Create a New Account, track online orders, browse our product catalog, check technical specs, subscribe to our blog, or buy online.  We are adding items and improving functionality daily!
  • Same Day Shipping From The USA – Our hardware products are in stock and ship to you directly from our USA based distribution centers. 
  • Functional Equivalents To Expensive Brand Names- We stock and source alternatives to brand name fasteners, reducing long lead times and saving you money.
  • Creatively Solve Problems – We are sourcing experts, offer competitive pricing and specialize in finding hard to find parts and reducing long deliveries.
  • One-Stop Shopping On Certified Hardware – We stock and source a full line of fasteners including Mil-Spec, DFARS compliant and other industrial products.
  • WBE/WOSB Woman Owned Certified Small Business – To meet your diversity & set-aside needs.

MF Supply is a WBE/WOSB certified supply chain partner to business, industry and government.  We are sourcing experts and stocking distributors of Hardware, Precision & Mil-Spec Fasteners and Safety supplies.  For more than 50 years, we have been supplying manufacturers in the electronics, industrial, commercial, aerospace and military markets with the full range of fastener products and services.  Our Cage Code is 58QG4 and our registered name is RL Supply Inc dba MF Supply.