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Application of Powder Metallurgy Technology in Copper

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The first application of copper powder was mixing copper and tin powder to make bronze parts. In the early 1920s, USMR located in caltlett, New Jersey, began producing electrolytic copper powder. The plant is small but has a large cathode tank. At the peak of production, the plant produces about 455 tons of copper powder per month. In the mid-1980s, smelters and electrolytic refiners were forced to shut down. Because of the closure of caltlett plant, there were no electrolytic copper powder products produced in the United States, although some tried to produce the powder. Today, electrolytic copper powder is produced in Europe, Japan, Russia, India and South Korea.

Electrolytic copper powder particles have the characteristics of dendritic shape. Through adjusting process, apparent density is less than 1 g/cm3, and the strength of green part is more than 35MP. The apparent density can be increased by adjusting sedimentation process and post-treatment of powder.

In the United States, copper powder in spherical or irregular shapes can be produced by water atomization and gas atomization combined with REDOX. Physical properties of atomized powder (such as bulk density, fluidity, particle size and strength of the green billet) are related to process conditions, such as specific additives, melting temperature, atomization pressure, reduction temperature and post-treatment of powder. Particle size and reduction temperature after atomization are the key factors to determine powder products.

The properties of atomized REDOX powder are basically the same as that of electrolytic copper powder except that dendritic powder and very low bulk density are required. 

Self-lubricating copper-tin-based oil-bearing (with internal pores) is a unique characteristic of powder metallurgy. This kind of bearing is sintered to a certain density and the oil content in pores can reach 10 ~ 30%. Such bearings need to be lubricated periodically to ensure safe operation throughout equipment life. Self - lubricating bearings were first used in buick automobile industry in 1920. Its usage in other industries is considerable and has changed household appliances industry.  Manufacture self-lubricating bearings consumes approximately 55% of copper powder.

Cu-pb and cu-pb-sn bearings are used in automotive, turbine, thrust washer and industrial pump equipment. Steel material has replaced casting and forging bronze bearing. The powder is coated on steel substrate and reached a certain densification through sintering and rolling. The porosity of final product is less than 0.25%.

By atomizing to produce brass powder and nickel silver alloy powder, the zinc content of brass powder in 10% ~ 30%, sometimes add lead to improve mechanical properties. It has been applied in lock parts, instrument pointer and driving equipment. Because of its beautiful color, brass is used as a decorative metal medal. A large number of powder metallurgy parts show that PM process has great potential and creativity in the use of copper base materials.

Keywords in the article: powder metallurgy copper
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