Study Finds Brass Has Profit Potential for High-Speed Machine Shops



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U.S. machine shops with current or pending investments in machine tool upgrades can ramp up production speeds on brass parts with no loss of workpiece quality or tool life. These findings come from a recent study commissioned by the Copper Development Association Inc., which also found that current handbook values dramatically underestimate brass machining speeds and feeds.

The study, “High Speed Machining Advantages of Brass vs. Steel,” was carried out by Techsolve. 

Many manufacturers undershoot the machining capabilities of brass by up to 85 percent and have yet to benefit from the economic advantages that can be realized through high-speed machining, the study says. For example, single-point turning on modern CNC machine tools was shown to remove the same amount of brass up to 20 times faster than conventional machining rates applied on cam-operated screw machines. Even on a vertical machining center at speeds exceeding 16,500 rpm, brass produced little wear on carbide tools, yielding good surface finish and excellent chip control over the course of more than four hours of continuous turning. From an efficiency standpoint, production tests also showed that brass requires significantly less power per material removal rate than free-machining in both steel and stainless steel. A drilling test completed 1,000 holes in brass eight times faster than in stainless steel after optimizing machining parameters and cutting tools for both materials.

Brass allows manufacturers to take full advantage of today’s advanced machine tool capabilities, enabling shops to produce more parts in less time and with potentially lower costs per-part. Along with these production advantages, brass also offers 100 percent recyclability with full reusability of chips and scrap, which shops often sell back to raw material producers for 75 to 90 percent of the original brass value. Brass thus offers a favorable net material cost and a lighter environmental footprint compared to other machinable metals. For machine shops with high-speed equipment already on the floor, brass represents an opportunity to capture new profits they might otherwise miss with other materials, according to the study.