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Bearings made of bronze alloy. Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/Evannovostro

9 Different Types of Bronze

Xomety X
By Team Xometry
January 3, 2024
 9 min read
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Bronze alloys come in a variety of compositions, each designed for a particular use. With its great mechanical prowess and 9–14% aluminum enrichment, aluminum bronze is a reliable option for naval equipment such as propellers and valves. 

Silicon bronze, which is composed of around 0.13% iron and 6% silicon, is mostly used for coating red brass and bronze, which are recognized for their durability and resistance to corrosion. Copper, tin, and phosphorus combined create phosphor bronze which exhibits exceptional spring properties and great fatigue resistance, making it a valuable material for electrical applications. As we delve deeper into the realm of adaptable alloys, this examination of various bronze kinds reveals their distinctive qualities.

Listed below are 9 different types of bronze:

1. Aluminum Bronze

With aluminum serving as the main alloying ingredient, aluminum bronze is a copper-based alloy family that offers superior corrosion resistance and strength comparable to medium-carbon steel. Its varied qualities find uses in a variety of industries. Its composition is around 9–14% aluminum, 4% iron, and about 82.7% copper. Some notable alloys include: C95200 for bushings and gears, C95400 for chemical and marine applications, C95500 with increased strength, C95800 for marine applications, and C95900 for wear plates. 

2. Phosphor Bronze

Phosphor bronze is a copper alloy containing around 95% copper, 0.5–11% tin, and 0.01–0.35% phosphorus, often with additional elements like lead for specific properties. Tin enhances corrosion resistance, while phosphorus boosts wear resistance and stiffness. Recognized for toughness, strength, and low friction, phosphor bronze’s fluidity in the molten state aids casting. It is widely used for: springs, bolts, bushings, electrical switches, dental bridges, and marine applications like ship propellers. Standard alloys cater to various industrial needs, making phosphor bronze a cost-effective choice for springs, electrical contacts, and cryogenic applications.

3. Silicon Bronze

Silicon bronze is a low-lead brass alloy having trace amounts of manganese, aluminum, and zinc mixed in with 94–96% copper, 2.5–6% silicon, and 0.3–1.4% iron. Its corrosion resistance and smooth finish are well-known attributes. Its density of 8.53 g/cm³ makes it appropriate for casting and welding. Two noteworthy mechanical properties of this alloy are its tensile yield strength which ranges from 105 to 415 MPa and its hardness rating which indicates strength greater than copper. Silicon bronze is commonly used in: marine hardware, U-bolts, architectural embellishments, hydraulic applications, tubing, and welding rods.

4. Nickel Aluminum Bronze

Nickel aluminum bronze alloys, comprising aluminum, exhibit increased strength through added iron and nickel. The composition, including 79% copper, 8.50–9.50% aluminum, 3.50–4.50% nickel, and other elements, enhances strength without compromising ductility. Widely employed in marine applications like ship valves and propellers, these alloys serve roles in: bushings, bearings, wear plates, and hydraulic valve components. The corrosion resistance and versatile properties make nickel aluminum bronze a valuable choice in diverse industries, from aerospace for landing gear to oil & gas for seawater lift pumps.

5. Bismuth Bronze

Bismuth bronze, sometimes referred to as lead-free bronze or lead-free brass, addresses issues with recycling and the harm that comes with lead-based bronzes. It usually contains: 87–91% copper, 1–6% bismuth, 1% nickel, 2–4% tin, and zinc. It is still as machinable and workable as leaded bronze. This high-temperature, corrosion-resistant material is used in plumbing, fasteners, bearings, and other applications in which safety for drinking water is required. For ecologically concerned applications, its non-toxic nature makes it a useful replacement for traditional leaded alloys, although it is more expensive and more difficult to recycle.

6. Bearing Bronze

Bearing bronze is a versatile copper alloy, typically composed of: 81–85% copper, 6–8% lead, 6.3–7.5% tin, and 2–4% zinc, among other elements. With a consistent density of 8.93 g/cm³ and a copper-gold color, it is often used for light-duty applications due to its ease of shaping. Resistant to seawater corrosion, it self-lubricates, making it suitable for marine applications. Its mechanical properties, including low tensile yield strength and moderate machinability, contribute to its common use in: bearings, bushings, impellers, plates, washers, and machine-tool bearings.

7. Tin Bronze

Tin bronze alloys, in which tin is the primary alloying element, have good mechanical qualities that make them appropriate for some uses even though the cost of the metal is higher. C90700 is among the high-tin bronzes utilized in: pump bodies, gears, bearings, bushings, and structural elements. It has an 89% copper and 11% tin composition. Additional variants – with C90500, C92300, C92501, and C92700 serving comparable applications in low-speed, heavy-load service scenarios – include: valve guides, piston pins, and different types of bearings. Resistant to corrosion, they operate as bearings at temperatures up to 500 °F and loads of 4,000 lbs per square inch, demanding precise alignment and lubrication.

