Did you know that 304 and 316 are the most popular and widely used types of stainless steel? From the naked eye, it can be extremely difficult to tell the difference between grades of stainless steel. 304 and 316, in particular, look almost identical and the differences between the two are easy to miss. So what are the differences between 304 vs 316 stainless steel? Below we answer that question and discuss different applications where the grades are used.
Differences Between 304 vs 316
The most basic difference between the grades of steel is the presence of molybdenum in stainless 316. Molybdenum is a chemical element used for the strengthening and hardening of steel. Its main function in stainless 316 is to help fight off corrosion from chlorides. Stainless 316 contains more nickel than stainless 304, while 304 contains more chromium than 316. Stainless 304 usually consists of 18% chromium and 8% nickel. Stainless 316 is made up of 16% chromium, 10% nickel and 2% molybdenum.
The two steel grades are comparable in appearance, chemical makeup and characteristics. Both steels are durable and provide excellent resistance to corrosion and rust. 304 stainless steel is the most versatile and widely used austenitic stainless steel in the world, due to its corrosion resistance. 304 stainless is also cheaper in cost compared to 316, another reason for its popularity and widespread use.
Stainless 316 is more expensive because it provides a higher corrosion resistance, especially against chlorides and chlorinated solutions. This makes stainless 316 more desirable in applications where salt exposure is an issue. If you have an application with powerful corrosives or chlorides, the extra cost of stainless 316 is highly recommended. In such applications, 316 stainless will last longer than 304, providing you with extra years of life and usage. If your application uses milder acids or does not contain salt exposure, stainless 304 is perfect. Below we list some common applications for both grades of steel.
Applications for 304 Stainless Steel
- Auto moldings and trim
- Wheel covers
- Storage tanks
- Kitchen equipment/appliances
- Electrical enclosures
Applications for 316 Stainless Steel
- Stainless steel floats
- Marine parts
- Outdoor electrical enclosures
- Chemical Equipment
- Pharmaceutical equipment
To sum it up, 316 steel is worth the expense if you need superior corrosion resistance and your application contains water. If not, 304 steel will serve your needs just fine.