Difference between 304 and 316 stainless steel

Thursday July 9th, 2020 | Sangjoo Kim | Expertise

304 Stainless Steel and 316 Stainless Steel are often compared since they cannot be distinguished by their looks but by their properties. In addition, they both are widely used in everyday life tools. However, they do have distinct differences that need to be considered before choosing one another.

The 304 stainless steel

SAE 304 stainless steel is the most common stainless steel. Steel includes chromium (between 15–20%) and nickel (between 2–10.5%) as the primary non-iron constituents. It’s an austenitic stainless steel. It is less conductive in terms of electricity and heat than carbon steel and is fundamentally non-magnetic. It has a greater resistance to corrosion than standard steel and is commonly used due to its ease in forming it into different forms.

304 stainless steel is used in a wide range of household and industrial applications such as food handling and processing equipment, screws, machine components and headers. 304 stainless steel is also used for exterior accents such as water and fire characteristics in the architectural sector.

304 Stainless Steel header

Source: speedwaymotors.com

The 316 stainless steel

316 grade stainless steel is an austenitic type of stainless steel known for its molybdenum content of 2-3 percent. The added molybdenum makes the metal corrosion resistant and improves strength when subjected to high temperatures.

When used in an acidic environment, this grade of stainless steel is particularly efficient. With this metal, it is possible to prevent corrosion induced by acetic, hydrochloric and other acid types.

Grade 316 stainless steel is intended for extreme environments or sectors requiring greater safety and resistance to corrosion than stainless steel under the 300 series. This stainless steel is also ideal for use with equipment for chemical processing as well as in the paper and textile industry. It is also the metal of choice for advanced surgical implants that are intended for the hostile body environment.

316 Stainless Steel Evaporator

Source: bendpro.com

It is a significant metal used in the marine industry, especially in fields that require a great deal of wear resistance and strength. Other stainless steel grades, such as 303, 304 and so on, are used in other instances that do not fulfill these circumstances. 

Thus, it is very important to choose the right material for safety issues and cost. If 316 is chosen for an indoor/non-marine related environment, it will be too expensive. If 304 is used for outdoor/marine environments, it may be dangerous to rely on it.