Copper processing - types, methods and tools
Copper is a widely used material in industry due to its excellent properties. One of its main advantages is that it lends itself very well to different types of machining, which offers great opportunities for making different types of products from it, including electrical cables. Let's find out which are the best methods of working with copper and what the results are!
Is copper easy to work?
Copper processing requires experience, knowledge and the right technological equipment. When these conditions are met, the process can be carried out efficiently and effectively.
The machinability of copper is made possible by its favourable malleability and formability. Additionally, it has a low tendency to form sticking points on the surface of cutting tools, eliminating the risk of increased forces and temperatures during the machining process. This eliminates the risk of an increase in forces and temperatures during the machining process, making it possible to produce high quality components free from defects.
By using appropriate methods and modern tools, we can machine both small and large copper components to achieve the highest surface quality, dimensional accuracy, and electrical conductivity.
How can copper be machined?
Copper can be subjected to both abrasive and machining processes. The former removes the machined material in the form of chips, while the latter removes it in the form of abrasive material. Materials can be subjected to turning, milling, drilling, chiselling, broaching, grinding, honing or polishing.
The wide range of processes that can be applied to copper makes it possible to give it different shapes and dimensions, modify its properties and produce parts with different parameters.
What types of copper processing are there?
There are three basic types of copper processing: thermal treatment, mechanical machining, and plastic forming. What are the characteristics of each?
Copper can be heat treated to give it the desired microstructure and mechanical properties. For example, by applying the correct temperature it is possible to change the hardness, improve the strength, modify the crystalline structure, remove stresses or improve the electrical conductivity of the workpiece.
A variety of processes are used to heat treat copper alloys, the most common being hardening, recirculation and annealing.
Machining involves the removal of material from the surface of copper workpieces to give them the desired shape, dimension or finish. The process involves a number of techniques which are selected according to the effect to be achieved. These include cutting, turning, milling, bending and twisting.
One of the most commonly used methods for machining copper is CNC - Computerised Numerical Control - which allows the highest levels of precision to be achieved in the parts produced, as well as streamlining the production process. For example, CNC can be used to mill or turn individual components.
Forming is a process in which copper is deformed by applying sufficient pressure beyond its yield point. As a result, the shape, dimensions and structure of the component can be altered, and its mechanical properties can be modified.
The most commonly used techniques for this type of copper processing are rolling, bending, pressing or forging.
Copper machining techniques
There are a number of techniques that can be used to machine copper and it is worth looking at them in more detail. What are the characteristics of cutting, milling, turning, bending and finishing?
One of the most basic techniques for machining copper is cutting, which makes it possible to obtain different shapes and dimensions of sheets. At Electris we offer two cutting methods:
- Laser cutting, which uses the energy of a laser beam (continuous or pulsed) - this melts the material in the cutting slot, while the molten material is blown away with a gas, making it possible to cut even the most complex shapes and maintaining the highest quality of the cut edge;
- Waterjet cutting, which is used to cut flat materials up to 150 mm thick - the extremely high pressure water jet allows workpieces of various sizes to be cut very precisely.
Thanks to the use of modern machines, it is possible not only to achieve high-precision cutting, but also to increase the efficiency of the process (even with thicker material) and to maintain the excellent quality of the cut edges.
This method is used, for example, when copper flat bars need to be machined. Punching is the process of forcibly cutting out the shape in the material as reflected by the punch.
Milling is a type of copper machining that involves the mechanical removal of a layer of material to give the workpiece the desired shape, dimension and specific properties of the surface layer. This method is used when the highest precision is required or the most complex shapes need to be achieved.
At Electris, we use computer-controlled 3 axis (3 AX) and 5 axis (5 AX) machines for CNC machining of copper, enabling us to carry out the most demanding projects.
Copper turning is a machining process in which the workpiece performs a rotary movement while the tool (blade) performs a flat linear or curvilinear movement. This allows a layer of excess material to be removed precisely and quickly, giving the component the required shape, dimensions and surface finish.
The use of modern CNC lathes allows us to offer both small and high volume production of small but complex copper components such as connectors, sleeves or bushings.
Copper Bending and Twisting
Copper bending and torsion are machining processes that allow the curvature of the workpiece to be permanently altered without loss of material (bending) or the workpiece to be adjusted to change its direction from vertical to horizontal or vice versa (torsion).
Copper finishing is a series of processes that allow a component to be prepared according to the customer's specifications and order. It includes drilling, tapping, grinding, engraving, screwing, clamping or marking.
Depending on the parameters of the component in question, Electris also offers other additional services. These include laminating or powder/epoxy coating of copper components.
How is copper used in industry?
The processing of copper is necessary because many industries use this metal. It is a material that is particularly important in the electricity sector due to its good electrical conductivity. Copper is the building block and an important component of electrical cables, conductors, generators, inverters and transformers. Copper-based components are also used in batteries for electric mobility.
Copper is also widely used in the construction industry (piping or air conditioning), the automotive sector (car or aircraft components) and many other industries.
Copper processing at Electris
Electris' copper processing offer is comprehensive and complementary. Using a variety of copper and aluminium processing technologies, the company produces busbars, busbar systems, copper connectors, copper profiles, copper nuts, copper pins, copper threaded pins, copper sections, copper flats, copper connectors and connectors, copper connectors, roller connectors, copper roller pins, copper rods, copper tubes, earthing rails, neutral rails and much more.
Electris has been working with copper for many years and is therefore able to offer its customers the optimum choice of parameters, technology and processing tools to prepare a tailor-made product that meets the highest quality standards.