How Much is Brass and How is it Produced?(transition fit Adair)

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Brass is a metal alloy made up primarily of copper and zinc. The ratio of copper to zinc can vary, resulting in different types of brass alloys with differing properties. But in general, brass is valued for its malleability, corrosion resistance, attractive gold-like color, and acoustic properties. These characteristics make it useful for applications ranging from musical instruments to plumbing fixtures to bullets. But how much does brass cost and how is it produced?
Price of Brass
The price of brass depends on the type of brass, its form, and economic factors. Some common forms of brass include:
- Sheet brass - Thin sheets used for applications like casings, radiators, and kick plates. The price for a 4x8 sheet of 0.025” thick sheet brass is around $40.
- Rod brass - Round bars used for shafts, pins, rifle barrels, and plumbing pipes. The price for a 1” diameter brass rod is around $6 per foot.
- Tube brass - Hollow tubes used for instruments, valves, and plumbing. A 6 foot length of 1” diameter brass tube costs around $60.
- Brass ingots - Blocks of raw brass for further processing. Brass ingots contain around 60% copper and 40% zinc and cost around $2.50 per pound.
These prices can fluctuate based on the copper and zinc commodities markets as well as supply and demand for particular brass alloy compositions. But in general, brass costs between 2-4 times as much as steel and aluminium on a per pound basis.
How Brass is Produced
Brass is produced from copper and zinc through a few main steps:
1. Smelting the raw copper and zinc ores
Copper and zinc ores are mined and then put through pyrometallurgical processes to extract pure copper and zinc. Impurities are removed by heating the ores and using chemical reactions to separate the desired copper and zinc.
2. Alloying the copper and zinc
The pure copper and zinc are measured out in the desired proportions and melted together in a furnace. For a typical 60/40 brass, 60% copper would be combined with 40% zinc. They are heated to around 900-940°C to form a homogeneous liquid brass that is then cast into ingots.
3. Semi-finishing the ingots
The brass ingots are heated and rolled or extruded into semi-finished forms like sheets, rods, bars, and tubes. Rolling and drawing processes push the brass through rollers or dies to reduce thickness and create long continuous forms.
4. Final part fabrication
The semi-finished brass is then machined or otherwise fabricated into final parts and products. CNC milling, turning, drilling, and other machine tools cut and shape the brass as needed. Stamping and pressing can also form brass sheet into parts by applying pressure with dies.
5. Polishing and finishing
For decorative applications, the surface is smoothed, burnished, or polished. Chemical processes like passivation or lacquering can also be applied to alter the appearance and corrosion resistance.
6. Quality control
At various stages, the material properties and chemistry are tested to ensure they meet specifications. The color, hardness, corrosion resistance, lead content, and machinability may be analyzed.
So in summary, brass costs more than steel or aluminum due to the expense of the copper and zinc raw materials. But it provides beneficial properties that justify the cost for certain applications where appearance, acoustics, or corrosion resistance are priorities. The price fluctuates but is generally 2-4 times the price of steel per pound. And modern smelting, alloying, rolling, machining, and finishing processes allow this versatile alloy to be produced efficiently in a variety of forms. CNC Milling CNC Machining