Copper, brass, and bronze are part of a category of metals known as “red metals”, which are characterized by their reddish tint. While copper is a pure metal, brass and bronze are copper alloys (brass is a combination of copper and zinc; bronze is a combination of copper and tin). All three of these metals demonstrate unique combinations of properties that make them ideal for use in metal sheets.
This page focuses on each of these metals, outlining their distinct properties, available grades, and potential applications. Additionally, it covers some of the key factors to consider when choosing between copper, brass, and bronze for a specific application.
Copper, Brass, and Bronze Metal Alloys
Although copper, brass, and bronze belong to the same category of metals, each exhibits distinct characteristics that make it ideal for different circumstances. Across industry, it is essential that designers, engineers, and manufacturers understand these differences to select the best metal for their projects.
What Is Copper?
Copper is a non-ferrous transition metal. Unlike brass and bronze, it is a pure, naturally occurring metal; therefore, it is found on the periodic table of elements. It is among the few metals found in nature that is directly suitable for processing. Although it is used on its own, it is also combined with other pure metals and alloys to form its own subset of alloys.
Properties of Copper
Copper has several properties that make it ideal for construction and manufacturing, such as:
- Copper demonstrates excellent thermal and electrical conductivity, making it suitable for use in electronic and electrical systems and thermal equipment.
- It exhibits resistance to many forms of damage, including impact, wear, and corrosion. Additionally, it maintains its strength when flexed, formed, and drawn.
- Bacterial antimicrobial resistance.The material resists bacteria without degrading. It even kills bacteria that are exposed to its surface. This quality makes it ideal for use in food-safe equipment.
Available Grades of Copper
Copper’s availability in many different grades facilitates its versatility. At Sequoia Brass & Copper, we offer the following grades of copper:
- Alloy 101. This alloy is an oxygen-free copper, which is suitable for when manufacturers need high conductivity and ductility.
- Alloy 110. Also referred to as electrolytic (ETP) copper, this alloy demonstrates the highest level of electrical and thermal conductivity, as well as good ductility and malleability.
- Alloy 122. This alloy is mechanically similar to Alloy 110, but it also exhibits superior formability, weldability, and brazing capabilities. It is available in tubing from Sequoia Brass & Copper.
- Alloy 145. Available in rod & bar, this alloy is also known as tellurium copper as it consists of copper with between 0.4–0.7% tellurium content. Like many copper alloys, it is characterized by excellent thermal and electrical conductivity and high formability and superior machinability.
Applications of Copper Metal Sheets & Shapes
In general, copper offers excellent conductivity, formability, and machinability. These qualities make copper metal sheets suitable for a wide range of industrial applications, including use as architectural, construction, plumbing, and heat exchanger materials and components. Additionally, its high ductility allows sheets to be drawn into wires for electrical systems.
What Is Brass?
Like copper, brass is a non-ferrous, red metal. Unlike the pure metal, however, it is a metal alloy that primarily consists of copper and zinc. Other metals—such as lead, tin, iron, aluminum, silicon, and manganese—are also added to produce more unique combinations of characteristics.
The addition of zinc enhances the strength and ductility of the base copper material. The higher the concentration of zinc, the stronger and more pliable the alloy. High-strength brass contains ≥39% zinc.
Properties of Brass
As a copper-alloy, brass demonstrates many of the properties characteristic of copper. However, the alloy does exhibit a few distinct properties compared to pure copper and other copper alloys. For example:
- Susceptibility to stress-cracking. As brass is stronger and stiffer than pure copper, it is more susceptible to developing stress cracks.
- Malleability and formability. Compared to bronze, brass is more malleable. Additionally, it is easy to cast or work.
- High melting point. Brass has a melting point of approximately 900°C. The exact melting point differs based on the concentration of different metals in the alloy.
- Non-ferromagnetic. As brass is not ferromagnetic, it is much easier to process for recycling.
Depending on the additional metals added to the alloy, it can demonstrate varying characteristics, such as a variable melting point or greater corrosion resistance (due to the presence of manganese).
Available Grades of Brass
Brass is available in a variety of grades, each of which is characterized by the exact material makeup. At Sequoia Brass & Copper, we provide these six grades of brass:
- Alloy 260. Also known as cartridge brass, Alloy 260 demonstrates good cold working properties. It is suitable for use in ammunitions, automobiles, fasteners, and hardware.
- Alloy 272. This alloy—also referred to as yellow brass—consists of 33% zinc. It is typically used in industrial and architectural applications.
- Alloy 330. Brass alloy 330 is suitable for application where high machinability is critical. It contains a low lead content sufficient for cold-working and is commonly used to produce pipes.
- Alloy 353. Alloy 353 (also referred to as clock brass) is often used to fabricate precision components, such as clock and watch parts, because of its excellent machinability.
- Alloy 360. Also known as free cutting brass, this alloy is the most common type of brass. It exhibits excellent machinability and formability, as well as suitability for soldering and brazing operations. It commonly finds application in the manufacture of hardware components, fittings, valves, and fasteners.
