Copper production is a multimillion dollar industry. It ranks third in world metal consumption after steel and aluminum. In 2017, the total amount of copper produced from mines all over the world is estimated 19.7 million metric tons. That’s roughly twice the amount of zinc produced on the same year. With that huge production, you may probably be wondering why you don’t come across objects made of copper very often. This begs the question, “Where does all that copper go?” Before we get to that, let us first get to know copper better.
What is copper and why is it useful?
Copper is a metallic element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is one of the first metals to be discovered, even much earlier than gold and silver. Major copper producing countries include Chile, Peru, and China. Although the United States has its own copper mines, it still imports from these countries to sustain its immense need for the metal. Even though about 44 percent of its total annual copper consumption comes from recycled scrap, it still spends an average of $300 billion annually on copper imports.
This metal is prized for its many properties, most of which are useful in a wide range of applications across various fields and industries. That’s why it’s extensively utilized. Copper’s most popular alloys are bronze and brass. Each of these alloys has its own unique properties and is manufactured into many useful things from structural elements to everyday ornaments.
Applications of Copper
After mining and refining, copper is made into different types of material, including sheets, plates, tubes, bars, and rods. They all go to metal suppliers and distributors, who then deliver to manufacturers, builders, and artisans who use copper for different specific applications. Nowadays, it’s so much easier for these professionals to find a copper sheet supplier to help you with your project as most of them are accessible online. Here are some of the most common applications of copper:
- Architecture – Copper is manufactured into a plethora of architectural elements, including roofs, flashings, gutters, downspouts, domes, spires, vaults, wall cladding, and building expansion joints. Builders are confident in using copper materials for exterior features because they know this metal is resistant to the impact of weather due to its non-ferrous characteristics.
- Automotive – Each vehicle consists of about 40 lbs of electrical and 10 lbs of non-electrical components, particularly comprising the motor and rotor. Copper is becoming even more essential as the demand for electric and hybrid vehicles grows rapidly. Its high electrical conductivity is extremely useful for this application.
- Electrical – Speaking of electrical conductivity, copper has been used for making wire cores and transformers. Silver was the original choice but it heats up too quickly, which increases the risk of electrical fires. Copper, the next most highly conductive metal, on the other hand, happens to have a high thermal expansion coefficient as well. This means it doesn’t burn up when conveying large voltage of electricity.
- Plumbing and Decorations – Being non-ferrous gives copper a lot of other useful properties apart from corrosion resistance. For instance, it has an antimicrobial property, which triggers the oligodynamic effect, a phenomenon that occurs when ions of copper attack certain proteins in microorganisms, killing them in the process. This is why copper is the perfect material for tubes and pipes in water systems where purification and filtration are involved.
- Industrial – One of the reasons why you don’t see a lot of copper around is that most materials made of this metal is used for industrial applications, particularly in manufacturing and power plants. It is found in most heat exchangers and in machines used for copper plate printing and fermentation tank lining. Wineries prefer their distillation pots to be made of copper.
- Electronic – The electronic devices you use at home and in the workplace possibly have a little bit of copper in them. If you open one up, you will most likely find components such as high frequency and ultra-high frequency tubes, printed circuits, base brazing, all made of copper. This metal has also long replaced aluminum and similar types of metal as the material for silicon chips for interconnection and lead frames in electronic circuitries.
- Energy and Petrochemical. Many alloys of copper are widely used in the energy and petrochemical industries, too. Good examples are condenser tubes and plates as well as containers for holding corrosive mediums. They are also made into pipes, filters, pumps, valves, and all sorts of evaporators. Because copper has higher resistance to saltwater corrosion than other metals, it is also preferred for desalinators, offshore drilling platforms, and other undersea installations.
- Transportation. Most modern trains crisscrossing metropolitan areas rely heavily on copper for electricity. They run using the power supplied through copper-based lines that span along the rails. Furthermore, they are also found in the motors, rectifiers and controls, brakes, electrics, and signal systems of these vehicles. Copper alloys have ship-building applications, too. Special types of copper are found to have higher resistance against fouling, which can be a problem as they can increase the weight and reduce the buoyancy of ships.
- Crafts. Copper is blessed with a beautiful reddish brown color that can match with any interior design. Whether you want a rustic or a modern appeal for your home or office, a streak of copper along trips or even standalone copper furniture makes a great addition. Want to know where to buy copper sheets for crafts? You might want to avoid typical stores that only offer industry-specific products.
Are you looking for a metal with great properties to use in your own project? Whether it’s for manufacturing, construction, or even decoration, consider using copper. With its amazing properties that are well-suited for virtually all kinds of applications, you can never go wrong with this metal. Additionally, you have a huge array of choices because copper has over a hundred different variations.
Before heading out to make a purchase, however, see to it that you will find the best supplier near you. It doesn’t help to source materials from a supplier that isn’t well-versed with metals, particularly copper alloys. The best place to go to is an established supplier like Rotax Metals. Not only do they specialize in copper alloys but they are also an established business, operating since 1947. With their copious knowledge and experience with copper, they surely provide you with the highest quality copper sheet metal for sale as well as unparalleled customer service.