Farmer's Copper Blog

Hospitals Gaining Interest in Copper

Ancient Egyptians used copper to sterilize chest wounds and drinking water. Greeks, Romans and Aztecs relied on copper compounds to treat burns, headaches and ear infections. Thousands of years later, the ancient therapeutic is being embraced by some hospitals because of its ability to kill bacteria and other microbes on contact, which can help reduce deadly infections.

At least 15 hospitals across the country have installed, or are considering installing, copper components on “high-touch” surfaces easily contaminated with microbes — faucet handles on sinks, cabinet pulls, toilet levers, call buttons and IV poles.
“We’ve known for a long time that copper and other metals are effective in killing microbes, so it wasn’t a great leap to incorporate copper surfaces into hospitals,” said John Lynch, medical director of infection control at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center, which is redesigning a waste-disposal room to incorporate copper on light switches and door handles.

For many hospitals, the death of Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan last year at a Dallas hospital heightened concerns — two nurses caring for him caught the virus because of poor infection control. And even before that, public health officials had identified nearly two dozen dangerous pathogens — many of them resistant to virtually all antibiotics — whose spread in health facilities and elsewhere could result in potentially catastrophic consequences.

They include MRSA, a potentially deadly infection that is increasing in community settings; VRE, which can cause a variety of infections; and C. diff, which causes life-threatening diarrhea and sends 250,000 people to the hospital every year.

On any given day, about 1 in 25 patients in acute-care hospitals has at least one health-care-associated infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pneumonia and surgical-site infections are among the most common. In 2011, about 75,000 patients with health-care-associated infections died in the hospital.

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Copper Metals Exceptional Resistance to Corrosion

One of the most outstanding and certainly the most complex features of copper metals is their corrosion resistance. Corrosion is usually defined as a deterioration or failure of metal by chemical or electrochemical processes. However, since corrosion is a reaction of a metal’s surface to its environment, deterioration does not take place until the corrosion penetrates the surface.

All copper metals react quickly to their environment and form a film of surface oxidation. However, this tarnish, or patina, affects only the appearance and not the matrix of the metal. Therefore, the metal itself does not deteriorate. It is protected by the surface oxidation, which is generally not soluble in water, and which adheres tightly to the surface, preventing exposure to further environmental corrosion. In effect, the extremely long life of copper metals is due mainly to the fact that their oxidized surfaces protect them from further deterioration.

Copper metals offer excellent resistance to industrial, rural, and marine atmospheres. Dry atmosphere way from the seacoast will produce the least surface discoloration, while industrial and marine atmospheres will produce maximum coloration.

Fresh water exposure: Copper tubing is commonly used for fresh water piping.

Sea water exposure: Many copper alloys are used for sea water applications, C122, C443, C444, C445, C614, C655, C687, C706, C710, and C715.

Steam exposure: All copper metals are resistant to attack by pure steam, but if there is much carbon dioxide, oxygen, or ammonia present, the steam condensate may be harmful.

Sanitary drainage: Copper tube (alloy 122) generally gives excellent service for residential drainage.

Soil corrosion: According to tests by the National Bureau of Standards, copper and copper alloys having low or no zinc content offer excellent resistance to soil corrosion.

Dezincification: Acidic water which comes into contact with copper metals containing 15% or more zinc causes dezincification. Here both the copper and the zinc are leached out of the metal by the acid.

Electrolytic corrosion: This can occur under two different conditions. One, called galvanic action, is contact between dissimilar metals in the presence of an electrolyte. The other occurs when an outside current of electricity passes through an electrolyte from a copper metal.

Specialty Metals Frequently Asked Questions

The United States has implemented extensive and complex rules aimed at restricting the use of non-domestic “Specialty Metals” in the defense acquisition process. The stated goal is to protect the U.S. defense industry from becoming overly dependent on foreign sources of supply, especially in times of conflict. These rules are codified in public laws such as the “Berry Amendment” (10 U.S.C. 2533a) and the National Defense Authorizations Acts of FY 2006 and 2007 (10 U.S.C. 2533b and revisions).

Since December 2006, the Department of Defense (DoD) has issued an increasing number of memos attempting to regulate, clarify and otherwise implement the intent of these laws. Most of the legislative and regulatory changes over the last two years have been the result of lobbying struggles in Washington and attempts to explain the application of the law to a very confused domestic defense supply base. The following Q&A is an attempt to assist defense manufacturers in understanding and complying with these laws.

Q: What are specialty metals?
A: Per DFARS 252.225-7014 (a) (2), “Specialty metals” means:
“(i) Steel—
(A) With a maximum alloy content exceeding one or more of the following limits: manganese, 1.65 percent; silicon, 0.60 percent; or copper, 0.60 percent; or
(B) Containing more than 0.25 percent of any of the following elements: aluminum, chromium, cobalt, columbium, molybdenum, nickel, titanium, tungsten, or vanadium;
(ii) Metal alloys consisting of nickel, iron-nickel, and cobalt base alloys containing a total of other alloying metals (except iron) in excess of 10 percent;
(iii) Titanium and titanium alloys; or
(iv) Zirconium and zirconium base alloys.”

Q: Where can I get a copy of DFARS clauses?

