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Copper Alloy

The copper alloys were amongst the very first metallic objects that man had made from molten metal. These castings were used to make artefacts in early medieval period. Since copper could be found only in native state and moreover, the melting point could be achieved even with low temperature fire of charcoal or wood which made it user friendly. The alloys made from the composition with gold, tin and zinc had low temperature melting point, enough to be used by anyone into artefacts making. 

The copper smelting and casting by artisans are known to have taken place as early as 3000 BC but the records are not proven. The full scope of copper usage had to wait till metallurgical developments took place couple of centuries back.

 

Copper Alloy Definition

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The copper alloys are distinguished clearly into six specific families. They are coppers, copper dilute alloys, bronzes, copper nickels and finally into nickel silvers. The coppers are basically the commercial form of pure copper which is soft and ductile. These class contains less impurities and hence the soft characteristics.

The dilute form of copper alloys contains small amounts of various alloying elements which help in modifying the basic properties of copper and make it daily use worthy. The main utility of this class is in the construction business where the copper wirings, and plumbing materials are made use of. 

The electrical and electronics based products used in telecommunication as well as power utilities are the main user of dilute form of copper alloys. 

The rest of the alloys are used for minute untility service and are found to be utilised in manufacture of specific scientific materials.
Copper engineering advantages are inherent in the use of copper alloys for all kinds of castings. They can be used in the field of electrical and thermal conductivity, corrosion resistance materials, for making materials get a beautiful finish, for making the qualities of bearing and more importantly for its non-toxic characters. Even with these recognizable characteristics the use of copper is still limited as the extraction process is costly and hence is not cost effective for all kinds of alloy implementation. 

Copper Alloys Composition

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Almost all the forms of copper alloys have accepted designations with unified numbering system. These codes have enabled to identify the form of alloys and the compositions that has gone into the metal branding. 

The compositions are grouped into distinct families of coppers and copper alloy including six major branches of the copper alloy group mentioned above. Any alloy form which do not fall into these six categories are classified as other copper zinc alloys or special alloys.  For any common man brass is a yellow colored metal and bronze is brown but there exists a difference in between and these differences are not just for name sake. 

Brass is composed of copper and zinc while bronze is made up of copper and tin. The varying proportions in each of the varieties has specific effect of making different alloy. The additions of small quantities of other ingredients also has an direct effect on the final product. 

The varying proportions of constituents has the effect of making a different alloy and additions of small quantities of other ingredients affect the final result. The bottom line is both brass and bronze with copper based alloys with less or more compositions and ratios appear similar and hence can masquarade as the other. 

Bronze 

This alloy has no strict formula of composition but in addition to basic copper it contains a varying proportion of tin. The effect of this varying percentage makes the resultant alloy more readily melted and easier to cast into moulds. It also makes the metal harder and less maleable than the pure form.

This copper alloy was made long back in 2500 BC and inhabitants of the world were able to slowly make proper usage of this metal alloy composition. The hardening and sharpening of metal sufficiently made it easy it make various forms of weapons like swords, knives and spears. 

Brass 

The quality of brass is never considered to be static and differs according to the proportions in which the principal matter copper and zinc are combined. Strength and malleability of brass vary according to the formula employed and addition of metals like iron can help in improving the performance in certain specific traits. The following alloys of copper with either specific role of bringing in popular characteristics that is not in use anymore. These alloys were mainly utilised for either drawing into wire, rolled or even hammered into plain sheets and in some cases it is stamped as well. 

Some other forms of copper alloys are as follows:

Argentan:
This is another form of alloy combined of copper, nickel and zinc. This is better known as nickel silver and German silver. This is mainly used for electro plating from almost middle of 19th century and in some cases it has superseded copper usage. 

Bell metal:
This copper alloy is used for mainly making bells and it varies on proportion as far ingredients are concerned. It might have copper and tin but in various ratio part. 

Collins metal:
It is somewhat similar to the composition to Keir’s metal but no iron was included. This alloy is in use for almost 300 years now. 

Dutch foil:
Silvered copper sheets of the thickness of foil mainly used for jewellary effect enhancement. These are pasted behind the stones attached to all kinds of jewellary effect. 

Dutch metal:
This one is brass like alloy used in the form of very thin leaves as a cheap substitute for gold leaf in all kinds of picture frame gliders.

Muntz’s metal:
This copper alloy is manufactured in Birmingham and is composed of 60: 40 ratio of copper and zinc and a very miniscule proportion of iron. 

Copper Alloy Properties

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Most of the copper alloys properties brings in the individual properties of the metals that goes into the composition. The usual property of copper which is soft and easily malleable or ductility can be made away for something which zinc and tin brings in.
  • Higher melting point than native metal 
  • Malleable property reduced
  • Harder than native metal copper
  • Used for multiple utility materials like bells and vessels to carry out various electrochemical reactions
  • Decorative products are made out of these alloys which are both durable and attractive than native metal
  • Use of copper alloys in various jewellery stone artefacts helps in binding proper and for long lasting adhesion

List of Copper Alloys

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The list of copper alloys and alloys which has copper in it is mentioned below. In all of these combinations, the base metal is considered as copper.
  • A combination of copper and arsenic gives arsenious copper
  • A combination with small proportion of beryllium with copper gives beryllium copper
  • A combination with small amount of zinc gives us calamine brass
  • A combination of zinc in a different proportion gives us pinchbeck 
  • A combination with tin, aluminium or with any other element can give bronze
  • Combination of arsenic and copper in a specific proportion gives arsenical bronze
  • A combination with stannous and copper gives us bell metal
  • A combination with aluminium or tin and copper gives us Florentine bronze

Uses of Copper Alloys

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One of the most important characteristics of copper is the ease with which it is casted. These are among the oldest metallic items manufactured and the use of brass and bronze are found to be almost many thousands of years. 

There are thousands of such products which have survived since Bronze age and that also attests to the corrosion resistance of copper. 

The earliest bronze and brass had a simple composition and the modern metallurgy and casting technology have given us huge number of commercial copper casting alloys into many hundreds.
  • The ability to withstand corrosive environments is understood to have made the difference between finding the ideal metal alloy. Copper alloys castings are also widely used to handle corrosive industrial and process chemicals and also known in food, beverage and dairy industries.
  • Copper alloys exhibit strengths which matches only tempered steels.
  • Copper alloys retain mechanical properties and hence is still used for its tough characteristics under very low temperature. 
  • Copper alloys lose strengths at high temperature. 
  • Cast sleeve bearings brought into applications due to excellent tri biological properties.
  • Copper and its alloys have good resistance against sea water corrosion 
  • Copper and its alloys stop the growth of algae and other marine organisms and its better known as bio-fouling 
  • Copper and its alloys are used as basic materials by which sea water piping, pump and all kinds of valve fittings under marine water
  • Copper alloys are also used for manufacturing of all kinds of marine hardware
  • Copper alloys are used for many of the thermal circuit breaker better known as thermostat
  • Copper alloys are also used for making equipment meant for heat transfer
  • Copper and its alloys are also used for making many of the fabricator items
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