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Is Stainless Steel Better than Brass?

January 22, 2018

They call it brassware, right? 

They've used brass for decades, right?

Everyone is ok with using brass, aren't they? 

 

Or are they not?

 

There is a question arising in your head right now and it is: why would I want to get into this stainless steel thing, when brass is working just fine? And we even have low-lead brass, don't we? 

And you are just right.

Right in that is a very good question for anyone in the industry to work on.

So, let's try and shed some light on this dilemma but, please, allow me not to indulge in the INOX Steel vs. Brass fight: I'd rather a more neutral approach.

 

Why is Brass this much popular?

 

I can think of at least a few points that I am convinced describe why this metal is so popular and define the technical advantages of making shower-heads and spouts (and also faucets) in brass.

As we at ZINOX Laser are experts in shower and tub elements I will focus on these elements.

 

Let's list these points:

  1. brass is relatively easy to machine, also via extrusion, even to complex shapes;

  2. brass have long been cheaper than other materials, cheaper than steel, that is;

  3. brass is harder than many other metal and hence offers a good resistance to abrasion from use and cleaning;

  4. brass has several finishing available: polishing, lacquering, "bronzing", plating, painting;

  5. parts are joined by brazing which often provide a much cleaner joint and generally is more cost-effective, with a great degree of control suitable for automation, than welding.

Some point to be considered with brass are that:

  1. brass, when smelted can produce bubbles inside it which, when working the material out to the desired shape, might lead to scrap pieces, thus increasing the waste ratio.

  2. brass is an alloy comprising of copper and zinc in different percentage to which is usually added lead for machinability. Lead is added in a percentage ranging from 4% down to 0,25% (low-lead brass). In some countries or states like in California, laws have been passed to control the amount of lead and manufactures have agreed to limit the amount of lead in brass alloy. 
    In fact, in California, lead-free materials must be used for"each component that comes into contact with the wetted surface of pipes and pipe fittings, plumbing fittings and fixtures." On January 1, 2010, the maximum amount of lead in "lead-free brass" in California was reduced from 4% to 0.25% lead. An interesting note, hence, is that "lead-free brass" actually should be called "low-lead brass", thus certifying that lead is always added into brass.
    Even if coated inside, a brass piece will eventually get back into the environment in your local landfills;

  3. due to the need to finish the  brass surface, by mean of a galvanic process which involves proper and thorough degreasing and cleaning of the part before nickel plating and the chrome flash-plating it, the process can go wrong in several points making the final result more delicate to use and cleaning, creating unaesthetical glitch and opening the way to potential corrosion.

  4. the use of brazing instead of welding leads to less strong joint compared to welding, especially to TIG welding.

 

What are Stainless Steel strengths point?

 

  1. food grade quality, being corrosion-resistant to most acid involved in faucets and showers or tubs element;

  2. no lead in the alloy types used in bath-ware. Lead might be present in some of the ferritic ones, which are not used in this industry because they're not stainless;

  3. sleek, modern look by nature. In fact brass shower-heads are often chrome-plated in order to "look like steel";

  4. when cleaned, no layering off due to wear is possible because the material is both harder than brass and not lacquered nor plated to look like that but only just mirror- or satin-polished;

  5. yet you can get creative if you wish, by adding a finishing to gold plate it, colour plate it or anything you like;

  6. stainless steel is machined by drawing metal sheets with presses, laser cutting and numeric control bending them, all process highly suitable for automated process;

  7. CO2 laser cutting creates an almost null HAZ (Heat Altered Zone) and allows for an extremely accurate cut (0,2 mm in up to 4 mm thick metal sheet) that can deliver incredibly accurate shapes for a perfect fitting when assembled and advanced shapes and water-flowing solutions that convey a sense of great modernity.

And how about the weak points?

  1. Investments on technology are higher and so are those in personnel with skills in using them;

  2. costs of raw material used to be higher than that of brass. 

Any question about the process of creating stainless steel elements?

Check the ZINOX Laser YouTube page!

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