In the world of metals, three particular types stand out for their unusual red coloring. Copper, brass and bronze are related, but each has different properties that make it appealing for different uses. All three are found in a huge array of applications –including building construction and architecture, fine arts and sculpture, musical instruments, auto manufacturing, marine hardware, electrical components, HVAC systems, and machined parts and components.
Copper is one of the few metals directly usable in its natural state, and it was one of the first metals mined by early humans. The most common red metal, copper is the base metal for the other two, which are alloys of copper.
Copper’s electrical, thermal, and mechanical properties make it useful for many applications. Its resistant to bacteria makes is ideal for medical applications or surfaces such as kitchen and bathroom counters and backsplashes, sinks and tubs. On top of that, copper has a built-in corrosion resistance, which means it can withstand the outdoors and other wet applications, such as roofing or plumbing.
The most common type of copper, alloy 110 is 99.9 percent pure. Copper 110 bar displays enhanced electrical conductivity, making it the product of choice for electrical components such as terminals, bus bars, conductors, and connectors.
Copper is easy to bend and form, with excellent dimensional control and good crack resistance. It also can be extensively machined, soldered and brazed, making it ideal for a wide range of applications in the automotive, industrial, architectural and building industries. For example, fabricators use copper for blanking, drawing, shearing, and stamping while other common uses include pressure vessels, heat exchangers, cotter pins, rivets, radiators, gaskets, roofing and gutters.
Brass is an alloy, or mixture of copper and zinc, along with small amounts of other metals. Brass provides good durability, high corrosion resistance, electrical conductivity, non-sparking qualities, and excellent aesthetics, all at a lower cost than comparable copper or bronze materials. Brass is easy to machine and otherwise fabricate, as needed, making it an ideal material for a wide range of applications.
Known for its decorative use in architecture due to its bright gold appearance, brass is also used extensively in the manufacturing, construction, electrical and plumbing industries. Brass is used to make gears, bearings, valves, ammunition casings, nuts, bolts and threads, and marine hardware.
Bronze is an alloy of copper that’s mixed with about 12 percent tin, which adds to its strength and corrosion resistance. Bronze has been used for thousands of years for coins, statues, doors, tools, weapons, candlesticks, armor, musical instruments, and many other objects. Like copper, it has a natural resistance to corrosion. Bronze is more of a dull gold than a red metal, and it usually has rings on the surface caused by the manufacturing process.
Silicon bronze, the most widely used form of bronze used in modern times, is a low-lead brass alloy composed of 96 percent copper with the addition of a small percentage of silicon, which provides natural lubricity. It is known for its easy pouring ability and attractive surface finish. Silicon bronze is highly corrosion resistance and roughly as strong as steel. Thanks to these properties, silicon bronze sheet is ideal for use in salt water and fresh water applications, as well as pumps, boilers, pump components, no-lead castings and plumbing, statuary, bearings & bushings, and valve stems.
Bearing bronze has a high lead content of 6 percent to 8 percent. Like silicon bronze, bearing bronze offers low friction and high corrosion resistance, as well as excellent wear resistance and high hardness. As the name suggests, bearing bronze sheet is most often used for bearings, bushings, and similar applications.
Silicon bronze and bearing bronze can be found in a variety of industrial applications. These materials are strong, corrosion resistant, and non-magnetic. Silicon bronze is relatively easy to machine, while working bearing bronze requires more fabrication expertise.
Industrial Metal Supply stocks a wide range of styles and sizes of red metals, including multiple size options of copper, brass, and bronze in the form of round or rectangular bar, sheet, plate, or foil. We also stock a line of decorative brass railing from Lavi Industries.