Difference between 304, 304L, 316 and 316L in the valves field

What is Stainless Steel?

Stainless steel is a type of steel. Steel refers to steel containing less than 2% carbon (C) and iron is more than 2%. The addition of chromium (Cr), nickel (Ni), manganese (Mn), silicon (Si), titanium (Ti), molybdenum (Mo) and other alloying elements in the smelting process improves the properties of the steel and makes the steel resistant to corrosion. (that is, not rust) is the stainless steel we often say. What is the meaning of “steel” and “iron”, what are the characteristics, and what is the relationship between us, 304, 304L, 316, 316L, which we usually say, and what is the difference between them? Steel: A material containing iron as the main element and having a carbon content of generally less than 2% and containing other elements. – GB/T 13304-91 “Steel Classification” Iron: a metal element, atomic number 26. Iron materials have strong ferromagnetism and good plasticity and thermal conductivity. Stainless steel: resistant to weak corrosive media such as air, steam, water or stainless steel.

The commonly used steel grades are 304, 304L, 316, and 316L, which are 300 series steels of austenitic stainless steel:

304 stainless steel:
304 stainless steel is the most common steel grade. As a kind of widely used steel, it has good corrosion resistance, heat resistance, low temperature strength and mechanical properties. Moreover, it has good property for hot working such as stamping and bending, without hardening in heat treatment (non-magnetic , the working temperature is -196 ° C ~ 800 ° C).
Scope of application:

  • Household items (1 and 2 class of tableware, cabinets, indoor pipelines, water heaters, boilers, bathtubs)
  • Auto parts (windshield wipers, mufflers, mold products)
  • Medical appliances, building materials, chemicals, food industry, agriculture, ship parts

304L stainless steel (L presents low carbon):
As low-carbon 304 steel, its corrosion resistance is similar to that of 304 under normal conditions, but it is excellent in resistance to intergranular corrosion after welding or after stress relief. In addition, it can maintain good corrosion resistance without heat treatment. Its operating temperature is -196 ° C ~ 800 ° C.
Scope of application:
It is used in field open-air machines for chemical, coal, and petroleum industries which need high resistance to intergranular corrosion, heat-resistant parts for building materials, and parts not suitable for heat treatment.
316 stainless steel:
Due to the addition of molybdenum, 316 stainless steel has excellent corrosion resistance, atmospheric corrosion resistance and high temperature strength, and can be used in very severe conditions. Also, it has excellent work hardening property (non-magnetic).
Scope of application:

  1. Equipment under sea, and production equipment for chemicals, dyestuff, paper, oxalic acid, fertilizers, etc. 
  2. Photography, food industry, facilities in coastal areas, ropes, CD rods, bolts, nuts.

316L stainless steel (L presents low carbon):
As a low carbon series of 316 steel grade, it has excellent resistance to intergranular corrosion in addition to the same characteristics as 316 steel.
Scope of application:
Products that have special requirements for resistance to grain boundary corrosion.
Extended reading:
316 and 316L stainless steel are molybdenum-containing stainless steel. The molybdenum content of 316L stainless steel is slightly higher than that of 316 stainless steel. Due to the molybdenum in steel, the total performance of this steel is better than that of 310 and 304 stainless steel. Under high temperature conditions, when the concentration of sulfuric acid is lower than 15% and higher than 85%, 316 Stainless steel has a wide range of uses. 316 stainless steel also has good resistance to chloride corrosion and is therefore commonly used in marine environments. 316L stainless steel has a maximum carbon content of 0.03 and can be used in applications where annealing is not possible and maximum corrosion resistance is required.

Chemical component:
common stainless steel 304 304l 316 and 316l in the valve field chemical component - Difference between 304, 304L, 316 and 316L in the valves field