8. Manganese Bronze

Manganese bronze alloys, composed of 60–68% copper, 25% zinc, 3.0–7.5% aluminum, 2.5–5.0% manganese, and 2.0–4.0% iron, exhibit exceptional strength and wear resistance. Though challenging to machine, its impressive tensile yield strength of 460 MPa and fatigue strength of 170 MPa make it a preferred choice in aerospace, marine, and oil & gas industries. It is used for applications like: welding rods, fasteners, gears, slow-speed heavy-load bearings, cams, and landing-gear parts. Despite its cost and difficulty in fabrication, manganese bronze's longevity and durability make it indispensable in critical applications.

9. Copper-Nickel Bronze

Copper-nickel bronze is a popular alloy for its longevity, corrosion resistance (particularly in saltwater), and excellent thermal stability. It contains 90% copper and 2–30% nickel. Notably, ship hulls, electrical components, pumps, valves, and marine equipment all commonly make use of the 90% copper and 10% nickel alloy (C70600, CW352H). Nickel improves strength and resistance to corrosion, making it more ductile. Alloys with 30% nickel content, such as C71500 and C71640, provide better resistance against wear, galling, sand abrasion, and seawater flow. When more mechanical qualities are required, those that are more heavily alloyed with aluminum, chromium, or tin perform well.

What Is Bronze?

Bronze is an alloy primarily composed of copper and tin, but it can also incorporate metals like: phosphorus, nickel, manganese, aluminum, and zinc. The specific combination of these elements influences bronze's properties, determining factors such as: hardness, ductility, and flexibility. This versatile alloy has been utilized throughout history for its unique blend of characteristics, making it suitable for various applications across art, tools, and industrial uses.

What Is the Most Common Type of Bronze?

Aluminum bronze is by far the most widely used of all bronze alloys. It is extensively employed because of the beneficial combination of copper and aluminum, which offers: improved strength, corrosion resistance, and wear resistance. Due to its durability and toughness, aluminum bronze is a popular material for a variety of applications, ranging from maritime equipment to industrial components.

What Type of Bronze Is Strongest?

C63200 aluminum bronze holds the title of the strongest bronze alloy. The inclusion of 2% to 3% silicon contributes to its remarkable strength and durability. This alloy finds applications in gears, bearings, and other components subjected to high stress, showcasing its robustness in demanding scenarios.

What Is the Most Corrosion-Resistant Type of Bronze?

Manganese bronze is well known for its exceptional resistance to wear and corrosion. It is distinct from other bronze alloys due to the additional manganese, which increases its toughness. Manganese bronze is a viable material for applications needing durability in harsh settings because of this quality.

What Is the Best Wear-Resistant Type of Bronze?

Grade 932 bearing bronze stands out as the pinnacle of wear-resistant bronze alloys. This high-leaded, tin bronze amalgamates outstanding strength with remarkable anti-friction properties, creating an alloy highly resistant to wear. Its excellence in both tensile strength and wear resistance makes it an ideal candidate for bearing applications in which durability and reliability are paramount. This bronze alloy, revered for its balanced qualities, serves as a testament to its enduring role in high-stress, friction-laden environments.

What Are the Properties of Bronze?

Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin that has a unique metallic brown look and many useful qualities. It has a very smooth surface, great ductility, and accurate dimensional accuracy. Its remarkable properties include: low friction, high melting point, resistance to corrosion and metal fatigue, expansion during hardening, and notable electrical and thermal conductivity. Because of these characteristics, bronze is a perfect material for a wide range of uses, from industrial components to artistic sculptures, combining aesthetic appeal with long-lasting functionality.

Does Bronze Become Fragile Over Time?

Yes, bronze can become fragile over time due to factors like: exposure to moisture, chlorides, or sulfides. While bronze is more resistant to corrosion than individual metals like copper, it is not entirely immune. In specific conditions, such as a damp environment with chlorides and oxygen, bronze can develop "Bronze Disease," leading to its deterioration. Proper care and environmental control are essential to prevent fragility and maintain the integrity of bronze artifacts.

Is Bronze Worth More Than Copper?

No, bronze is not worth more than copper. Although both metals have unique qualities and uses, copper is more in demand and has a wider market price due to its extensive industrial use. Copper is a major conductor of electricity, making it a vital component of many industries. Bronze, on the other hand, is valuable due to its many properties, including durability and resistance to corrosion. But when it comes to market value, copper is typically more costly than bronze.

Is Bronze an Alloy?

Yes, bronze is an alloy. An alloy is a mixture of two or more elements, with at least one of them being a metal. In the case of bronze, it is primarily composed of copper and tin. The combination of these elements enhances the properties of the alloy, providing characteristics such as: increased strength, durability, and corrosion resistance. Other metals like: aluminum, nickel, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, and lead may also be included in varying proportions to achieve specific desired properties in bronze.

Summary

This article presented types of bronze, explained each of them, and discussed each one's details and uses. To learn more about types of bronze, contact a Xometry representative.

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Xomety X
Team Xometry
This article was written by various Xometry contributors. Xometry is a leading resource on manufacturing with CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, 3D printing, injection molding, urethane casting, and more.