Q: Which countries are “qualifying countries”?
A: Refer to DFARS 225.872-1 General

Q: What are the restrictions on using specialty metals on defense contracts?
A: Generally the restrictions apply to the country of origin where the specialty metal was melted or “smelted”. Only specialty metal melted in the U.S. or a “Qualifying Country” may be used in DoD weapons and space products unless other exemptions apply under law. Note: the exemptions to specialty metals laws have changed frequently and sometimes dramatically during the 2006-2008 fiscal years. It is essential that 2 contractors and suppliers know which clause, deviation and affectivity date applies to their various defense contracts.

Q: What effect do these restrictions have on the defense industry?
A: While the effects are wide ranging, generally the law favors “Qualifying Countries”, forces some suppliers to maintain dual inventories and impacts many prime contractors’ ability to meet schedules and stay competitive.

Q: Is this a quality issue?
A: No. This is a contractual compliance/non-compliance issue, not having anything to do with technical non-conformances.

Q: If the first melting occurs in Korea, but the metal is melted again in the U.S., is it considered compliant?
A: The foundry location where final melting is accomplished establishes domesticity. For titanium, if sponge is shipped to the United States for final smelting into ingots or finished stock, it is compliant. If domestic steel is remelted overseas to create a different specialty metal, it is NOT complaint (unless the melting is done in a qualifying country and the end product to DoD is not the metal itself). If domestic steel is remelted overseas to produce a product of the same material (i.e. in a casting operation) it is not compliant unless the casting is incorporated into a commercially available off-the-shelf item or subsystem.

What Does ISO Certified Mean?

ISO is an International Organization for Standardization and being certified to this standard proves that you properly maintain quality objectives in order to ensure customer satisfaction. AS9100c is the quality management standard for the aerospace industry and supersedes the ISO 9001 because it has even higher quality standards that must be followed by a company in order to meet the requirements of the standard. These standards are monitored, audited, and are guidelines for an organization’s key processes that ensuring the company adheres to quality standards. The ISO 9000 family addresses various aspects of quality management and contains some of ISO’s best known standards. The standards provide guidance and tools for companies and organizations who want to ensure that their products and services consistently meet customer’s requirements, and that quality is consistently improved.

Standards in the ISO 9000 family include:
• ISO 9001:2008 – sets out the requirements of a quality management system
• ISO 9000:2005 – covers the basic concepts and language
• ISO 9004:2009 – focuses on how to make a quality management system more efficient and effective.
• ISO 19011:2011 – sets out guidance on internal and external audits of quality management systems.

***Farmer’s Copper became ISO 9001 certified in April of 2007 and in June of 2011 the AS9100c certification was achieved. Farmer’s key processes are as follows:

• Sales
• Purchasing
• Production
• Inspection
• Shipping

Each of these processes is vital to improve customer satisfaction and efficiency. The processes have procedures, guidelines and on the job training to ensure that everyone understands and follows the system.

Each month the progress of each process is monitored and charted. These charts measure the percentage of each for compliance with the goal for 100% Customer Satisfaction. The charts are posted for all to monitor and track all processes.

More on ISO 9001:2008…

ISO 9001:2008 sets out the criteria for a quality management system and is the only standard in the family that can be certified to (although this is not a requirement). It can be used by any organization, large or small, regardless of its field of activity. In fact ISO 9001:2008 is implemented by over one million companies and organizations in over 170 countries.

This standard is based on a number of quality management principles including a strong customer focus, the motivation and implication of top management, the process approach and continual improvement. Using ISO 9001:2008 helps ensure that customers get consistent, good quality products and services, which in turn brings many business benefits.

Checking that the system works is a vital part of ISO 9001:2008. An organization must perform internal audits to check how its quality management system is working. An organization may decide to invite an independent certification body to verify that it is in conformity to the standard, but there is no requirement for this. Alternatively, it might invite its clients to audit the quality system for themselves.

A New Home Sweet Home for Farmer’s Copper

Farmer’s Copper began its legacy on Galveston Island in 1920 and has grown to be a successful family-owned and operated metal service center moving into the fourth generation of their family partnership. Our successful growth in the metal service industry has allowed our company to take the next step in acquiring a new location that fits the needs for our business. We are excited to announce Farmer’s Copper Ltd upcoming relocation of its headquarters to a new upgraded facility in Texas City coming this Fall; 20 miles north from our current Galveston location. Our new location is conveniently situated close to Interstate 45 providing greater efficiency for our Houston area customers.

“Having a facility that is well planned, and built out for your specific use, is very important when you are trying to gain efficiencies for the company” says Brent Farmer, Quality Manager. A whole new office complex and warehouse facility is being outfitted for Farmer’s Copper Ltd to help improve its distribution and value added operations. “We are most looking forward to the unity of the company”, says Co-President Richard Farmer, as the new location is combining two warehouses into one to better meet our customers’ needs. This new location will bring better business continuity, and strengthen the Farmer’s Copper supply chain in order to continue to provide products that meet or exceed the quality standards expected by our customers. Truth, Quality, and Service, is the motto at Farmer’s Copper Ltd, so being able to efficiently serve our customers not only in our local area, but worldwide is a top priority.
This move will not affect our continued business operations as Farmer’s will continue to service the needs of our customers throughout the move process and do so diligently ensuring the upmost quality of service. We are thankful for our customers and for the business they entrust to us. We look forward to continuing these lasting relationships for years to come.