Properties and Applications of Copper Sheet Metal

Metals are classified into two types. Those that contain iron and are widely utilized for large-scale construction and industrial applications are classified as ferrous metals, while those that don’t contain iron and are often exploited for their electrical conductivity, corrosion resistance, and antibacterial properties are classified as non-ferrous.

The latter is regard as high-end for a number of reasons apart from the above-mentioned properties. Most of the metals that belong to that class are quite elusive or hard to come by. Their ores are either entrenched deep into the earth or simply rare. Furthermore, the industries that utilize them also belong to a sophisticated bracket, including electronics, telecommunication, and aerospace.

Of all the non-ferrous metals, copper is arguably the most influential. There’s gold and silver that everyone knows about, but when it comes to usability, they don’t come close to copper. The fact that this metal has been around for longer than all the timelines of all other metals combined is a proof of that. Man has used copper for over ten thousand years and its reign is far from over. It’s not difficult to understand why copper is still extensively used despite the emergence of numerous other non-ferrous metals. It has to do with its amazing properties.

Properties of Copper

Our dependence on copper for many of our daily necessities comes from its many properties, which allow it to be turned into materials that are valuable in manufacturing basic commodities and utilities. There are many other metals that have similar properties but they are either not as stable or far less abundant. Let’s take a look at some of the properties that make copper a great metal.

  • Malleability

    – Copper can be hammered or rolled into thin sheets or plates without breaking. In fact, there’s a vast range of thicknesses copper can be manufactured into that distributors have made an entire copper sheet thickness chart. Each option can be used for highly specific functions from machine plating to surface embellishment.

  • Ductility

    – Copper can be drawn into small wires as well. Most of the electrical cables used in buildings have a copper core. Unlike other metals that become breakable in strips, copper remains hard even when it’s drawn into strands of very small diameters.

  • Corrosion Resistance

    – Many artifacts that date back several thousands of years are made of copper, which gives us a clue how long this metal can last. Copper, surely, corrodes just like any other metal. It’s just that the substances that can corrode it aren’t as common as those that corrode other metals.

  • Electrical Conductivity

    – It’s not just copper’s ductility that makes it a favorite material for making wire cores. Copper is also known to have superior electrical conductivity. It’s the second most highly conductive metal on the planet, next to silver.

  • High Heat Capacity

    – Copper can withstand very high temperatures, including heat produced by high voltages, which is also a reason why it’s the ideal material for making electrical wires. While silver has a higher electrical conductivity, it heats up very fast, causing fire hazards.

  • Antimicrobial Property

    – Most non-ferrous metals have the ability to release ions that damage certain proteins in microbes, killing them in the process. Copper, being the king of the non-ferrous, can decimate a great deal of bacteria in a short span of time, which is why it is ideal for making tubes and containers for water distribution and food processing.

Copper Sheet Metal Applications

Copper can be manufactured into different forms but it’s most popular in sheet form. After all, there are tons of applications that require copper sheets. Regardless of the copper sheet thickness, there will always be a use for it. This metal product is so popular you have trouble identifying where to buy copper sheets whenever you find the need. Here are some of applications of copper sheet metal.

  • Welding Fixtures

    – Before welding product parts, their geometry must be secured using welding fixtures to ensure the quality of the final product. Copper alloys are ideal for such application. In case you are building your own welding setup and asking “how thick should my copper sheet be?” there are guides online that you can follow.

  • Ground Straps

    – Any system or machine that runs on electricity must have a ground strap to protect essential components and people from electrostatic discharge (ESD).

  • Plumbing Fitting

    – Copper, being resistant to corrosion, is an ideal material for flashing. It’s even perfect for roofing but, since copper is expensive, many people don’t find it practical.

  • Power Transmission

    – Most sprockets, sheaves, belt pulleys, and bushings used in power transmission systems are made of durable and wear-resistant metals. Many alloys of copper fit the criteria.

  • Heat Exchanger

    – The majority of components of heat exchangers are made of copper or its alloys, thanks to copper’s high heat capacity.

If you are planning to use metal sheet or plate in your project, copper sheet metal must be first on your list of options. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt if you get expert advice from a world-class copper sheet supplier like Rotax Metals to know which metal is most suitable for your project or whether or not the standard copper sheet thickness would suffice. Moreover, you can easily get lost in the plethora of choices available so it pays to have a detailed discussion with the supplier.


Copper Alloys and Their Architectural Applications—Bronze Curtain Rods, Brass Railings, and More

copper rods for recyclingWhen we think of construction, the first metal that comes to mind is steel. While it’s true that steel plays a vital role in a building’s stability by acting as reinforcement to columns and beams, it’s not the only metal used in construction. There are many others, most of which are copper alloys. You’ll see them when you take the stairs or the elevator, when you open the door to your home or apartment, or when you take a shower.

