Brass - An Essential Metal With Fluctuating Costs(cmm machine Jerome)
- source:YESCOM CNC Machining
What is Brass?
Brass is an alloy consisting mainly of copper supplemented with anywhere from 5% to 45% zinc. Trace amounts of other elements like aluminum, iron, silicon and manganese are also sometimes present. The proportions of copper and zinc can be tailored to alter the properties of the brass for specific uses. Higher zinc content increases hardness and strength while increasing ductility and malleability requires more copper. Common classifications include:
- Yellow/Cartridge Brass - 30% zinc
- Red/Gunmetal - 25% zinc
- Low Brass - 20% zinc
- Naval Brass - 40% zinc
Brass has a distinctive bright gold appearance which is aesthetically pleasing and resembles precious metals. It also has excellent acoustic properties which makes it ideal for musical instruments and bells. Brass is significantly stronger than copper but still maintains excellent ductility and corrosion resistance. These characteristics make brass an incredibly versatile metal used for currency, decorations, instruments, hardware, ammunition, plumbing and more.
Brass Pricing Factors
The price of brass depends heavily on the market price of copper. On average over 60% of brass is copper. But there are several other factors that impact brass costs including:
- Copper Pricing - Since copper is the main component, its market price has the biggest influence on brass. Copper futures trading on exchanges like COMEX determines the spot price.
- Zinc Pricing - While having less impact than copper, the price of zinc still needs to be factored in to brass costs. Zinc trades on the LME.
- Manufacturing Costs - Converting copper and zinc into brass requires melting, mixing, and milling which contributes to the overall expense.
- Supply and Demand - Brass prices also rise and fall based on market demand and production levels. More demand combined with restricted supply will increase prices.
- Quality - Different brass alloys and tempers command different prices depending on their mechanical properties and workability. More specialized formulations are more costly.
- Quantity - Brass sold in bulk volumes is generally cheaper on a per unit basis compared to small quantity purchases.
Current Brass Prices
Brass prices fluctuate daily based on copper and zinc spot pricing in addition to supply and demand factors. Here are some current approximate brass costs:
- Brass Sheet (C26000) - $3.50-$4.00 per pound
- Brass Tubing (C23000) - $4.50-$5.25 per pound
- Red Brass Scrap - $1.60-$2.20 per pound
- Yellow Brass Scrap - $1.80-$2.50 per pound
The most economical way to purchase brass is often in recycled scrap form. However, this limits quality control and applications. Brass sheet in various sizes and thicknesses offers more versatility for manufacturing and metalworking. Brass tubing is also commonly used for plumbing, musical instruments and hobbyist projects.
When pricing projects using brass components, current brass market prices need to be taken into consideration along with specific alloy being used. Brass alloy C23000 (red brass) will be more affordable than C26000 (cartridge brass) for example. Checking with metal suppliers and comparing costs can help find the best brass option based on application and budget.
Brass vs Other Metals
Brass has some distinct advantages and disadvantages when compared to other common metals:
- vs Steel - Brass is more corrosion resistant but less strong than steel. Machining brass is easier than steel.
- vs Aluminum - Brass has superior wear resistance compared to aluminum. However, aluminum has a better strength-to-weight ratio.
- vs Bronze - Bronze has greater toughness whereas brass has better malleability. Bronze also contains more tin than brass.
- vs Copper - Brass is stronger than pure copper due to added zinc. Copper is limited in plumbing uses whereas brass has broader applications.
- vs Precious Metals - Brass only contains copper so has lower intrinsic value than silver or gold. However, brass costs much less.
Understanding these comparisons helps determine when brass is the most suitable metal based on use case requirements, performance characteristics and budget.
One way to obtain affordable brass is by recycling scrap material. Brass has excellent recyclability retaining its alloy properties and quality when remolded. Recycled brass scrap yields 85% to 90% savings versus newly manufactured brass. This provides strong economic incentive for recycling used brass.
Brass recycling also requires significantly less energy - as low as 20% compared to virgin material production. Recycling eliminates the high energy costs of initial copper and zinc extraction and purification processes. There are fewer carbon emissions as well which improves the environmental profile.
Common sources of recyclable brass scrap include:
- Plumbing fixtures, valves and fittings
- Spent ammunition cartridges
- Old musical instruments and equipment
- Outdated electronics and appliances
- Machining waste and offcuts
Brass recycling begins by sorting different alloys based on color - mainly differentiating yellow brass from red brass. Materials are granulated or shredded prior to melting and casting into new ingots and sheets. These are then rolled and formed into rods, wires, tubes and more to supply manufacturers with recycled brass.
In summary, brass is in constant demand due to its versatile properties and aesthetics. While brass costs are driven mainly by copper prices, many other factors influence its final price and value. Monitoring commodity markets, comparing supplier quotes and utilizing scrap recycling can help manage brass expenses. With responsible sourcing and design, brass will continue serving industry needs moving forward. CNC Milling CNC Machining