What makes copper such an important material for springs?
Copper is an important metal in many industries, including in spring manufacturing. Its many properties make it useful for a range of applications and it can be alloyed with other metals to create materials with enhanced features. Let’s take a look at some of those properties to understand what makes it such a good candidate for so many different tasks.
One of the first metals to be used by humans, copper is a chemical element with the atomic number 29 and the symbol Cu in the periodic table. Copper can be found in many different places, including in minerals and in stars. It also occurs naturally in the Earth’s crust, with the largest piece of copper ever found weighing 420 tonnes.
It’s believed that copper was first used by people over 10,000 years ago and that, for a long time, it was one of the only, if not the only metal humans knew, which is why there are so many objects made from copper dating from millennia ago.
Around 5,000 BC, people began to dabble in metallurgy, and by 3,000 BC the first uses of copper alloys had started. Copper was alloyed with materials like arsenic and tin. Bronze, a copper alloy, became incredibly important for everyday life once it was created – it was used in weapons, agricultural tools, decorative objects, and more.
Properties of copper
One of the reasons why copper is so widely used in spring manufacturing is its many properties. The following list is, by no means, comprehensive, but it will help you better understand why this material is so popular:
Resistance to corrosion – Both copper and its alloys are highly resistant to corrosion, which allows these materials to be used for applications like industrial machinery and engines. Copper also forms a layer of copper sulphate on its surface, called patina, which further prevents it from corrosion.
Malleable – A key property for many applications, including wiring. Copper is a malleable, easy-to-use metal, so it can be fabricated and manipulated with ease.
Anti-bacterial – If you’re looking for springs or wire forms for the medical field, then copper is an excellent choice because of its hygienic properties. Copper can slow down the growth of bacteria like MRSA and legionella and is an important component in things like fungicides.
Strength – Copper is a tough metal but not the strongest we work with. This means it won’t shatter or break easily.
Non-magnetism – As a non-ferrous metal (which means a metal without iron in its composition), copper is non-magnetic and is thus often used in military and defence applications.
Electrical conductivity – Another crucial property of copper is how conductive it is, which is why you can find it everywhere in the electronics sector, from mobile phones and electrical wiring to computers and underfloor heating.
Applications of copper springs
As mentioned, electrical conductivity is one of copper’s main properties, so most springs in the electronics sector will be made of copper or a copper alloy.
Some of the most common alloys are beryllium-copper, which is very ductile and easy to machine, as well as resistant to wear and tear. This makes it ideal for applications where stress is a concern, like the springs in push buttons.
Brass, made of copper and zinc, is another important alloy. Because this material is hard and highly resistant to corrosion, you can expect to find springs made from this alloy in oil rigs and medical instruments. Brass springs are also flexible, so they can store a lot of mechanical energy, making them perfect for objects like clocks.
Cupronickel, which is created when you alloy copper with nickel, is a strong material found in the marine sector, in hardware and even in weaponry.
You can also find copper and copper springs in musical instruments and industrial machines, as well as in agriculture and construction. Copper is also a good option for torsion springs, so you’ll likely find it in door hinges too.
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