What is the difference between 304 and 316 steel?
While often almost impossible to tell apart at a glance, the subtle differences between grades of steel can often have huge differences in their applications and the way they perform. 304 and 316 are the two most common grades of stainless steel – but what exactly is the difference between the two?
304 is the most widely-used grade of stainless steel in the world thanks to its excellent performance and low cost. Its popularity means it can be found being used in all sorts of applications around the world, from kitchen appliances to storage tanks.
316 steel is more expensive and consequently less popular than 304 steel. It’s commonly used in industrial applications, at sea thanks to its resistance to salt corrosion and in medical and pharmaceutical manufacturing owing to its non-reactive qualities.
What’s the difference?
The difference between 304 and 316 grade stainless steel lies in the elements that make up the two alloys. Compared to 304, 316 steel contains less chromium but a greater amount of nickel. It also contains an element called molybdenum, a hard-wearing and resistant metal that’s only found in trace amounts in 304 steel.
In terms of their practical differences, the two steels are broadly similar and will perform comparably in most situations. The difference can be found in particularly difficult conditions, especially those where sustained exposure to chlorides and chlorinated solutions occurs. In marine environments, for example, 316 steel will do a better job than 304 steel of resisting corrosion from salt exposure.
To sum up, 304 steel is cheaper, more popular and perfectly adequate for most applications. 316 steel is more expensive, but its greater durability and corrosion resistance make it the better choice for more demanding situations.
With an extensive range of quality products and decades of experience, Anglo Stainless are experts in all things stainless steel. For more information, feel free to get in touch by calling 01924 430 044 or using our easy contact form.