Material Considerations: Copper Alloys and Applications
At Keats Manufacturing, we use a wide range of copper types for our stampings. These include hundreds of different alloys all engineered for different grades of quality in several areas: conductivity, machinability, strength, and corrosion resistance. As copper is the most conductive non-precious metal, each alloy is an attempt to improve other characteristics of the material without compromising the quality of the connection beyond what is required by the application.
Often the factors come down to price and availability, as many different alloys and materials will fit the bill for various types of applications. The three we see most often here at Keats Manufacturing are straight coppers, beryllium coppers, and brasses.
Straight copper, again, is the most conductive non-precious metal, making it ideal for electrical conductivity. However, most applications do not require the conductivity that pure copper provides, and so other alloying metals are introduced to lower cost, improve workability, and maintain conductivity.
Brasses offer the lowest cost and highest malleability. Brasses are zinc and copper alloys where the quality of conductivity is determined by zinc content. Brass is used in many applications because of its affordability and ease of machining. However, its susceptibility to corrosion limits its use to controlled or closed environments, often in electronics and enclosed homes and commercial wiring applications. Beryllium coppers on the other hand have superior corrosion resistance and higher strength than their brass counterparts. Consequently, they are used in locations either more susceptible to corrosion, or in settings where quality of contact is of utmost importance, like communication or aerospace industries.
We’re sure as time goes on, more and more effective materials will be engineered for ever more specific applications – with our stamping expertise and experience continuing to serve our customers, whatever materials they choose to use.