Corrosion resistance:
316 stainless steel has better corrosion resistance than 304 stainless steel and has good corrosion resistance in the production of pulp and paper. Moreover, 316 stainless steel is also resistant to erosion by marine and aggressive industrial atmospheres.
In general, 304 stainless steel and 316 stainless steel have little difference in chemical resistance, but differ in certain media.
The stainless steel originally developed was 304. In certain cases, this material is sensitive to pitting corrosion. An additional 2-3% increase in molybdenum reduces this sensitivity, which gives birth to 316. In addition, the additional molybdenum can also reduce the corrosion of certain hot organic acids.
316 stainless steel has almost become the standard material for the food and beverage industry. Due to the shortage of molybdenum in the world and the high nickel content in 316 stainless steel, the price of 316 stainless steel is higher than that of 304 stainless steel.
Pitting corrosion is a phenomenon mainly caused by deposition corrosion on stainless steel surfaces due to the lack of oxygen to form a chromium oxide protective layer.
Especially in small valves, the possibility of deposits on the valve plate is small, so pitting corrosion is rare.
In all types of aqueous media (distilled water, drinking water, river water, boiler water, sea water, etc.), 304 stainless steel and 316 stainless steel have almost the same corrosion resistance, unless the content of chloride ion in the medium is very high, then 316 stainless steel is more suitable.
In most cases, the corrosion resistance of 304 stainless steel and 316 stainless steel is not much different, but in some cases it may vary widely, and specific analysis is required. In general, valve users should be aware of the fact that they should select the material of the container and the pipe according to the condition of the medium. We do not recommend materials to the user.
Heat resistance:
316 stainless steel has good oxidation resistance in intermittent use below 1600 °C and continuous use below 1700 °C. In the temperature range of 800-1575 degrees, it is preferable not to continuously apply 316 stainless steel, but when 316 stainless steel is continuously used outside this temperature range, the stainless steel has good heat resistance. 316L stainless steel has better carbide precipitation resistance than 316 stainless steel and can be used in the above temperature range.
Heat treatment:
Annealing is carried out at a temperature ranging from 1850 to 2050 degrees, followed by rapid annealing and rapid cooling. 316 stainless steel cannot be hardened by heat treatment.
316 stainless steel has good welding properties. All standard welding methods can be used for 316 stainless steel welding. When welding, 316Cb, 316L or 309Cb stainless steel filler rods or welding rods can be used according to the application. For best corrosion resistance, the welded section of 316 stainless steel requires post-weld annealing. If 316L stainless steel is used, post-weld annealing is not required.

Mechanical properties:
difference between common stainless steel 304 304l 316 and 316l mechanical properties - Difference between 304, 304L, 316 and 316L in the valves field
Among all steels, austenitic stainless steel has the lowest yield point. Therefore, from the viewpoint of mechanical properties, austenitic stainless steel is not the best material for the valve stem. To ensure certain strength, the diameter of the valve stem will increase. The yield point cannot be increased by heat treatment, but can be improved by cold forming.
Magnetic property:
Due to the wide application of austenitic stainless steel, it gives people the wrong impression that all stainless steels are not magnetic. For austenitic stainless steels, it can be basically understood as non-magnetic, as is the case with quenched forged steel. However, 304 stainless steel processed by cold forming will be somewhat magnetic. For cast steel, if it is 100% austenitic stainless steel, it is not magnetic.
Low carbon type of stainless steel:
The corrosion resistance of austenitic stainless steel comes from the chromium oxide protective layer formed on the metal surface. If the material is heated to a temperature between 450 ° C and 900 ° C, the structure of the material changes and chromium carbide forms along the edges of the crystal. Thus, a chromium oxide protective layer cannot be formed at the edge of the crystal, resulting in a decrease in corrosion resistance. This type of corrosion is called “intergranular corrosion.”
Thus, 304L stainless steel and 316L stainless steel are developed to resist this kind of corrosion. Both 304L stainless steel and 316L stainless steel have lower carbon content. Because of the reduced carbon content, chromium carbide is not produced and no intergranular corrosion occurs. 
It should be noted that higher intergranular corrosion sensitivity does not mean that non-low carbon materials are more susceptible to corrosion. This sensitivity is also higher in high chlorine environments. 
Please note that this phenomenon arise at high temperatures (450 ° C – 900 ° C). Usually, soldering is the direct cause of reaching this temperature.

Source: China Valves Manufacturer – Yaang Pipe Industry Co., Limited (www.pipelinedubai.com)

(Yaang Pipe Industry is a leading manufacturer and supplier of nickel alloy and stainless steel products, including Super Duplex Stainless Steel Flanges, Stainless Steel Flanges, Stainless Steel Pipe Fittings, Stainless Steel Pipe. Yaang products are widely used in Shipbuilding, Nuclear power, Marine engineering, Petroleum, Chemical, Mining, Sewage treatment, Natural gas and Pressure vessels and other industries.)

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