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Brass Die Casting vs Aluminum Die Casting: Which is Better for Your Application?

Die casting is a efficient manufacturing process that involves forcing molten metal under high pressure into a steel mold or die to produce dimensionally accurate, sharply defined metal parts. Two of the most commonly die cast metals are brass and aluminum. Brass and aluminum die castings each have their own advantages and disadvantages depending on the specific application. Here is an overview of brass die casting versus aluminum die casting to help you select the best option for your project.

Brass Die Casting

Brass is an alloy composed primarily of copper and zinc. The ratios of copper and zinc can be adjusted to create different brass alloys with varying properties, but common standard brass contains 60-80% copper and 20-40% zinc.

Brass is valued for its high density, corrosion resistance, attractive gold-like color, and excellent machinability. Key advantages of brass die casting include:

- High tensile strength and hardness - Brass has a tensile strength ranging from 270 to 510 MPa, making it stronger than aluminum. The zinc component improves strength and hardness.

- Excellent corrosion resistance - The copper in brass gives it excellent resistance to corrosion, making it suitable for plumbing applications and marine environments. Brass can withstand salt spray, moisture, detergents, and acids.

- Dimensional stability - Brass has very low shrink rates (0.0016-0.0032 in/in) allowing brass die castings to hold tight dimensions and tolerances.

- High temperature properties - Brass maintains its strength and hardness even at high temperatures. It has a melting point of 900-940°C.

- Attractive finish - Brass has an aesthetically pleasing gold-like shine. The color can range from reddish brown to light yellow depending on the copper-zinc ratio.

- Machinability - Brass is relatively easy to machine compared to metals like steel. It has good chip-breaking properties.

- Recyclability - Brass has high scrap value and is highly recyclable. Brass components can contain up to 85% recycled metal content.

Common applications of brass die castings include:

- Plumbing fixtures, valves, and pipe fittings
- Musical instruments
- Decorative hardware and lighting fixtures
- Cable connectors and other electronic components
- Costume jewelry
- Automotive parts

Aluminum Die Casting

Aluminum is a lightweight, soft, low strength metal. Pure aluminum does not make strong die castings, so other elements like silicon, magnesium, and zinc are added to improve the aluminum alloy properties. Common aluminum alloys used for die casting include ADC12, ADC10, and A380.

Some key advantages of aluminum die casting are:

- Light weight - Aluminum is a very light metal with a density of 2.7 g/cm3, making it much lighter than brass (8.4-8.7 g/cm3 density). This allows larger aluminum parts to be produced.

- High dimensional stability - Like brass, aluminum also shrinks very little during solidification. Aluminum castings hold tight tolerances.

- Fast production - Aluminum heats and cools quickly, enabling faster die casting cycle times. More aluminum castings can be produced per hour.

- Easy finishing - Aluminum parts can be painted, powder coated, and polished easily. Anodizing can provide color and corrosion protection.

- Conductivity - Aluminum is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity.

- Cost effectiveness - Raw aluminum is cheaper than brass. Combined with fast production rates, aluminum die casting can be economical for large production runs.

- Recyclability - Almost 75% of all aluminum produced has been recycled, thanks to its high scrap value and recyclability.

Typical applications of aluminum die castings:

- Automotive parts like wheels, pistons, engine blocks, cylinder heads, gears
- Consumer electronics housing and frames
- Appliances such as machines washers and dryers
- Medical equipment parts
- Military and aircraft components
- Furniture hardware and fixtures

Brass Die Casting vs Aluminum Die Casting Comparison

Here is a direct comparison of some of the key differences between brass and aluminum die castings:

- Density - Brass has 3x the density of aluminum, making aluminum much lighter. But brass is heavier and often feels higher quality.

- Strength - Brass has a higher tensile and yield strength compared to aluminum. Brass is the stronger metal.

- Hardness - Brass has a Brinell hardness number (BHN) of 65-120 while aluminum alloys have a BHN of 20-60. The zinc in brass imparts hardness.

- Melting point - The melting point of brass is nearly double that of aluminum. Brass maintains its properties better in high heat environments.

- Corrosion resistance - Brass exhibits excellent corrosion resistance while aluminum is susceptible to corrosion, especially when in contact with other metals.

- Machinability - Brass is relatively easy to machine and drill. Aluminum can cause tool wear and requires rigid well-supported tools.

- Thermal conductivity - Aluminum is an excellent conductor of heat. Brass has lower thermal conductivity.

- Electrical conductivity - Aluminum also has high electrical conductivity. Brass has poor conductivity.

- Initial cost - Raw aluminum is cheaper than brass. But brass machining may be faster than aluminum which can offset some cost difference.

- Appearance - Brass has an attractive golden shine while aluminum has a more industrial metallic look. Anodizing can improve the appearance of aluminum.

For applications that demand higher strength, hardness, and corrosion resistance, brass die castings often make the best choice. But for larger parts where light weight is critical or conductivity is needed, aluminum die castings may be ideal. For small complex parts with thin walls, aluminum alloy ADC12 offers excellent fluidity and fast cycle times. The properties must be matched to the specific needs of each part and application.

Both brass and aluminum castings can serve specialized purposes across a diverse range of industries. Many factors come into play when selecting the best metal for a die cast part including function, size, complexity, dimensional tolerances, appearance, production runs, and cost. Each application has unique requirements that make brass better for certain situations and aluminum preferable for others.

Working with a trusted die casting company that is experienced in both brass and aluminum allows you to get expert advice specific to your project. A knowledgeable die caster can guide you through the advantages and disadvantages of each option to arrive at the right solution for your product goals, performance needs and budget. Partnering with an excellent die casting supplier ensures you get precisely the material, geometry, and properties required for optimal results from your die cast parts every time. CNC Milling CNC Machining