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What is the Difference Between Grade 304 and 316 Stainless Steel?

What is the Difference Between Grade 304 and 316 Stainless Steel?

Stainless steel comes in many different grades for different applications and industries. One of the first grades developed and often considered the workhorse of the industry is Grade 304. As an austenitic stainless steel grade, it is one of the number one choices for enduring corrosive environments. However, Grade 304 isn’t the only grade worth considering. In this article, we will go through Grade 304, Grade 316 and which you should choose.

Grade 304 Stainless Steel

A basic austenitic stainless steel, Grade 304 contains high levels of nickel (8 - 10.5%) and chromium (18 - 20%), giving it high corrosion resistance. The other alloying elements are silicon, manganese and iron in smaller quantities. Common applications for this grade include heat exchangers, fasteners, piping and commercial food processing equipment.

Grade 316 Stainless Steel

This grade has many of the same elements but the quantities of these are different. While Grade 316 still has high amounts of chromium and nickel, it also holds silicon, carbon, and manganese, with the major portion consisting of iron. The grade also has a denser chemical composition, with 2 - 3% molybdenum, which Grade 304 only has traces of. This makes it more resistant to corrosion. Applications for Grade 316 stainless steel include marine applications, medical devices, refinery equipment and chemical storage.

Which should You Should Be Using

Both Grade 304 and Grade 316 stainless steels have their benefits and uses.

Grade 304 is often the more affordable choice and chosen for this reason. Grade 316, while more expensive, is often used over Grade 304 for its high corrosion resistance. It is great for surroundings with a high concentration of corrosive elements, when the material will be exposed to water consistently and non-magnetic permeability is required.

Put simply, your choice is predominantly based on environment, application and length of use, with each having their place. Life cycle costing is also important to consider when choosing different grades of stainless steel for varying applications.

While these are some of the most common grades, there are over 50 stainless steel grades to choose from and having expert advice can be greatly beneficial. If you need assistance, talk to our team online or in person today.


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