There are more than 60 grades of stainless steel. Stainless steel is essentially low-carbon steel that contains chromium of 10% or more by weight. It is the addition of chromium that gives the steel its unique stainless, corrosion-resisting properties. Austenitic 304 and 316 stainless steels are considered surgical or medical-grade stainless steels, they are the most common stainless steels. The key difference between 304 and 316 stainless steel that makes them different is the addition of molybdenum, an alloy that drastically enhances corrosion resistance, especially for more saline or chloride-exposed environments. 316 stainless steel contains molybdenum, but 304 does not.
Both of these 300-grade steels are known for their excellent welding and forming properties, which give them applications across many industries. These alloys cannot be hardened by heat treatment, but they can develop high strength by cold working.
304 vs 316 Stainless Steel
In pharmaceutical, power generation and chemical process applications, austenitic stainless steels like 304 are typically the first choice. Molybdenum is mainly used for added corrosion resistance in 316, make it ideal for more acidic environments. Certain critical petroleum, chemical processes and marine applications with corrosive chloride gas require the improved pitting and crevice corrosion resistance of 316 molybdenum-modified stainless steels.
300 Series Austenitic – Typical Grade: 304 Chromium (17-25%); nonmagnetic, not heat treatable. Can develop high strength by cold working. Molybdenum (up to 7%) can increase corrosion resistance – especially pitting and crevice corrosion resistance.
Typical Use: Food & beverage, cryogenic, chemical process, medical (hypodermic needles, implants, stents), instrumentation/chromatography tubing, oil & gas, hydraulic tubing and marine applications. Super austenitic grades (high nickel) extend performance for applications requiring extreme corrosion & oxidation/scaling resistance or higher strengths.
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