What’s The Difference Between Stainless Steels?

The story of stainless steel seems complicated because there is not only one type of stainless steel. It is, however, easy to understand the types of stainless steel out there in a large industry. In 2016, there were 139,000 sheet metal workers active in the United States, but the number is substantially higher now. If you’re working with your local metal workers to figure out what the best stainless steel option is for your project, consider the following information about the different types of stainless steel.

The Different Types of Stainless Steels

Austenitic, ferritic, duplex, martensitic, and stainless steel alloys hardened by precipitation are the most common. Austenitic is the most extensively used and popular. Austenitic stainless steel is divided into two subgroups: 300 and 200. The primary classes of stainless steel will be discussed in the 300 subcategories since they are the most often used grades

304 Stainless Steel

304 stainless steel is a low-carbon steel that includes at least 18 percent chromium and 8% nickel, earning it the nickname 18/8 stainless steel. This form of stainless steel resists oxidation and corrosion. This resilience makes manufacturing easier and prevents product contamination. When compared to 316 stainless steel, 304 stainless steel is the most flexible, least expensive and common austenitic stainless steel.

303 Stainless Steel

303 stainless steel is a class of 304 stainless with a minimum of 8% nickel, 17% chromium, and 0.15 percent sulfur/selenium. The inclusion of a small amount of sulfur decreases corrosion resistance somewhat while increasing machineability, which is why it’s used in fasteners, bushings, bearings, and other minor components. Due to the needed tolerances, these parts require more precise machining standards. Although 303 stainless steel offers excellent corrosion resistance, 304 stainless is suggested for increased strength.

316 Stainless Steel

A minimum of 10% nickel, 16% chromium, and 2% molybdenum are included in 316 stainless steel. The fundamental difference between 316 and 304 stainless is the presence of much more molybdenum in 316 stainless. The use of this metal improves the corrosion resistance of 316 while also providing great heat resistance up to 1600°F. 316 stainless is a nickel-chromium stainless steel, similar to 304. 316 stainless steel and is recommended in environments with high levels of corrosive substances and/or items that will be put underwater.

Aside from the stainless steel types discussed above, you can also get 317, 321, and 347 types of stainless steel in the 300-class. The 400-class of stainless steel is the cheapest, but less popular.

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