Source International – Manufacturing Materials – Learning Center
Brass is a metal alloy composed mainly of copper and zinc. As copper is generally the main component, it is generally classified as a copper alloy. The various proportions in which copper and zinc are present can give the final product a wide range of properties. This material varies in color from a dark reddish brown to a light silvery yellow depending on the amount of zinc present—the more zinc, the lighter the end product. While it is stronger and harder than copper, it is not as strong or hard as steel. Brass is a good conductor of heat, mainly resistant to corrosion from salt water, and easy to form into different shapes.
Various types of this material were known by different traditional names which usually had to do with the intended use or color. For example, red brass was known as such due to its reddish color, yellow brass due to its yellowish color. Naval and cartridge brass were known as such due to their specific use. However, nowadays all varieties in the United States are now referred to by the Unified Numbering System for metals and alloys. The system uses a letter “C”, since Brass is a copper alloy, and is followed by five digits. Wrought brasses, suitable for rolling or forging, are identified with a first digit from 1 to 7, while cast brasses, suitable for molding, have a first digit of 8 or 9.
Some of this versatile material’s many applications include:
- Locks, gears, bearings, doorknobs, etc. — low friction applications
- Ammunition casings
- Plumbing — pipes, fittings, etc.
- Electrical — tubing, wiring, etc.
- Musical instruments
- Fittings and tools for use near flammable or explosive materials — will not create sparks when struck