Stainless Steel 304 vs 316

Stainless Steel 304 vs 316

Published in Stainless Steel
10/15/2020

The differences between stainless steel grade 304 vs 306 might appear to be minimal, nevertheless in terms of manufacturing and their applications the distinctions are key to a correct performance of the metal alloys.

Stainless Steel 304

Stainless steel 304 is a chromium-nickel and low carbon content steel alloy; it is the most versatile and widely used of the austenitic stainless steels. Its alloys are all modifications of the 18% chromium and 8% nickel austenitic alloy.

Type 304 stainless steel alloys prove to be resistant to oxidation and corrosion with high durability. They all provide ease of fabrication and cleaning, prevention of product contamination, and offer a variety of finishes and appearances.

Common applications for type 304 stainless steel are:

  • corrosion resistant electrical enclosures
  • auto molding and trim
  • wheel covers
  • kitchen equipment
  • hose clamps
  • exhaust manifolds
  • stainless hardware
  • storage tanks
  • pressure vessels
  • piping


Stainless Steel 316

An austenitic chromium-nickel stainless and heat-resistant steel. When stainless steel 316 is exposed to many types of chemical corrodents such as seawater or brine solutions, it shows far superior anti-corrosion properties compared to other chromium-nickel steels.

It’s durable, easy to fabricate, clean, weld and finish. It has a higher resistance to sulfuric acid solutions, chlorides, bromides, iodides and fatty acids at high temperatures.

Stainless steels containing molybdenum are used in the pharmaceutical industry in order to avoid excess of metallic contamination.



What’s the difference?


304 stainless steel alloy contains 18% chromium and 8% nickel while stainless steel 316 contains 16% chromium, 10% nickel and 2% molybdenum.

Molybdenum is added to help resist corrosion to chlorides (like seawater and deicing salts).

Additionally, the melting point of grade 304 stainless steel is higher than 316 stainless steel. The melting range of 316 is 2,500 °F – 2,550 °F (1,371 °C – 1,399 °C), roughly 50 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the melting point of grade 304 stainless steel.


How do you know what steel you’re getting?

There’s no visible difference between two identical metal sheets; polished or grained they look exactly the same.

In order to validate the stainless steel grade you are receiving you need a material test report (MTR).

However, is it worth the extra cost?

For applications that require high corrosion resistance you should opt for the 316 stainless steel grade. In such applications it is recommended to request the MTR; 316 stainless will last longer than grade 304, which translates into a longer useful life.

However, for applications using milder acids or where salt exposure isn’t a concern, the stainless steel 304 alloy will work just as well.

Diversified Ulbrich provides different stainless steel grades for every industrial application, click here to visit our stainless steel inventory or contact us via chat for more information.


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