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Copper Uses in Industry

In the United States, approximately 20 mines located throughout Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, and Montana account for roughly 99 percent of domestic copper production, but that represents only a fraction of the world’s need for copper. When alloyed with nickel, zinc, tin, and other elements, copper provides the foundation for more than 400 alloys, with brass being the most widely used and least expensive copper alloy. Pure copper such as C10100 (oxygen-free electronic), C10200 (oxygen-free), and C11000 (electrolytic tough pitch) are three of the grades most widely used in industries in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Physical and Chemical Properties Reveal How Copper Is Used in Industry

A unique combination of properties makes copper suitable for a wide range of applications in local San Francisco Bay Area industries, from high-tech operations to one-of-a-kind designer jewelry. Some of these properties and their applicable uses are described below.

  • High ductility and electrical conductivity make copper acceptable for use in electrical conductors, switches, transformers, and telecommunications equipment.
  • High thermal conductivity works exceptionally with heat exchangers, radiators, heat sinks, cookware, and kitchen appliances.
  • Antimicrobial properties are suitable for use in doorknobs, railings, handrails, and jewelry.
  • Corrosion and weather resistance is ideal for use in roofing, spouting, architectural accents, signage, lighting, landscape fixtures, plumbing, kitchen and bathroom sinks, countertops, distillation apparatus, and sculptures.

Copper is utilized in many of the products and parts that we use daily, and energy and economic developments will continue to drive increased demand for copper. 

Science Fact: Copper was the first metal ever manipulated by humans, and it’s believed that the world’s first copper pendant, crafted around 8700 B.C., was a testament to early human ingenuity in metalworking.

Increased Demand for Copper Used in Clean Energy Industries

Copper Used in Local Industries

As the United States transitions to cleaner power sources, better energy storage technologies, and increased use of electric vehicles, the demand for (and the price of) copper will surely increase. Already, the average car contains approximately one mile of copper wire, and a hybrid vehicle may contain as much as 100 pounds or more of copper. Alternative and clean power research will discover many additional copper and alloy uses as the industry grows, from clean power generation that requires new infrastructure to a vast distribution network that will supply clean energy for a myriad of new uses.

Copper in Coinage and Semiconductor Manufacturing

Delving into the diverse uses of copper, one can’t help but admire how this versatile metal has been a cornerstone in various industries. Copper alloys, integral to our daily lives, find their way into everyday items like coins. That jingle in your pocket? It’s likely thanks to copper alloys! Beyond just coinage, copper plays a pivotal role as a raw material in the high-tech world of semiconductor manufacturing. This is where the efficiency of copper really shines through.

Imagine the complex circuitry in your favorite gadgets – from smartphones to laptops. It’s copper wiring at the heart of these devices, ensuring they run smoothly and efficiently. The reason is simple: copper’s supreme electrical conductivity. This not only makes copper wiring a practical choice but also a cost-effective one. Semiconductor manufacturers are increasingly relying on copper wire in silicon chips. Why? Because it allows microprocessors to operate faster and use less energy, making your devices more efficient and eco-friendly.

Copper in Medical Applications

The medical field, too, has embraced the uses of copper, especially for its antimicrobial properties. Hospitals and healthcare settings are increasingly using copper metal and copper alloys to fight against the spread of infections. Surfaces we frequently touch, like doorknobs and handrails, are now crafted from copper and copper alloys. This is not just for their aesthetic appeal but for a very critical function: these copper surfaces can kill off a vast majority of bacteria in a matter of hours.

But it’s not just about surfaces. Copper tubes and copper wires are also making their way into medical equipment. The reason? Copper’s unique ability to fight against bacteria and viruses. This makes copper tubes an excellent choice for medical applications where hygiene is paramount. 

A Unique Approach to Supplying Copper Used in Local Industries

Copper is used extensively by San Francisco Bay Area manufacturers, fabricators, and welders for many of the applications mentioned above. To meet production requirements, many of these companies purchase significant quantities of copper plate and bar stock sourced directly from national mills. In many cases, copper remnants left over from a manufacturing process are too small for any further use by the manufacturer. However, these remnants are of suitable size for use by other shops that don’t require standard-sized copper plate or bar stock. 

As an established metal supply and recycling company in the San Francisco Bay Area, we’re a key link in the local copper supply chain. We’ve recycled tons of copper for local businesses, and we play a unique role in helping them realize the maximum value from their copper supply.

Instead of following the traditional recycling process (recycle bin to recycler to mill for remelting and recasting), these usable copper remnants are picked up and taken to the warehouse, where they are trimmed to standard shapes and sizes. These high-quality copper remnants are available for purchase at a significant discount compared to new copper.

Copper Cut-to-Size Meets Smaller Shop Demands

Cut-to-Size CopperMany smaller machine and fabrication shops, as well as most designers and hobbyists who regularly use copper in their production processes, don’t have space or financial resources for an industrial metal saw to cut copper to the required dimensions before machining or custom fabrication. A supplier that can provide copper cut-to-size makes it easy for these shops and individuals to transform copper into finished products.

Copper Alloys and Their Industrial Applications

This table provides a quick overview of various copper alloys, highlighting their unique properties and where they are most commonly used in industry.

Copper Alloy Properties Industrial Applications
Brass (copper-zinc) Good corrosion resistance, malleability Musical instruments, decorative items, plumbing fittings
Bronze (copper-tin) High strength, resistance to wear Marine hardware, bearings, sculptures
Cupronickel (copper-nickel) Excellent resistance to corrosion in seawater Coinage, marine engineering, desalination plants
Beryllium Copper High strength, non-sparking Aerospace components, oil and gas drilling equipment
Phosphor Bronze Low coefficient of friction, fatigue resistance Electrical connectors, springs, acoustic guitar strings

Copper Recycling to Meet Your Production Schedule and Volume

Copper is one of the most frequently and easily recycled metals. There’s always demand for recycled copper, so any unusable scraps or chips from machining or fabrication processes have monetary value when recycled. Metal suppliers who also provide recycling services can simplify your operations. Metal supply delivery can be coordinated with scrap metal pickup. The best recycling companies can customize recycling receptacles to fit chip conveyors and provide a range of containers, from standard 55-gallon barrels to roll-off services to meet your recycling volumes.

Published by IMS Team

Industrial Metal Service has decades of experience and over 1.1 billion pounds of metal sold and recycled. Our founder, Jeff, has spent his life in the industry and prides himself on offering fair, efficient, trustworthy, knowledgeable, outstanding customer service. We offer metal salesmetal recycling pickup service, and other associated services, such as precise metal sawing, machinery teardown, and warehouse cleanupGive us a call and we’ll get it done.