Bronze and Brass are two common alloys used in modern manufacturing industries. They are known as red metals because of their reddish appearance. While they differ in colors, it can be difficult to tell them apart.
This article aims to provide a comprehensive comparison of brass and bronze from five main aspects – their properties, conductivity, formability, strength, appearance and price. By understanding the differences between these metals, you’ll be able to make informed decisions for your projects and choose the best material for your needs.
What Is Brass Made Of?
Brass is a metal alloy that is made up of copper and zinc. There can be trace amounts of tin or lead present in brass as well. Unlike other metals, brass is not ferrous as it does not contain any iron. Brass has a low melting point of 900°C, making it easy to mold into different shapes, and it is more malleable compared to bronze. The ratio between copper and zinc will determine its type. If the zinc content is higher, the brass becomes stronger and more flexible, while a higher copper composition makes the brass more electrically conductive. Different types of brass exist including red brass, or rose brass, which has a distinctive reddish appearance with a high copper composition of around 85%. Yellow brass has a golden color and typically consists of about 60% copper.
The versatility of brass can be attributed to the range of alloys it consists of, which makes it ideal for various applications. Notably, several brass alloys are typically used for rapid prototyping, including:
- Alloy 260, known as cartridge brass, has exceptional cold working properties and is useful in manufacturing automobiles, fasteners, ammunition, and hardware.
- Alloy 272, or yellow brass, has an average of 33% zinc and is primarily used in industrial settings.
- Alloy 330, the machining of alloy 330 is simple because it has low lead content, making it a popular choice for piping applications.
- Alloy 353, commonly known as clock brass, is used to craft high-precision components such as clock components due to its exceptional machinability.
- Alloy 360, the most commonly used brass alloy, can be formed and machined with ease, making it an excellent choice for making fasteners, fittings, valves, and other hardware components.
- Alloy 464, also known as naval brass, is popular because of its resistance to corrosion and its ability to handle temperature shifts, making it useful for cold and hot forming processes, welding, bending, soldering, and many other applications.
What Is Bronze Made Of?
Bronze is a metal alloy that primarily consists of copper and tin. Commercially available bronze contains 90% copper and 10% tin. In comparison to brass, bronze is more rigid and has a higher melting point of 950°C. To achieve varying properties, several other elements including aluminum, arsenic, manganese, phosphorus, and silicon are added to create different types of bronze alloys. These mixtures result in some of the more commonly used bronze alloys, such as Leaded bronze, Phosphor bronze, Aluminum bronze, Silicon bronze, and Manganese bronze.
Based on their composition, various bronze alloys are also accessible with the most prevalent types being:
- Alloy 863 Manganese Bronze, boasts high strength and resistance to corrosion, making it perfect for heavy-duty applications like agricultural and construction equipment. Its durability ensures longevity in these demanding environments.
- Alloy 907 Tin Bronze, excels when subjected to seawater due to its great corrosion resistance. And it performs exceptionally in fatigue and wear applications while being moderately machinable.
- Alloy 917 Tin Bronze, is specifically designed to handle heavy loads that undergo slow and uneven movement. Its corrosion resistance is high, but it requires adequate lubrication to function properly.
- Alloy 932 High-Leaded Tin Bronze/Bearing Bronze, manufacturers use this alloy for manufacturing bushings, washers, and other non-pressure components.
- Alloy 954 Aluminum Bronze, is an incredibly durable alloy that features exceptional resistance to corrosion, along with good weldability, great elevated temperature strength, high tensile strength, ductility, and yield.
- Alloy 955 Aluminum Bronze, is a tough, non-ferrous alloy that boasts high compressive and yield strength, as well as impressive hardness and elongation. It is resistant to seawater corrosion and can withstand high temperatures. It is also easily weldable and machinable.
Applications of Brass
Red brass is a malleable brass alloy that can be readily shaped or forged to meet specific requirements. It is particularly well-suited for creative endeavors due to its distinctive deep bronze hue. Red brass has a broad range of uses, including:
- Plumbing fixtures
- Automotive parts
- Marine hardware
- Gears and pulleys
- Door handles
- Musical instruments
- Ornamental trim
- Architectural fascial
Yellow brasses possess moderate strength, good corrosion resistance, and high ductility in certain forms. As a result, they are useful for various applications:
- Industrial: heat exchangers, pump cylinders, wire screens, pumps, air pressure conveyor systems, soundproofing equipment, springs, chain, liners, power cylinders, bead chains, and tubing for instruments and machines.
