Capitalising on the characteristics of copper

Date: 25/10/2023

THERE’S something about copper that makes it stand out from other metals. It could be its rich reddish-brown colour so reminiscent of autumn or the warming golden glow it takes on when highly polished.

Its attractive hue makes it a natural choice for decorative elements like wall panels, splash backs and architectural features on buildings; even gutters and downspouts have been known to be made out of copper. More personal decorative items like jewellery are also often made from copper.

Highly versatile

But appearance aside, copper is a highly versatile and practical metal, widely used for various applications across multiple industries, although with unique properties that can make it tricky to handle.

© Sam Toolsie 2021
Moral Rights Asserted; This work may not be reproduced without the permission of Sam Toolsie.

It is soft and malleable which can make it prone to scratching and denting but handle with care and you have a material that is an excellent conductor of heat, resistant to erosion in many environments and has natural antimicrobial qualities.

No self-respecting cookery show would be without the gleam of copper kitchenware with utensils like pots, pans and mixing bowls capitalising on the metal’s heat conductivity properties.

Likewise, it is commonly used in HVAC systems for heat exchangers, in the construction of radiators and heat sinks and, in the automotive industry, for components like radiators, brake lines and gaskets. Its anti-corrosion properties in saltwater also make it ideal for use in marine environments with boat hulls, propellers and other components being made of copper sheet metal.

Mitigating the challenges

Copper’s versatility makes it a sought-after material but working with it does come with a set of certain ‘dos and don’ts’ …

  • DO select the right thickness of copper sheet for your project. Too thin or too thick can lead to structural problems or difficulties in working with the material.
  • DO choose the right type of copper for your job. Not all coppers are corrosion resistant in all circumstances. Some can corrode in acidic or highly alkaline conditions.
  • DO take care – cutting copper sheet metal can leave sharp edges which are not only a health and safety concern but can lead to fabrication challenges.
  • DON’T rush it! Excessive heat or overlapping cuts on a single pass can lead to all kinds of problems.
  • DON’T skimp when it comes to welding and soldering. Copper requires specific techniques due to its high thermal conductivity.

The YLF approach

Laser cutting copper sheet metal can be a precise and efficient process but the challenges and technicalities that come from working with copper mean it’s not for the inexperienced or faint hearted! Here at Yorkshire Laser and Fabrication we have been working with copper sheet metal for more than 30 years and have developed something of a flair for it.

We have the experience to advise you on the type of copper needed for your specific job plus the specialised equipment and skilled craftsmen required to operate it to manufacture your copper items exactly as you want them. We have:

  • The specialised laser cutting system needed for cutting highly reflective materials like copper with precise focusing to ensure a clean cut and the capability to expel molten material to prevent oxidation during the cutting process.
  • The capability to design and build bespoke ‘jigs’ to clamp copper sheets in place, properly securing them to prevent movement during cutting that can lead to inaccurate cuts and deformed metal.
  • The expertise and patience to customise the use of the laser to prevent excessive heat which can deform thin sheets and lead to poor edge quality.
  • Skilled welders able to manage the heat carefully during the welding or soldering part of the fabrication process to prevent overheating, warping or melting the copper.
  • Pride in our workmanship. We know how to handle the metal that can so easily be surface stained by fingerprints, oils and other contaminants. We will carry out proper deburring and edge-smoothing to achieve a premium finish. We can advise on protective coatings that can be applied to maintain the original appearance of the copper and guard against the natural oxidation over time that can give that often-seen greenish patina.

© Sam Toolsie 2021
Moral Rights Asserted; This work may not be reproduced without the permission of Sam Toolsie.

Get in touch

There is no doubt that copper sheet metal can produce stunning results but attention to detail and an understanding of the metal’s unique characteristics are essential if these are to be achieved.

Yorkshire Laser offers just that. We have the right equipment and skilled craftsmen needed to make your copper components not only fit for purpose but a thing of beauty. To find out more give us a call today on 01924 220236 or contact us here.