A versatile and dependable material, 304 stainless steel is one of the most popular grades in use today. Featuring high corrosion resistance and strength, it is commonly found in both commercial and industrial settings. In fact, it is the material of choice for a variety of food industry applications such as beer brewing, milk processing and wine making. It is also well suited for domestic kitchen equipment such as sinks, countertops and cookware.
Unlike standard carbon steel, 304 won’t rust when exposed to oxidizing environments due to the formation of a chromium oxide layer on its surface. As a result, paint and other protective barriers aren’t required when used in these types of environments. It also resists the corrosive action of common acids such as citric acid and lactic acid.
Type 304 can be readily fabricated into complex shapes, and has excellent weldability. Adding to its versatility, it is readily machined and can be cold formed, or drawn to achieve specific shapes. It also has good elongation and tensile strength properties.
Two sub-categories of 304 are available: grade 304L and grade 304H. The latter has a lower carbon content, so it is less prone to carburization during welding and doesn’t require post-weld annealing, which is useful for heavy gauge components. It can also withstand higher temperatures, up to 1900°F (1038°C). The low carbon content of 304L helps to minimize the likelihood of chromium carbide precipitation during welding. It is often used to improve weldability in heavy-gauge components.