Strictly speaking, bronze is an alloy of copper and tin. However, bronze is also used to describe a wider range of copper based alloys
Generally, bronze alloys consist of about 12% tin, though some specialised products may contain as much as 20%. Phosphor bronzes have an addition of phosphor to improve strength and hardness. Superior attributes can often be attained through the addition of other elements to the basic bronze alloy. As well as phosphor, zinc and lead are the most common additions.
A leaded bronze will generally have better machining characteristics than an unleaded bronze. It will, however, retain a plasticity that makes it ideal for applications such as the production of bearings, as it allows slacker tolerances to be absorbed if softer shaft materials are used.
Adding zinc to bronze alloys results in an alloy commonly known as “gunmetal”. This derives from the use of this product in early culverins etc., used because of its hardness and strength. It also has good resistance to corrosion and finds many applications in the marine industry. Added lead improves the machinability of this product.
Aluminium bronze has become well established in the manufacture of avionic equipment as well as use in naval and military applications due to its enhanced corrosion resistance.
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