Why Copper Alloys Are Architecture-Friendly

Ever since copper was discovered around 10,000 years ago, we’ve become obsessed with exploring its capacities, and all the hard work has paid off well as we now see so many alloys of copper being utilized extensively for various practical applications. But why exactly are copper alloys so in demand in construction? Surely there are many other metals out there that look as good as them. Well, as it turns out, copper alloys possess certain desirable properties that other metals are deficient in or lack completely.

Architects love copper alloys because they offer some kind of design freedom. No other metals are flexible enough to give architects so many options to create designs that are both stunning and enduring. Copper alloys come in an amazing diversity of colors and surface textures as well as a vast array of available product forms, including tubes, bars, and sheets. Thanks to their incredible malleability, copper alloys can adapt to all shapes, dimensions, and luster requirements.

Copper alloys are also very easy to join both mechanically and metallurgically. Having a stable molecular structure, they are extremely durable as well. Some copper-based items from the ancient times still survive today, thanks to copper’s unmatched ability to resist corrosion. Despite that, it’s amazing how many ways you can tint, oxidize, or alter their color. Their thermal and electrical conductivities are off the charts, too. Simply put, there are no metals out there that can match copper alloys when it comes to architectural litheness.

How Copper Alloys Are Identified

As the list of copper alloys grow longer each year, it’s becoming harder and harder to classify them. The risk of mistaking one alloy for another is increasing radically, and it’s not a simple problem. Even choosing an alloy that’s only slightly different from what you actually need could lead to a disaster. This is why we use the Unified Numbering System (UNS) for metals and alloys in North America. In this system, metal alloys are arranged into groups based on their chemical composition, or more specifically on the main and secondary elements they consist. For instance, all copper alloys with zinc as the secondary content are classified as brasses and those that have tin are classified as bronzes.

In the UNS, copper alloys are denoted C followed by five numerical digits. Each combination is unique and represents a particular alloy. UNS designations for other types of metals follow the same format but use different letters. There are currently about 800 copper alloys identified using the UNS. Imagine having to name them the traditional way; that would be utterly confusing. The UNS can help eradicate confusions even in the simplest of ways, such as when selecting bronze shower rods, bronze curtain rods, or stair railings.

Five Principal Families of Copper Alloys and Their Uses

As previously mentioned, copper alloy designations are determined by their secondary content, and so are their families. There are five principal families of copper, each of them with a different primary inclusion. Before proceeding to learning how to install fixed shower curtain rods or how to preserve the luster of your brass furniture, first find out the different families of copper alloy available and their uses.

  • Coppers

    – Although not necessarily alloys of copper (because metals considered alloys contain two or more metallic elements), metals of different grades and thicknesses that are made purely of copper belong to this category. Their differences in physical properties are due to their thickness and the manner by which they were manufactured. Copper material suppliers usually have a separate catalog for this group of copper alloys.

  • Bronzes

    – The oldest known alloy of copper, bronze is made up of copper and tin. A small portion of other metals are also added to produce different varieties, consequently benefiting diverse applications. Phosphor bronze, for instance, is 0.01% to 0.35% phosphorous. The resulting alloy can be used for fasteners, welding rods, and heavy duty bridge plates. Silicon bronze, on the other hand, is 2.80% to 3.80%, making it the most fluid of all copper alloys and it has excellent corrosion resistance as well. You may not notice it but many of your household furniture and fixtures may be made of bronze, including bronze shower curtain rods and bed frames.

  • Brasses

    – Replace tin with zinc as the secondary alloying content of copper and you’ll produce brass. This gold-like alloy is available in a wide range of product forms, including plate, sheet and strip for interior wall and column cladding, tubes and rods for fixtures and railings, wires for screens and grillwork. Like bronze, different types of brass can be produced by adding other metals into the mixture. Brasses can be find both indoors and outdoors.

  • Copper Nickels

    – Due to their high corrosion and tarnish resistance, copper nickels (also called cupronickels) are well-suited for coinage. Many of the coins we have in the United States are made from certain types of copper nickels.

  • Nickel Silvers

    – This group of copper alloys is often mistaken for brasses as both groups share certain qualities. The only difference is nickel silver’s warm, silvery white color (even though it contains no silver), which is why it is also popularly known as white silver.

Whether you’re looking to renovate your bathroom and include shower rods bronze setup or simply beef up your kitchen with a shiny counter cladding, copper alloys are your best bet. Remember to consult with a certified copper sheet supplier like Rotax Metals if you are not familiar with the different types and grades of copper alloys so that you can pick the right material for your project. By giving them details of your plan, they can help you narrow down the vast choices available.


