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In the commercial space, there are vast varieties of metals and as a result, it has caused controversy in the manufacturing industry. This controversy is a result of metal users not being able to differentiate one metal from the other. This is most common especially when the variations are very subtle.
An example of two metals often muddled up are copper and brass. When both metals are placed side by side, it can be noticed that copper and brass look vaguely similar. However, there is a slight color difference, to differentiate both require a lot of expertise. In a bid to avoid using the wrong choice for your project, reading up on them may seem crucial for a successful project. Here is some helpful information in establishing the difference between copper and brass.
Firstly, to be able to follow our guide, we have tailored this section to focus on the description of Brass and Copper.
Brass is the name given to a copper alloy made up of certain zinc content. As a result, this metal is often mistaken for copper. In addition to this, brass is composed of other metals including tin, iron, aluminum, lead, silicon, and manganese. The inclusion of these other metals helps to produce a more unique combination of characteristics. For example, the zinc content of brass helps to enhance the ductility and strength of the base copper material of brass. The higher the zinc concentration of brass, the more pliable and stronger the alloy. Also, it can range in color depending on the amount of zinc added from red to yellow.
Brass is primarily often used for decorative purposes as a result of its resemblance to gold. Apart from this, it is commonly used for musical instrument production because of its high durability and workability.
The metal named copper is one of the earliest discovered, worked, and utilized metals that were utilized by man. This is because copper exists in its natural state. This pure metal was used in prehistoric times for tools, weapons, and decoration. Unlike the brass that was artificially manufactured, it is a pure metal that is directly suitable for processing. Copper can be used on its own and can also be combined with other alloys and pure metals to form its subset of alloys.
Copper is composed of elements with high electrical and thermal conductivity and in its purest form, it is soft and malleable. For thousands of years, it has been used as a building element of other alloys and as a building material.
In this part, we will compare the 17 differences between brass and copper in detail, and then make a summary. Let’s begin.
The two metals can be differentiated using their elemental composition. As we have said earlier, copper is a pure base metal and it is an element with a very high electrical conductivity. It has a similar electron structure to silver and gold.
Brass as a metal is simply an alloy of copper and zinc. Unlike copper, it contains a wide range of elemental composition depending on its alloy form. The common elemental composition of brass include its primary component Copper (Cu) and Zinc (Zn) while it may have the following components depending on its alloy form:
Corrosion can also be used to differentiate both metals from one another. These two metals contain no iron and so do not easily rust. Copper can undergo oxidation over time to result in the formation of a green patina. This can then prevent the surface of copper metal from further corrosion. However, Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc coupled with other elements that can also resist corrosion. In conclusion, brass exhibit a more gold-like color and it is more corrosion resistant compare to copper.
The electrical conductivity differences of various metals are often not well understood. However, assuming a material’s electrical conductivity because it is similar in look to another conductive material of known ampacity can be disastrous for a project. This error is somehow evident in the substitution of brass for copper in electrical applications.
In comparison, copper is the standard by which most materials are rated for electrical conductivity. These measures are express as a relative measurement of copper. This translates that copper exhibits no electrical resistance and it is 100% conductive in an absolute sense. On the other end, brass is an alloy of copper and it is only 28% as electrically conductive as copper.
The thermal conductivity of a material is simply the measure of its ability to conduct heat. This thermal conductivity property varies from metals to metal and it is important to be considered when the material is needed in high operating temperature applications. Pure metals have a thermal conductivity that stays the same with increasing temperature while alloys exhibit thermal conductivity that increases with temperature. In this case, copper is a pure form of metal while brass is alloy metal. In comparisons, copper has the highest conductivity at 223 BTU/(hr·ft⋅°F while brass has 64 BTU/(hr·ft⋅°F.
The melting point of a metal is very important and crucial for the selection of material for a project. This is because, at the melting point, there can be a component failure. When a metal material reaches its melting point it transits from solid form to liquid form. At this point, this material can no longer serve its purpose.
Another reason is that metals are more formable in a liquid state. This will help in selecting the best between copper and brass when formability is required for a project. In terms of metric, copper exhibit the highest melting point at 1084°C (1220°F) while brass has a melting point ranging from 900°C to 940°C. the melting point range of Brass is attributed to the varying elemental composition.
