Making up 50% of worldwide use, 304 stainless steel is the most commonly used stainless steel grade. It is a grade that’s often purchased as a "304/304L dual certified stainless." It is a very low carbon, austenitic chromium-nickel steel with good corrosion resistance, superior resistance to intergranular corrosion following welding or stress relieving, and high malleability. The low carbon content in 304 stainless steel limits the formation of harmful carbides to such an extent that this grade may be safely used for most operations of welded construction, as well as where the service temperature is limited to 800 degrees F. 304 Stainless Steel is not magnetic in the annealed condition and not hardenable by heat treatment.
Alro stocks 304 polished stainless steel and plate in sheet form in several types of finish: #3, #4, #8, and bright annealed.
Stainless Steel: 304 vs. 304L
The only difference between 304 steel and 304L steel is the carbon content of each grade. While all 304 stainless steel is low carbon, 304 has a roughly 0.04% higher carbon content maximum than 304L. For large weldments, 304L’s lower carbon content can help prevent possible corrosion caused by chromium depletion at high temperatures.
Stainless Steel: 304 vs. 316
Because 304 and 316 steel are the first and second most common stainless steel grades, respectively, they naturally draw comparisons. The main difference between the two is that 316 steel contains molybdenum. Molybdenum makes 316 more corrosion resistant and therefore more suitable for high acidity environments and applications, like underwater equipment, surgical tools, and pharmaceutical production. However, 304 steel tends to be more affordable, allowing for versatile application in environments where extreme oxidation is less of a risk.
As the world’s most popular stainless steel grade, 304 has a wide variety of use cases, especially where reliable, low-cost corrosion resistance is desired. 304 stainless steel’s applications include:
- Food Processing Equipment (Including Brewing and Winemaking)
- Kitchen Benches, Sinks, Appliances
- Architectural Paneling
- Chemical Containers
- Threaded Fasteners