CNC Machining with Copper Explained

Is copper the right material for your next project? See how this metal and its alloys stack up.

Copper has stood the test of time.

Usage can be traced back to ancient civilizations. Today, modern technologies like CNC machining have unlocked new potentials and applications for this age-old material. Let’s look at all the essential details you need for your next CNC machining project, from the different alloys to critical considerations when machining this material.

A copper part made with CNC machining.

Why Copper for CNC Machining? 

Copper has a vast legacy that spans everything from coins to cookware. Yet, in CNC machining, copper is helpful for its aesthetics and mechanical properties.

Electrical Conductor: Copper’s electrical conductivity is nearly unparalleled. This property makes it indispensable in the electronics and telecommunication sectors.

Thermal Conductor: Its ability to rapidly transfer heat makes copper vital in heat sinks, radiators, and any mechanism where rapid heat dissipation is crucial.

Antimicrobial Nature: This intrinsic property of copper makes it a valuable asset, especially in healthcare environments.

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Copper and Its Alloys: Which Material to Choose?

While pure copper boasts remarkable qualities, when alloyed with other elements, its spectrum of utility expands:

Bronze (Copper-Tin): An age-old alloy celebrated for its strength, bronze sees applications in areas where durability meets design, such as statues.

Brass (Copper-Zinc): Beyond its distinct golden appearance, brass alloys, particularly Brass CW614N, are used for machinability. Typical applications include musical instruments, ornamental fixtures, and gears.

Copper CW024A: This alloy is notable for its outstanding cold workability, making it ideal for processes that require intricate shaping.

Drawing Distinctions: Copper vs. Brass

Copper and brass, closely related yet distinct, often see overlapping applications.

However, several differentiators set them apart:

Conductivity: Pure copper is superior when electrical or thermal conductivity is paramount.

Aesthetics: Brass, with its rich golden hue, often finds favor in decorative applications and artistic endeavors.

Machineability: While both metals are machine-friendly, brass, especially the CW614N variant, often gets the nod for complex machining tasks due to its slightly superior machinability.

Dealing with Copper’s Unique Machining Challenges

Machining copper requires a comprehensive understanding of its material properties. Fortunately, our experienced team of experts and fully-vetted supply chain ensures the highest quality for your parts. Here are some of the things we take care of for your projects:

Softness: While beneficial in some respects, copper’s soft nature can make achieving ultra-precise finishes difficult.

Work Hardening: Copper can harden rapidly during machining. This tendency necessitates continuous cuts and consistent monitoring of feed rates and speeds.

Heat Management: Given its superior thermal conductivity, effectively managing heat is crucial. Overheating can result in deformities and compromised finishes.

Use Copper for Your Next Project

From its raw, functional benefits to the vast potential of its alloyed forms, copper is multifaceted and undeniably relevant in today’s precision-driven world. If you want to make the most of copper or any other metal for your CNC machining project, we’re ready to help.

At MakerVerse, we understand the nuances of the full range of materials for CNC machining. Get started on our platform and let our team know what you want. We’re happy to work together to see your project through.