How Water Jet Cutting Works

Water is probably the last thing you could think of when identifying things that can cut metal. As mindboggling as it may sound, water is actually one of the most powerful metal cutting agents available. With the right pressure and abrasiveness, it can slice through almost anything from wood and plastic to rock and metal, such as steel, copper, and bronze bars. The machine that makes this possible is called water jet cutter.
machine part cutouts

What is a water jet cutter?

More popularly known as simply “waterjet”, a water jet cutter is a device for cutting hard and dense materials, such as stone and metal, using a high-pressure jet of water. It comes in two main types—“pure waterjet”, which uses pure water as its cutting agent, and “abrasive jet”, which uses a mixture of water and abrasive. Normally, a pure waterjet is used for cutting softer materials such as wood or rubber, while an abrasive jet, on the other hand, is often preferred for cutting stones and metals.

We were taught in school that water is the universal solvent. It may seem a cliché but in fact, after waterjet cutter’s discovery, we finally understood what it really means. The waterjet cutter can cut through almost anything, but industrially it is often used for cutting marble, granite, stone, metal, plastic, wood, and stainless steel. Let us find out how water jet cutting works to know what sets it apart from other cutting methods.

Parts of a Waterjet Cutter

It’s easy to think of a waterjet cutter as an ultra-modern device that comes straight out of a science fiction movie. Truth is its concept and mechanism are quite simple. Here’s to give you a good sense of the structure of water jet cutter and how it works.

The inventors of this device had three goals—1.) To generate pressure up to at least 94,000 psi (because that’s the pressure needed to make cuts on hard materials), 2.) To convert pressure into high velocity, and 3.) To control the flow of water. To achieve these goals, they have to build three components:

  • Ultrahigh-Pressure System

    – This component is responsible for creating the pressure needed to propel the water towards the material being machined. It consists of a pump, a cutting head, and a plumbing system.

  • The Machine

    – Once enough pressure is achieved, pressurized water is fed directly to a separate machine made of X, Y, Z axes (enables the nozzle to accurately create the desired cutting path), cutting head wrist axes (used for making angled cuts and minimizing taper to create precise vertical cuts), and material support catcher (dissipates the energy of the abrasive jet).

  • Control System

    – Of course, for precision and efficient flow of production, there has to be a separate system for controls. This part of the waterjet cutter consists of the programming software, operator interface, drive motors, and position and velocity feedback system.

How Does a Water Jet Cutter Work

High-speed water from the water main is pumped into the water jet and reduced into a tiny jet of stream upon passing through a jeweled nozzle. Depending on the properties of the material being machined, additives in the form of suspended grit or other abrasives may be mixed with the water. This is normally done when cutting through metal, such as titanium or steel. Softer metals like bronze and brass may require a less abrasive cutting solution.

As mentioned above, a waterjet cutter requires a control system, typically with robotics to ensure precise and accurate cuts based on the desired design and pattern. Unfortunately, there’s a handful of materials that can’t be efficiently cut using a waterjet cutter due to their brittleness. Tempered glass, for instance, shatters no matter how quickly the pressurized jet stream makes contact with its surface.

Benefits of Waterjet Cutting

There are numerous ways to cut precise designs on materials, soft and hard alike, but what sets waterjet cutting apart? Why do builders and artisans prefer it to other methods? Here are some of the reasons.

  • Low Cost

    – While it seems to have a multifaceted construction, a waterjet cutter’s design is actually pretty straightforward, and comes with inexpensive materials. It also doesn’t require special clamps, fixtures or tool changes, which is why it can be built anywhere and by almost anyone with expertise in machine construction. In effect, the cost of production and operation using this machine is much lower compared to that of other cutting methods.

  • Heat-Free

    – Some methods involve heat to make the material easier to cut. Unfortunately, heat has been known to change a material chemically, affecting its properties. The water used in a waterjet cutter doesn’t require heating, and the abrasives added are not too harsh as to severely affect the properties of the material they corrode.

  • Supports a Variety of Materials

    – Unlike other cutting machines that can only cut a few types of material, mostly soft metals, waterjet cutting can be used on a plethora of materials, even those that would be difficult to machine using other cutting techniques.

  • Dust-Free and Odorless

    – Dust formed from cutting can be extremely harmful to health when inhaled. This is why machinists are required to wear heavy protective gear when cutting metals or stay behind a protective wall. With waterjet cutting system, however, dust particles produced from cutting are immediately wet and drained with the excess water, making the process completely dust-free. There’s no strong odor as well.

Now that you know how water jet cutting machine works, you probably have an idea what its common applications are. There are many to mention apart from machining. These include removing highway marking strips, cutting logs, cutting out parts for aircraft and spacecraft, and making bronze and brass plates and sheets. Those who know where to buy copper sheets and plates know that manufacturers are already employing this latest technology in their production. Top copper suppliers, such as Rotax Metals, are among the many that do. On your next trip to a metal supply store, you can ask how the metals were cut and if they mention waterjet, you can expect their products to be top of the range.


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