When you talk of popular stainless-steel grades, 304 is one of the first that comes to mind for most buyers. This is not surprising though considering the quality that comes at a fairly cheaper price in comparison to other austenitic grades. Although there are other cheaper ferritic grades, 304 has more applications for many.
For some of our clients who may want to reduce spending on alloys, we would recommend the ferritic grade. Although it brings down the cost, there is the issue of rusting that will occur if the metal is not painted. This is why Arch City Steel usually recommends 304 which many clients have come to appreciate for its performance.
Even though 304 was created more than a century ago, it continues to outcompete the newer grades when it comes to popularity. You will find more engineers know about this grade than they do about some of the improved grades.
It is probably something beyond price that attracts many to it. We ensure that we make the finest alloys with the right amount of elements in them. 304 stainless steel contains 18 percent chrome, this is a very important addition to the steel because it provides its most important property which is corrosion resistance. For most applications that will not involve excess exposure to corrosive environments, this steel will do the job.
304 also contains nickel which is probably what makes it more expensive than some other alloys. The nickel in this grade is 8 percent and it is not there simply to make the alloy expensive. It acts as a stabilizing element. Nickel adds ductility as well as strength to this austenitic alloy. This is a property that makes the steel applicable in a number of industrial tasks where strength is required.
With just about the right amount of nickel, this grade is fairly affordable and yet still strong enough to be used in different ways. Its workability is great as it can be welded, cut, and adjusted to suit certain applications.
Is it Always the Best?
Because of its popularity, you might be moved to believe that it is the best grade to use. Well, if what you are looking for is to use it in food-grade applications or simple construction and chemical-pharmaceutical tasks, then it will be just fine, there would be no reason to buy something more expensive for such applications.
Some other applications may require a higher level of corrosion resistance and that is when it may not be the best choice. Reputed suppliers usually encourage buyers to speak to an expert first before they determine which stainless steel grade to get. Sometimes we recommend its close substitute 306 which also contains chrome and nickel but also has molybdenum added to it for extra corrosion resistance. You would have to pay more, but if you will be using it in a highly corrosive environment, it would be the best choice.