Playing up Beryllium Copper’s strengths

Ensure you get the most out of this red-metal alloy by understanding its unique properties

With each new generation of electronics, laptops get slimmer and more powerful and cell phones have even greater capacities for the amount of apps, music, and streaming sports and television that consumers want to carry around with them. All these advances in technology increase the demand for smaller and smaller parts that work just as well as larger ones.

Miniaturization uses technological innovation to manufacture smaller mechanical, optical, and electronic products and devices, and Beryllium Copper-containing alloys are a key part of this trend. Beryllium Copper is used in components like connectors, switches, relays, and micromotors in the telecommunications, aerospace, and automotive industries.

Beryllium Copper also is known as Beryllium Bronze or Spring Copper. It’s a copper alloy that includes between 0.5 percent and 3 percent Beryllium, as well as other elements. Beryllium is a gray, strong, lightweight metalloid (an element that has properties in common with both metals and nonmetals). Pure Beryllium is brittle, but it improves physical properties when added to an alloy in combination with other elements.

There are two main groups of Beryllium Copper alloys—high strength and high conductivity alloys. These alloys typically are used in applications that require a unique set of properties: excellent formability, high fatigue strength, good hysteresis properties, and creep resistance. Many of the Beryllium Copper alloys have similar mechanical properties to high-strength steels, but they are more corrosion resistant, making them a good choice for parts that require a corrosion-resistant material that has a relatively high electrical conductivity coupled with high strength.

Beyond electrical components, non-sparking Beryllium Copper often is used for tools in potentially hazardous environments, such as in mining, gas, and petrochemical. It’s a good choice for investment casting, sand casting and can be used for general engineering applications, including cams, bushings, valves, pump parts, and lever arms. Beryllium Copper also can be used in the jewelry and other industries to manufacture molds for plastic or ornamental parts.

Beryllium Copper is sold as a master alloy, as well. A master alloy is an additive that can be used to adjust the composition of an alloy during its creation or function as a deoxidant, degasifier or desulphurizing agent. Beryllium Copper master alloys are formulated to introduce small percentages of Beryllium to a new melt or address the amounts of Beryllium lost through oxidation in remelts. Alloy manufacturers often choose to add small amounts of Beryllium to an alloy to increase the efficiency of the melting process and to enhance material properties such as strength, toughness, ductility, fluidity and corrosion resistance.

Brooklyn, New-York-based Belmont Metals carries Beryllium Copper alloys in a variety of forms, including ingots, cut bar, polished cubes, and polished and unpolished shot. One of Belmont’s most popular Beryllium Copper alloys is 20C, CDA 825, which contains 2 percent Beryllium, 0.5 percent Cobalt, and 0.25 percent Silicon. 20C is known for its high-strength, ability to capture detail in castings and attractive color. Alloys containing different percentages of Beryllium have varied properties, strengths, and weaknesses. A consultation with a metallurgist or experienced alloy manufacturer can help narrow down which formulation will work best in a specific application.