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Brandauer’s story of electrification: Part three

October 18, 2021

Copper has been a crucial material in the automotive industry for some time, but the electrification of vehicles is putting more emphasis on the material’s use for critical stamped components and other parts. It makes sense; copper is a great conductor of electricity, and this feature ensures reliable electrical and electronic operations within a vehicle.

With a worldwide emphasis, backed by government initiatives geared toward EV adoption, battery metals of Cobalt, Lithium and Nickel will be garnering much attention. But copper has an equally important role to play.

Electric vehicle battery components, fuses, connectors and tab connectors, steering module components, terminals, and components for wind screen applications… The need for copper parts is a long list for any vehicle manufacturer and electric vehicles use more than double the copper of an internal combustion engine vehicle. That’s just the vehicle; the EV infrastructure will be just as reliant.

EV typeAverage copper content (Kilograms)
Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV)38.5
Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV)60
Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV)83

With increased demand for copper components, comes increased quality and complexity. Copper is a material that Brandauer has decades of experience in stamping to produce complex components in the millions. But Brandauer has noticed a trend for EV components to be more complex still, and thinner, which are both demands that Brandauer have capability confidence and can feel comfortable with. True precision after all is what the company was founded on.

Copper and complex components

Key for brandauer is the capability to supply tooling to manufacture copper components to micron tolerances; a hundredth of the thickness of a human hair. With such capability, Brandauer has become a trusted supplier of EV and automotive components that require difficult stamping processes. They’ll often require plating and stringent quality testing too.

Demands from the automotive industry are more than just component complexity and finishing, or even cost, timing, and quality. There is stringent demand for outstanding traceability and control of certain key characteristics such surface roughness, which needs to be tested for under non-contact procedures.

Brandauer has invested heavily in equipment such as the OGP Vantage 300 which is used for non-contact testing of surface roughness. A component to note is that of a lead frame stamped for power steering control systems, which not only pass surface roughness tests but are stamped in copper and tin plated for improved corrosion resistance. It’s a nice example of the full-service stamping solution Brandauer offers, and a highlight of the type of capability required for EV components.

Another component in high demand as the adoption of electric vehicles soars are busbars. Busbars are used to conduct electricity and connect electrical components and equipment in vehicles, power distribution, and storage systems. For the EV market, bespoke metal stamped busbars in differing sizes and complexity are required to transmit current from high-powered battery packs to several electrical applications. They include the engine itself and electric-powered features such as tyre sensors, and braking systems.

Copper component plating

Many Tier 1 and 2 manufacturers are finding that lead times on critical components like those mentioned above are lengthening, and this is often down to the need for selective plating. Stamping competitors overseas are finding it particularly difficult to shorten lead times on plated components, having not established key and reliant sources in the supply chain close to home.

Brexit and Covid disruptions have created a need for more resistant supply chains. Brandauer has an established partnership with a supplier very close to home so lead times are safe from disruption. This has proven to be a winning formula for customers in the EV and automotive markets who place on-time-delivery high on the agenda as the wheels of demand keep turning.

Plating options are several but of note is one process which finds itself most desirable when it comes to copper components in electric vehicles: Selective plating of finished components on a reel-to-reel basis means that the type of finish can be applied precisely where it is required.

Selective plating different metals in single or multiple strips along the entire length of a reel is a capability well established by Brandauer’s close supplier. And it can be a plain, part-blanked, or a fully stamped component strip. Spot plating using bespoke tools to deposit gold or silver onto a specific component area is also a much-desired technique, often for the critical contact surfaces of electrical connectors just 0.2mm diameter.

The story goes on

The important role copper is already playing in the electrification of vehicles is obvious, but it will be metal stampers that place emphasis on precision, quality, and the security of a reliant supply chain that will prosper most.

This series has covered how Brandauer were early adopters during the electrification of the factory in the early 1900’s, and how today, its electrical steel lamination, EloPin®, and copper component capabilities are all steering the industry towards overcoming the challenges of cleaner mobility in their own unique ways. Keep an eye on the blog and social media for part four and the final instalment of Brandauer’s story of electrification series.

Catch up on the series

Further reading

Brandauer’s story of electrification: Part one

Whilst a hot topic in manufacturing today, electrification is by no means a new trend. Much like Brandauer, its story starts in the 1800s.

Learn More
Further reading

Brandauer’s story of electrification: Part two

As the plans for electrically powered vehicles ploughs on and signals the end of the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, there will be heavy demand on PCB manufacturers.

Learn More

October 18, 2021

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