The hardness of a material is its resistance to localized deformation that may come from the indentation of predetermined geometry indenter over a flat surface of metal under a predetermined load. Brass as a metal is stronger and stiffer compared to copper. In terms of metrics of hardness, brass exhibits hardness ranging from 3 to 4. On the other end, the hardness of copper ranges from 2.5 to 3 on the metal harness chart. Brass exists as a product of copper with varying composition of zinc. A higher percentage of zinc translates into a stronger and more ductile brass.
When comparing the weight of metals, water can be chosen as the baseline for specific gravity – given the value of 1. The specific gravity of both metals is then compared as a fraction of heavier or lighter density. Having done this, we discovered that copper Is the heaviest with a density of 8930 kg/cu.m. On the other end, brass ranges in density based on its elemental component from 8400 up to 8730 kg/cu.m.
The durability of a material is the ability of that material to remain functional without the use of excessive repair or maintenance whenever the material is faced with normal operation challenges over its half-life. Both metals exhibit almost the same level of durability when used on their respective projects. However, copper exhibit the greatest flexibility compares to brass.
A material’s machinability is with which a material can be cut (machined) to obtain an acceptable surface finish. The activities of machining may include milling, cutting, die-casting, and more. Machinability can also be considered from the point of view of how a material can be fabricated. In comparison, brass has the highest machinability than copper. This makes the brass ideal for applications that requires a great level of formability.
Copper has exceptional formability and it is best described by its ability to produce micron-sized wire with minimum softening anneals. Generally, copper alloys such as brass exhibit increased strength that is proportional to the nature and amount of cold work. Common methods used in forming components made from brass include coining, bending, stretching, and deep drawing. For example, cartridge brass reflects deep drawing characteristics. In essence, coper and brass – a copper alloy exhibit exceptional formability but copper is highly flexible compared to brass.
Copper is more weldable compare to brass. However, all brass alloys are weldable except brass alloys containing lead. Besides, the smaller the zinc content of brass the easier it is to be welded. So, brass with less than 20% zinc is said to have good weldability while those above 20% are said to have fair weldability. Finally, cast brass metals are only marginally weldable.
As said earlier, leaded tin brass alloys are considered unweldable. They must be avoided from exposure to the input of high welding heat, high preheat, and slow cooling rates.
The yield strength is regarded as the highest stress at which a material begins to deform permanently. In a comparison between copper and brass, brass possesses a higher yield strength than copper. To support the claim, brass exhibit 34.5 up to 683 MPa (5000 – 99100 psi) while copper exhibit 33.3 MPa (4830 psi).
The ultimate tensile strength of a component or material is its maximum resistance to fracture. Brass is stiffer and stronger than copper and as result, it is more susceptible to developing stress cracks. This explains the reason for the lower ultimate tensile strength of brass but can be increased based on the elemental composition. Copper exhibits the ultimate tensile stress of 210 MPa (30500 psi). On the other hand, brass has ultimate tensile strength that ranges between 124 – 1030 MPa (18000 – 150000 psi)
Shear strength is a material’s strength against the type of yield or structural failure especially when the material fails in shear. The shear load in this context is a force that produces a sliding failure of a material or component along a plane that is parallel to the force direction. When measured, it is evident that brass has the highest shear strength (35000 psi – 48000 psi) while brass has the lowest shear strength (25000 psi).
Copper is a pure metal while brass is an alloy of copper. As a result, the color copper is usually distinct enough to differentiate copper from brass. Copper is usually reddish-brown while brass may exist in a different color depending on its elemental components including golden yellow, reddish-gold, or silver.
The price of brass and copper may vary depending on which grades of material we are comparing. While it may vary, copper is typically the most expensive of the two materials. For brass, it contains lower copper than it is pure copper. This lower copper content contributed to its reduced price.
Copper has a wide variety of applications in the manufacturing industry. It has applications in roofing and plumbing, wire, and industrial machinery. When higher hardness is required, copper is converted into alloys such as brass and bronze. The following are the application of copper in the manufacturing space:
While there are competitor metals in the industrial space, copper remains the preferred electrical conductor. This is so evident in nearly all electrical wiring except that it is less preferred for overhead electrical power transmission. It is widely used for power generation, transmission, distribution, electronics, telecommunication, circuitry, and countless number in electrical equipment.
Copper is used for Printed circuits and integrated circuit boards in place of aluminum due to its superior conductivity. Also used in heat exchangers and heat sinks because it exhibits superior heat dissipation properties. It has applications in vacuum tubes, electromagnets, cathode ray tubes, and magnetrons in a microwave oven.
