Selecting the Right Contact Base Materials for Use in Electrical Engineering Applications

When designing a device or switch that calls for electrical contacts, it’s important to know what metal characteristics and properties you need for optimum performance. Choosing the right base materials will ensure that the contacts in your product will last the life of your product. A good electrical contact manufacturer will work closely with you to determine your exact needs and recommend the perfect electrical contact for you. They can also let you know if there are any concerns for your specific application.

Electrical contacts are an important part of any electrical device. They’re especially important for switching devices as they must remain in good physical and electrical shape for the life of the product. If they wear out too quickly, the product’s useful life will be shortened. Contact materials must exhibit a number of properties to work well and withstand the process of completing and breaking the electrical circuit. Some of those properties include high arc erosion resistance, high resistance against welding, and good arc extinguishing capability. Let’s look at a few excellent choices for electrical contact materials.


An alloy is a combination of two or more metals that is better than each individual metal on its own. Electrical contact manufacturers can mix metals in such a way to take advantage of the properties for both, while minimizing the negative properties of each individual metal. The result is an alloy that can be customized for your specific needs, ensuring that it will last for as long as necessary.

Composite materials

Composite materials are similar to alloys but typically use materials other than metals as part of the blend. Composites are particularly valuable for situations that utilize higher electrical current. Composites can be made to better resist and withstand the tendency of high electric current to arc and weld contact surfaces together. Composites are typically made through a sintering process to ensure that the materials are evenly distributed throughout the contacts.


Different Metals Used in Making Electrical Contacts

There are several materials and alloys that are used in creating contact materials in electrical contacts, which are both meant to help construct electrically conductive connective materials. Here are some different alloy materials used in constructing electrical contacts.

Refractory Contacts

Refractory contacts are important in helping conduct electrical current through strategic placement in devices. The necessary conductivity and resistance help determine just what materials should be chosen for your product. The following are materials used to create refractory electrical contacts:

  • Silver tungsten
  • Silver Tungsten Carbide
  • Silver Graphite
  • Silver Tungsten Graphite Carbide
  • Copper Tungsten

In successful electrical contacts manufacturing, buttons help your finished product be as effective as possible. The following are alloys used in the composition of creating both single buttons and multi-layer buttons:

  • Silver Cadmium Oxide
  • Silver Tin Oxide
  • Silver Nickel
  • Silver Alloy
  • Copper and Copper Alloy
  • Steel and Nickel Monel
  • Braze Alloy

Rivets are created with the distinct purpose of extending that conductivity. The materials used and how they are constructed need to target the specific construction needs of the end-result product. The following are types of rivets that are manufactured to serve electrical contacts:

  • Construction
    • Solid
    • Multi-Layer
    • Head and Shank
      • Straight Side
      • Chamfer Side
      • Step Side
      • Indent
      • Chamfer
      • Riveted Assemblies
Surface Features and Shapes

Varied shapes serve distinct purposes for the benefit of your products. The following alloy distinctions can help make a more intuitive design that enables a more efficiency and resiliency. Here are some characteristics that can be expected:

  • Knurl and Score Lines
    • For Backing Designations
    • Projections
      • For Welding
      • Nibs
        • For Locating on the Substrate
        • Serrations
          • For Desired Performance
          • Shapes
              • Square
              • Rectangular
              • Circular
              • Washer
              • Cylindrical
              • Spherical

            There are a wide range of metals that are used in making electrical contacts. In order to create a manufacturing plan best suited to your product, it doesn’t hurt to consult with an electrical contacts manufacturer to learn more.