- Automotive: electrical connectors, heater cores, thermostats, radiator cores, radiator tubes, radiator tanks, tanks, and odometer contacts.
- Consumer: watch parts, costume jewelry, buttons, electrical sockets, lamps, snaps, planters, fireplace screens, etched articles, bird cages, coinage, chain links, pen/pencil inserts and clips, and syringe parts.
- Architecture: grillwork
- Electrical: lamp fixtures, reflectors, screw shells, terminal connectors, flashlight shells.
- Fasteners: eyelets, screws, pins, grommets, rivets, and fasteners.
- Plumbing: traps, fittings, bathroom fixtures, plumbing accessories, plumbing brass goods, faucet escutcheons.
Free Machining Brass
C-360 brass is a low-cost alloy with good engineering properties and machinability. It’s commonly employed in various contexts:
- Industrial: faucet components, pneumatic fittings, fluid connectors, automatic screw machine parts, unions, adapters, screw machine products, gauges, valve seats, valve trim, valve stems, nozzles, pinions, gears.
- Plumbing: plumbers’ brass goods, faucet stems, faucet seats, plumbing fittings.
- Construction: lock bodies, hardware, fittings.
- Fasteners: bolts, nuts, screws.
- Consumer: hot combs.
Learn more about our Brass CNC Machining Service
Applications of Bronze
Aluminum Bronze Alloys
Aluminum bronze alloys are recognized for their excellent durability and ability to resist corrosion. These alloys are utilized in various applications, including:
- Tail cones
- Wear rings
- Naval ship materials
- Gears for larger parts
- Forming rolls and dies
- Pump and valve components
- Components for propellor systems
- Hub bodies for maritime or naval applications
Tin Bronze Alloys
Tin bronze alloys have superior wear resistance, but they are typically more expensive. Common applications for these alloys include:
- Piston gears
- Steam fittings
- Hydraulic components
High-leaded Tin Bronze
High-leaded tin bronze is an advantageous material with a greater ability to withstand wear and tear caused by high levels of friction and pressure.
- Steam fittings
- Pump fixtures
- Hydraulic components
Manganese Bronze Alloys
Manganese bronze alloys have a high proportion of zinc and can be substituted for conventional brass materials. Due to their sturdiness, these alloys are ideal for high-pressure tasks, such as:
- Worm gears
- Jack nuts
- Steel mill nuts
- Forming rolls & dies
- Valves with larger stems
A Complete Comparison of Brass and Bronze
This section is to highlight five crucial aspects in which bronze and brass can be compared.
Brass VS Bronze: Material Properties Differences
To distinguish between Bronze and Brass, their elemental composition can be compared. Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, and it may contain other elements such as lead, manganese, iron, aluminum, and silicon. On the other hand, Bronze is an alloy of copper and primarily contains tin but can also have nickel, aluminum, phosphorus, zinc, and other elements.
2. Corrosion Resistance
The use of bronze is highly beneficial in marine applications and boat fittings due to its ability to withstand saltwater environments. But continuous exposure to chlorine compounds can degrade the copper content of this metal.
Brass has a lower level of corrosion resistance compared to bronze, but some grades of brass that contain high levels of manganese exhibit better resistance to corrosion.
To sum up, bronze is more corrosion-resistant than brass.
The Brinell hardness scale is one of several methods to measure hardness. According to this scale, bronze has a rating between 40 and 420, while brass has a rating between 55 and 73.
The comparison of these ratings indicates that bronze is generally harder than brass. As a result, bronze is also more brittle, making it more susceptible to breaking than brass. When it comes to projects that require durability and strength, bronze is a good option. But if a project requires workability, brass is the better choice.
If you need a lightweight metal for your project, brass is a better choice than bronze as they have similar densities but brass is lighter.
Bronze is a hard and robust metal that can withstand water, making it resistant to water-caused corrosion. In contrast, brass is less durable than bronze, but it is also sturdy and can resist corrosion and cracking.
Machinability refers to how metals respond to stress during machining, such as turning and milling. Bronze is a much sturdier and harder metal but more machinable than brass, which is less flexible.
Both brass and bronze are weldable, but certain factors can impact their weldability. Brass alloys that contain lead are an exception. Brass with lower zinc content is easier to weld, with those containing 20% zinc having good weldability. Cast brass is somewhat weldable, while unleaded bronze alloys can crack under stress. However, SMAW may be used to weld leaded phosphor bronze carefully.
