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What is the difference between 304 and 316 stainless steel?

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What is the difference between 304 and 316 stainless steel?

Out of over 60 different grades of stainless steel, the most often used in the electrical industry are 304 stainless steel and 316 stainless steel


Aesthetically, there is no difference between the two; in fact, the only way to differentiate between them is to test them chemically. The main difference between 304 and 316 stainless steel is 316 SS has the addition of molybdenum.


The differing chemical makeups of 304 SS and 316 SS influence how each performs in a certain environment. Requirements for one grade of stainless over the other are often dependent on the application or environment; therefore, it is important to understand them both.


Description and application of 304 stainless steel

Type 304 SS is the most widely used grade of stainless steel and is considered the standard “18/8” stainless. It offers mechanical strength, corrosion, and oxidation resistance at a more economical price point.


Type 304 SS is used in a wide range of applications and industries to provide basic resistance to corrosion.


Description and application of 316 stainless steel

Type 316 SS is more corrosion resistant than 304 SS because of its higher nickel content and the addition of molybdenum (2-3%) as an alloying element. The addition of molybdenum enhances the metal’s resistance to crevice corrosion and pitting from chloride solutions. The overall combination of increased nickel, molybdenum and other minor alloying tweaks improves the resistance of 316 SS to stress corrosion cracking, creeping, chemicals, solvents, sulfuric acids, and extreme temperatures.


This makes 316 SS an ideal choice for electrical products subjected to industrial processing chemicals, ocean spray, or high-chloride environments.

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