Material Matters: Choosing the Right Metal for Your Project

The dedicated team at Keats Manufacturing Co. has been crafting stamped metal parts since 1958. Over the past few decades, we’ve seen a number of unique projects and individual parts come through our facility. While many decisions — from design details to custom tooling — influence these parts’ performance, one of the first choices made in the manufacturing process is always the most critical: material.

Common Materials, Uncommon Quality

Every metal comes with its own benefits and weaknesses, and these properties lend each material to different ideal uses. StampingsAchieving the best results for a stamping project is always the result of carefully researching and choosing a part’s optimal material fit.

At Keats Manufacturing Co., we pride ourselves on offering the highest quality products, from common steel components to custom crafted specialized alloy parts. Here are our top five material choices for custom stamping projects.

Copper

Copper offers some of the best available conductivity (100%), behind only silver and gold in its performance. copper-metal-stampingCopper is also known for its corrosion resistance to industrial atmospheres, water, non-oxidizing acids, alkalis, and neutral saline solutions. While it doesn’t react with water, copper gradually forms a brownish-black oxide when exposed to atmospheric oxygen. Unlike rust, this oxide will actually protect the copper underneath from further corrosion.

Copper is very malleable, ductile, and responsive to precision tooling. For automotive and electrical stamped part applications, it is best used at 0.010” – 0.050” thickness.

Copper alloys commonly used at Keats are: C102, C110, C122, C194 & C197.

Our copper part highlights include reel to reel terminals, loose terminals, conductive lead frames, grids, wire forms, clips, antennas, and prototype and short-run parts. Our custom metal stamping portfolio also includes beryllium copper springs for use in hearing aid applications.

Phosphor Bronze

A specialized alloy of copper, phosphor bronze contains up to 10% tin and up to 1% phosphorous, which provides deoxidizing during melting. While phosphor bronze lacks copper’s extreme conductivity (only 15%), it allows for electrical connections to devices at ultra-low temperatures due to its fair electrical performance combined with very low thermal conduction.

Keats-Phosphor-Bronze-Terminal-StampingPhosphor Bronze is also insensitive to stress corrosion cracking and offers good corrosion resistance to sea water and industrial atmospheres. Known for its toughness, strength, and low coefficient of friction, phosphor bronze is a popular choice for springs, bolts, and heavy fatigue applications. It is best used at 0.008” – 0.050” thickness for automotive and electrical applications.

Phosphor Bronze alloys commonly used at Keats are: C510, C511, C519 & C521.

Our bronze stamping portfolio includes reel to reel terminals, contacts, loose terminals, conductive lead frames, grids, and prototype and short-run parts.

Brass

Often the most cost effective choice for electrical applications because of its lower price point than pure copper, brass is known for its malleability, hardness, and resistance to corrosion, not to mention its pleasing appearance. Made by blending copper and zinc, it offers higher malleability than bronze or zinc alone. Nearly 90% of its alloys are, in fact, a result of these materials being recycled!

thumb-brass-formed-hinged-contact-jawBrass offers good resistance to fresh water, neutral or alkaline saline solution, organic compounds, and standard atmospheres at sea, on land, and in manufacturing. Adding aluminum to a brass alloy can strengthen its given corrosion resistance, while adding lead can enhance its machinability.

With a solid conductivity of 28%, brass is common in automotive and electrical applications at thicknesses up to 0.050”.

Brass alloys commonly used at Keats are: C210, C220, C230, C260, C268 & C272.

Our brass part highlights include reel to reel terminals and contacts, loose terminals, contacts, conductive lead frames, grids, brush guards and holders, and prototype and short-run parts.

Aluminum

An extremely popular material choice, aluminum is likely best known for its exceptional strength-to-weight ratio, making it ideal for strong, lightweight parts, both on its own and in combination with other metals.

bracketAluminum is also known for its corrosion resistance — it is tolerant to moisture and most chemicals — as well as its low density. The metal offers 61% conductivity and is capable of thermal and electrical superconductivity, as well.
Soft, durable, lightweight, ductile, and malleable, aluminum is popular for automotive and mechanical components at thicknesses ranging from 0.012” to 0.120”.

Aluminum alloys commonly used at Keats are: 3003, 1100, 5056, 5052 & 5154.

Our aluminum part highlights include clips, clamps and flat springs, brackets, latches, covers, wire forms, antennas, and prototype and short-run parts.

Steel

Annealed, cold-rolled, stainless — there are countless steel alloys designed to suit any industry. A classic combination of iron with carbon and any number of other elements, steel is created by reducing the carbon in iron ore and replacing it with materials to alter traits such as strength, conductivity, and corrosion resistance. In addition, heat treating processes such as annealing, quenching, and tempering can alter the material and its end performance.

Steel is typically resistant to corrosion with a wide conductivity range (up to 15%) and great formability and durability. A low cost option, it presents good baseline tensile and yield strength. However, all of these properties can vary greatly, offering a wide array of choices to create the perfect fit for a particular project. Annealed steel, for example, is far more ductile and fracture-resistant than its counterpart prior to heat treatment, and G1050 is an alloy specifically created for versatility and machinability in engineering applications.

Material Guidance with Keats Manufacturing Co.

With over 50 years of excellence in custom fabrication and small metal parts, the Keats Manufacturing Co. team knows a thing or two about material choices and manufacturing.

10-ways-reduce-turnaround-timeTo learn more about how solid research and great materials can benefit your next project, download our eBook, 10 Ways to Reduce Turnaround Time and Cost of a Metal Stamped Part, or reach out and contact us today.


reduce time and cost of your metal stamped part




Perspectives on Plating and the Metal Stamping Process

Plating is the process of adding another layer of metal onto an existing workpiece for multiple performance benefits, depending on the metal used to plate. At Keats Manufacturing, we know plating has a wide variety of options in both specific techniques and metals corresponding to these techniques for a desired final product. We understand this breadth of choices can be confusing or difficult to choose from.

As a custom metal stamping business, we often perform jobs that either require post-plating or stamp pre-plated pieces, but not in-house plating. Within these many years of working with post-plating or pre-plate stamping, we’ve identified some key issues related to the process of plating your workpiece or production plating project.

The two most common parts of the plating process we lend a hand in are stamping pre-plated material, or sending the stamped piece to an outside source to be plated. Though, keep in mind there is a third option known as partial plating, which is seen as a cost saving measure designed as a compromise between the advantages of the two other options.

Pre-Plating Advantages

IMG_2109-editedA quick look at some pre-plating advantages:

  • Less material used
  • Less costly in terms of labor and material
  • Dimensions remain during stamping for finished product

Pre-plating advantages include lower costs, as well as less opportunity for dimensional issues in the finished product. Adding another layer of metal onto a workpiece to plate can add different benefits, a few of which are corrosion resistance, conductivity and even aesthetics. Unlike pre-plating, adding a layer after the part is made can cause dimensional issues mentioned above.

Post Plating Advantages

As a function of the stamping process, a pre-plated part won’t be 100 percent plated after stamping, so for applications with potential exposure to a harsh environment, or applications in which the part is visible and a seamless finish is preferable, post plating may be desirable. This is typically the more expensive option, and with the added handling of the pieces, there is an increased possibility for dimensional concerns to arise. Plating after the metal stamping process, or other changes, will guarantee a fully plated end result. 

As with many design and manufacturing considerations, the key is to identify which factors most affect the characteristics of the final product that are most important, and make the decision based on those variables. The benefit (and we would say the beauty) of being a custom manufacturer is that we have the experience and capability to cater to whatever peculiarities the job requires.

Contact the Keats team today for more information on stamping and plating.