What Is 304 Stainless Steel?

Kitchen appliance made of 304 steel
••• Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Rob McCready

A grade of stainless steel, 304 steel is the most widely used steel because it's easy to weld and work. It is available in a wider range of stock forms and finishes than any other steel product.

Properties

The 304 stainless steel is classified as a T 300 series austenitic stainless steel alloy, containing a minimum of 8 percent nickel and 18 percent chromium with a maximum of 0.08 percent carbon. This grade of steel also has excellent drawing properties and can be formed into bar, rod or sheet stock.

Versions

It comes in a low-carbon version, commonly used in heavy-gauge equipment because it does not require annealing. There is also a high-carbon version, suited to applications in which the steel may be exposed to high temperatures.

Temperature and Corrosion Tolerances

The heat resistance of 304 steel is good in ranges up to 925 degrees C for continuous use, and it also can withstand extreme cryogenic temperatures. It is very corrosion-resistant and can be exposed to a variety of atmospheric conditions and a wide range of corrosive agents.

Uses

Applications for which 304 steel is suited include food and beverage processing equipment, kitchen equipment and utensils, chemical containers, springs and fasteners. This stainless steel can be used in architectural applications such as wall paneling, railings and trim.

Alternative Grades

Possible alternatives to 304 steel are 301L, 302HQ, 303, 316, 321, 3CR12 and 430 steel, depending on the application and cost requirements.

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