- Alloy 385. Also known as architectural bronze this alloy can be used for construction & architectural applications. Alloy 385 is available in a wide variety of extruded & drawn shapes such as angles, channels, square tube, hand rail moulding & more.
- Alloy C48200 – C48500. Leaded naval brass meanto for machining. Typically available in rounds.
- Alloy 464. Alloy 464 (or naval brass) is known for its excellent resistance to corrosion from seawater across a wide range of temperatures. Additionally, it demonstrates suitability for hot forming and hot forming, as well as drawing, bending, heading, soldering, brazing, and welding.
Application of Brass Alloys
Brass metal has several different applications. As the metal has a similar appearance to gold and is available in a variety of shades, it is often used for decorative & architectural elements. Additionally, the workability and machinability of the material lend it to use in the manufacture of plumbing, electronics, and musical instruments.
What Is Bronze?
Bronze is a copper-based alloy that typically consists of approximately 88% copper and 12% tin. Trace amounts of other metals, such as aluminum, manganese, phosphorus, and silicon, may also be present in the alloy.
Properties of Bronze
Many of the properties of bronze overlap with those of copper and brass. For example:
- Excellent thermal conductivity
- Resistance to saltwater corrosion
- High ductility
However, it also exhibits a few unique characteristics, such as brittleness and a slightly higher melting point than brass (950°C).
Available Grades of Bronze
There are a variety of bronze alloy types based on their composition. At Sequoia Brass & Copper, we supply these two grades of bronze:
- Alloy 932. This alloy is a type of high-leaded tin bronze and is used to make bushings, washers, and non-pressure components.
- Alloy 954. This alloy is a type of aluminum bronze and is used for mounting and industrial equipment in a variety of environments.
Applications of Bronze Alloys
Bronze metal sheets & shapes are suitable for a wide range of industrial applications, including:
- Bushings and bearings
- Electrical connectors and springs
- Marine applications, such as propellers and for boat or ship fittings
- Petrochemical tools and oil rig components that require non-sparking metals
Selecting the Right Metal Alloys for Your Needs
Choosing the right type of metal for an application is critical to designing and manufacturing a high-quality part or product. Although copper, brass, and bronze provide electrical and thermal conductivity, corrosion resistance, and strength, there are distinct differences between the three metals. Some of the key differences to keep in mind when selecting sheet metal materials include:
- While each of the three metals is durable, they do not exhibit the same level of flexibility. Pure oxygen free copper offers the greatest flexibility, ductility & conductivity. Copper is highly flexible with excellent conductivity, while bronze and brass offer greater machinability.
- General utility. Brass is often considered the most suitable for general applications. It’s malleable, easy to cast, relatively inexpensive, and low-friction. It can be used for decorative components, metal pieces that people come into contact with regularly (such as doorknobs), and food-grade surfaces that need to be anti-bacterial or anti-microbial.
- Tools and equipment intended for marine environments need to have a high degree of resistance to corrosion. Bronze is best suited for resisting corrosion in saltwater and sea environments. Its durability and hardness also enable it to withstand the stress of marine applications.
Metal & Alloy Offerings by Sequoia Brass & Copper
At Sequoia Brass & Copper, we offer metals in a variety of forms, including:
- Tubes & tubing
We provide custom cutting services that adhere to tight tolerances of ±0.020 inches to facilitate the customization of these materials to suit different applications and specifications.
Sequoia Brass & Copper has been sourcing and cutting metal since 1983 and currently maintains ISO 9001:2015 certification. With over 30 years of experience sourcing and buying alloys, we have the knowledge and skills to source specialty and hard-to-find copper alloys for your unique needs.
Other Metal Sheet Resources by Sequoia Brass & Copper
At Sequoia Brass & Copper, our team works hard to meet all of your copper, brass, and bronze needs. That’s why we provide a number of free tools to help facilitate the design and engineering process, including:
- Nonferrous Metals Weight Calculator, which allows you to specify the alloy and part requirements to calculate the weight per linear foot and total weight
- Weight Formulas to calculate your project’s needs by weight
Sequoia Brass & Copper offers a specially formed oxygen-free copper (OFC) that’s a high-purity copper with little to no oxygen. Our process uses an electrically charged solution of copper sulfate and sulfuric acid to reduce the metal’s oxygen contact to 0.001% or less. To learn more about this unique material’s characteristics, see our product page.
Contact Sequoia Brass & Copper Today
Copper, brass, and bronze are three different metals that offer a variety of advantageous characteristics, such as conductivity, corrosion resistance, and machinability. Consequently, metal sheets formed from these materials find use in a variety of industrial applications and end-use environments.
At Sequoia Brass & Copper, we an extensive selection of these metals in plate, bar, and sheet form. To learn more about our material offerings, browse our copper, brass, and bronze inventories. If you’d like to partner with us for your next project, contact us, or request a free quote today.