The following table concludes a comparison of the material characteristics of brass and bronze:
|Thermal Conductivity (20 °C)||24 W/m-K||15 Btu/(hr ft °F)||120 W/m-K||64.1 Btu/(hr ft °F)|
|Fatigue Strength||90.0-352 MPa||13100-51100 psi||22-360 MPa||3190-52200 psi|
|Melting Point (average)||1010 °C||917 °C|
|Composition||Primary: Copper & Tin Others: Phosphorus, Silicon, Aluminum, Manganese, Zinc, etc.||Primary: Copper & Zinc Others: Iron, Lead, Aluminum, Silicon, Manganese, etc.|
|Weight||7400 – 8900 kg/cu.m||8720 kg/cu.m|
|Durability||Highly durable||Highly durable|
Brass VS Bronze: Conductivity Differences
1. Electrical Conductivity
Bronze and brass are two copper alloys and both have lower relative electrical conductivity due to the presence of other elements. When copper is taken as a standard, brass has a higher electrical conductivity of 28%, but bronze ranks the lowest with only 15% conductivity.
2. Thermal Conductivity
Brass has a significantly greater thermal conductivity compared to bronze, making it an excellent selection for radiators. While bronze can also be used for thermal purposes, brass is always the preferred option when selecting between the two.
Brass VS Bronze: Their Ability to Form
The softness of brass allows for greater formability compared to bronze, which is a copper-tin alloy. While brass is considered hard, it still has a softer composition than bronze. As a result, brass is easier to shape, cut, and file.
2. Melting Point
Both bronze and brass are easily cast, but bronze has a higher melting point range of 315-1080°C, whereas brass has a melting point range of 809-1030°C. When choosing between brass and bronze for shaping, the mechanical properties needed for the project should be taken into account. For a more decorative project, brass is a better option, whereas for a more resilient project, bronze would be more suitable.
Brass VS Bronze: Strength Differences
1. Yield Strength
The yield strength of bronze is higher compared to brass, with a range of 125-800 MPa. Brass, on the other hand, has a lower yield strength of about 95 to 124 MPa.
2. Tensile Strength
Both bronze and brass are in demand because of their increased tensile strength when subjected to cold working, or when more zinc is added in the case of brass. Annealed bronze has a tensile strength of 50 Ksi (350 MPa), while cold-rolled tempered bronze has 92 Ksi (635 Mpa). Meanwhile, annealed brass boasts a tensile strength of 53 Ksi (365 MPa), with cold-rolled tempered brass having 88 Ksi (607 MPa).
3. Shear Strength
In terms of shear strength, brass is superior compared to bronze with a range of 35000 psi to 48000 psi. In contrast, bronze has a lower shear strength ranging from 35000 psi to 47000 psi.
Brass VS Bronze: Appearance and Price Differences
To tell bronze and brass apart, a simple way is to observe their color. Bronze generally has a reddish-brown hue or dark brown color, although this can vary slightly depending on the mixture of other elements added to it. In contrast, brass typically has a golden-yellow tone, resembling dull gold. This property makes it a popular material for furniture and fixtures.
The composition of bronze and brass can differ due to a range of factors, such as their copper content. The amount of copper contained in each alloy determines its market price. However, bronze is often more costly than brass, mainly due to its higher copper percentage and the manufacturing process required.
Tips for Choosing the Right Material For Your Projects
To choose the right sheet metal for rapid prototyping, it is important to understand the difference between brass and bronze. A critical aspect of the selection process is to ensure high-quality results in the design and manufacturing stages. The following factors should be taken into account:
- Although both brass and bronze are durable metals, they are not equally easy to machine. Therefore, if smoother machining and cost reduction are crucial for your project, you should consider this factor carefully.
- Brass is commonly used for various purposes such as musical instruments and doorknobs, mainly because of its low-friction property. On the other hand, bronze is ideal for marine applications due to its excellent resistance to saltwater.
- The prices of brass and bronze differ depending on the type of alloy used. If you are searching for a cheaper option, brass is a suitable choice. It contains a high amount of zinc, which makes it more affordable than bronze.
- The utility and application of your component will play a significant role in selecting the metal. Brass is an excellent choice when you need electrical conductivity, while bronze is ideal for saltwater applications due to its corrosion resistance. Bronze is also more durable and resilient, making it suitable for applications that require durability and resistance to stress.
Bronze and brass are copper-based alloys that share certain traits but have distinct features. It is not uncommon to be uncertain about the best option when it comes to selecting these two metals. This article provides information about the alloys, applications, and key differences of both bronze and brass in a comparison format. We hope that it will be helpful for your choice and your projects.
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