Copper is used in electrical motors due to its superior conductivity. This is evident in the increasing utilization of copper for the coil which increases efficiency. It is a known fact that motors and motor-driven systems usage is up to about 43% to 46% of all consumption of electricity.
Since ancient times, copper has been in usage as a durable, weatherproof, corrosion-resistant architectural material. It is used in the construction of flashings, downspouts, vaults, doors, roofs, rain gutters, domes, spires, and many more. In the contemporary era, the use of copper has expanded to the interior and exterior wall cladding, radio frequency shielding, building expansion joints, and many more. Also used in indoor decorative products such as impressive bathroom fixtures, countertops, handrails, and more.
Copper can be converted into an antimicrobial alloy that exhibits properties that destroy a wide range of microorganisms such as E. Coli and many more. These antimicrobial alloys of copper are approved by the United State Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the public health sector. Products made from these alloys include over-bed tables, toilet hard wares, health club equipment, sinks, shopping cart handles, and many more. They are being installed in health care facilities in the UK, Japan, Ireland, Denmark, Brazil, Korea, and many more.
Copper is said to be biostatic which means that it can prevent the growth of many forms of life. As a result of this, copper is used to lining parts of ships for protection against mussels and barnacles. It is used in aquaculture for the production of netting materials due to its antimicrobial activity and it prevents biofouling.
In the worldwide manufacturing space, there has been an increase in the use of copper. As a result, investors see it as a speculative investment for the production of turbines, solar panels, and other renewable energy sources. Some investors store pure copper as metal bars or rounds.
Brass in comparison to copper exhibit a wide range of applications in a different industry. It is used commonly for decorative applications because it shares the resemblance of gold. Due to its workability and durability, it is highly suitable source material for the production of musical instruments. It is also used for the production of plumbing pipes and tubing because of its high corrosion resistance.
Another application of brass is its usage in electronic appliances because of its excellent electrical conductivity. Brass is also used in mechanical applications such as the production of shell casting for an M-16 assault rifle, bearings, and gears. Specific brass alloys offer varying properties as follows:
This form of brass is made up of 95% copper and 5% zinc. It is a soft brass alloy and can be easily formed or hammered into desired shapes. It is ideal for craft-related projects due to its unusual deep bronze color. It has wide varieties of application including:
This alloy of brass is known as C35600 or C37000 and its composition ranges between 1% and 2% lead. As its name implies, likewise it uses. This means it is used in the creation of engraved plaques and nameplates. It has application in the following:
Another alloy of brass designated C-360 with copper, zinc, and lead elemental composition. Its uses include the production of the following:
This type of brass alloy contains a small percentage of manganese. This type of brass is strong and is used for products that undergo a great deal of stress. Example of its application include:
This type of brass alloy is designated C26000, C26130, or 70/30 brass). Either of these alloys contains up to 0.03% of arsenic to increase its corrosion resistance in the water. Arsenic brass is strong, easy to machine, and bright yellow. It is ideal for plumbing work while other uses include the production of:
Copper is pure and single metal, every object made of copper exhibit the same properties. On the other hand, brass is an alloy of copper, zinc, and other metals. The combination of several metals means that there is no single foolproof method to identify all brass. However, we are going to discuss the methods of how to differentiate brass from copper. These methods are stated below:
The selection of the right metal type for an application is a critical thing to note when it comes to designing and manufacturing high-quality products or parts. Although both metals (Copper & Brass) provide thermal and electrical conductivity, strength, corrosion resistance, and more, they each possess distinct differences. These key differences have been explained in chapter two of this guide and they are crucial for the selection of any in a project.
While each of Copper and Brass is durable, they do not have the same level of flexibility. In selection for your project, pure oxygen-free copper exhibit the greatest flexibility, conductivity, and ductility while bronze offer machinability.
In terms of general utility, brass is mostly considered and most suitable for general applications. It is easy to cast, relatively inexpensive, and malleable with low friction. Brass is most applicable for decorative components and for metal pieces that people come in contact with on a daily basis such as a doorknob. It is applicable in the food processing industry for food grades that need to be protected from microbial and bacterial infestation.
Understanding the respective properties of brass and copper is crucial to selecting the best material for your projects. It helps to provide answers to the age-old question of “which is better between copper and brass.” Our detailed information will make you realize that both metals are more valuable in their application. In conclusion, both metals are better for their specific applications.
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