Continuing our series on popular sheet metal varieties – today’s article will be concentrating on copper. A highly versatile and flexible metal, copper is predominately used to create wires due to its incredible thermal and electrical conductivity. Keep reading to find out a few fundamentals about copper as you’ll probably come across copper sheets when working with sheet metal machinery.
Copper’s extraordinary electrical conductivity is easily considered one of its key qualities. This makes it the most popular metal used for electronic components and wiring. Of all the non-precious metals, copper has the highest conductivity and is 65% more conductive than aluminium.
This is due to its low electrical resistance – meaning the electricity doesn’t require much help from an external source such as a battery to push it along – hence why it’s favoured for wiring. Its high ductility is the other side of the wiring coin. This allows the metal to be shaped and stretched out into thin strands without losing its properties.
Like electrical currents, copper is a great conductor of heat, and, because of its resistance to corrosion and high melting point, it’s fantastic when used to heat other objects. Because heat passes through copper so rapidly, it’s commonly used for the pipes in heat exchangers. Refrigeration, air conditioners and hot water tanks are a few of the applications that take advantage of copper pipes within their heat exchangers. This also applies to heat sinks in electronics such as computers or televisions.
This property also comes in handy when using copper cookware. However, it must be lined with another non-reactive metal. Traditionally, this non-reactive metal is tin, yet, due to its low melting point, you should avoid pre-heating without any food in the actual pan. Stainless steel is a modern alternative but is not without its pitfalls as it will cause food to stick to the surface. Copper pans are fantastic because they can heat food swiftly and evenly across the surface (since the heat travels so fast across the metal) but the heat will also dissipate quickly when the heat is not being supplied anymore.
Like stainless steel, copper is highly resistant to corrosion which makes it fantastic for things like jewellery, wiring and water pipes. The lack of iron within copper is one of the reasons it’s so resistant to corrosion and rust. Copper will also oxidize over time making it more resistant as well as giving it a green. The natural, bronze hue of copper and even the green-ish patina it can develop over time are a couple of the properties that make it so popular for jewellery and enhance the vintage, rustic allure and aesthetic.
Other useful properties
Easily Alloyed – Copper can be easily fused with other metals to create alloys, which are harder than pure copper. Some famous alloys include bronze (copper and tin), which was the first copper alloy to be made and brass (copper and zinc).
Great joinability – Joinery is important when working with metal, especially when it comes to pipes. Copper is easily joinable through brazing, bolting, adhesives and of course soldering – making it easier for joining plumbing pipes, busbars and even creating jewellery.
Recyclable – An inherently useful property, copper is 100% recyclable and retains all of its characteristics upon being repurposed.
Durable – Copper is a very tough metal. It won’t shatter or crack if it’s dropped and it won’t become brittle if it’s cooled below 0° C. When combined to create an alloy it becomes even more durable.
Hygienic – A little known fact about copper is that it’s actually quite hygienic. You might think this to be untrue, but antimicrobial copper alloys are indeed able to kill more than 99.9% of bacteria within two hours of contact.
Catalytic – Copper can act as the catalyst between various chemicals, speeding up their process. For example, they’re often used to convert both water and carbon monoxide into hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methanol.
Are you looking for sheet metal machinery?
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