Evolution of Quality Standards for Wire Bars and Cathodes

Additonal authors: Alarcón Sch., R.. Book title: Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019. Chapter: . Chapter title:

Proceedings, Vol. Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019, 2019

Abel F., R.

For many years, copper cathode quality has been a priority for end consumers, since it affects the variety of products that can be obtained from them. From the beginning, physical and chemical quality of the wire bars was controlled, as this product was used to obtain wire rod and other forms of copper by wire drawing. At that time, all the electro refined cathodes were melted and casted as wire bars. Subsequently, in the 80’s, with the introduction of continuous casting furnaces, it was possible to directly produce wire rod from cathodes. From then on, cathodes quality standards were consistently increased, by the introduction of uniform criteria, among which we can identify ASTM and British Standards as well. Also, producers began to use more demanding internal standards than the existing specifications, in order to differentiate their cathodes as high quality products among customers. Today the physical aspect of cathodes, including nodules, cracks, sulfates, or others, is the first element used by end customers to assess their quality. This paper aims to show a brief vision of the evolution of quality specifications for products used to manufacture copper wire. INTRODUCTION From the beginning of refined copper production for industrial purposes, mandatory minimum quality conditions were established. These quality conditions were used as the main element to determine prices and discounts of the respective sales contracts. Reviewing the copper development history, we can appreciate that its quality requirements had been constantly evolved, so that currently refined copper has an extremely high quality standard, that allows its direct use in the production of ultra-thin cables and other products applied in the industry. In each stage, refined copper production has fostered the development of technology used in their treatment. Similarly, cathode processing technology has been evolving to minimize treatment costs in order to generate a wire rod for several uses, ranging from power cables to super conductors. In this sense, to the already known type of fusion processes of the Southwire or Asarco type (capacities over 80 kt / year), wire rod production processes of the Upcast or Rautomead type (capacities between 20-50k t / year) have been added. They immediately deliver oxygen-free wire rods. In both cases, we can conclude that the clients' requirement had evolved from a chemical criteria focus, to considering more subjective aspects, such as visual control as the first stage of inspection.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019