Comparing 304 and 316 Stainless Steel in Fabrication

In Australia, both manufacturers and fabricators make extensive use of stainless steel. This is partly because preformed sections of stainless steel are available to use off-the-shelf directly from stock. Of course, stainless steel fabrication firms will add a great deal of value to the basic components that can be purchased directly.

Sheet, coil and plate sections of stainless steel are among the commonly stocked components. Others include sections of steel flooring, bars, wire mesh, pipes and fasteners. These components are usually made in one of two stainless steel grades, 304 and 316. What do stainless steel fabrication firms need to know about them?

Grade 304 Stainless Steel

To begin with, lots of steel fabrication projects can be completed with either grade of metal. Others are available for specialists applications, but 304 is one of the most common used by today's generation of stainless steel fabricators. Grade 304 is an austenitic type of stainless steel that has a crystalline structure. It is made by using a higher than average level of nickel and chromium when alloyed among other ingredients, such as iron and manganese. This gives the metal a good degree of corrosion resistance, making it suitable for items that will be fabricated for outdoor settings, such as sports equipment or railings, for example.

Another good thing about grade 304 stainless steel is that it is easy to keep clean. That's why it is often made into household products where food preparation will be involved, such as the grilles that are found in ovens. Fabricators will often cut 304 stainless steel to size to form splashbacks or even food preparation surfaces, such as those that might be made to measure for a professional kitchen fit-out, for instance.

Grade 316 Stainless Steel

With a similar crystalline structure, grade 316 stainless steel differs because it is made up of higher amounts of chromium and nickel. It will also contain molybdenum as well as more silicon, carbon and manganese than grade 304. This makes it a denser material that is more suited to heavier installations and settings where it will need to be anchored. Stainless steel fabrication projects using grade 316 will also enjoy greater longevity due to even better anti-corrosion performance. As such, there is a pay-off against its greater cost compared to its life cycle.

Grade 316 stainless steel is sometimes called marine-grade steel because of its superb corrosion resistance properties. Although grade 304 can be used in seaside settings, grade 316 is often preferred in exposed spots and around harbour areas where seaspray will be a constant problem. It is frequently used to fabricate bollards, balustrades and street furniture where it will face a salty sea air. Alternatively, it will sometimes be made into dishwasher components where water exposure will be almost constant.