Is There a Difference Between 303 Stainless Steel and 304?

Stainless steel provides an array of benefits from corrosion resistance to stain and rust durability.  However, when comparing 304 to 303 stainless steel, you’ll notice a similar makeup with a very dissimilar property balance. This article provides a brief overview of the two and how to determine which one is right for your application.

303 Stainless Steel

A free-machining grade of 304, 303 stainless incorporates the addition of sulfur to increase its machinability.  Particularly desirable for automatic operations, 303 also maintains the mechanical and corrosion resistance properties common to stainless steel.  More accessible to machine than 304, 303  has controlled amounts of manganese sulfides which cause the machining chips to break easily.  Another vital factor to note about the two is that 303 is not easily welded due to the higher sulfur content, whereas 304 can be. Further, for the same reason, 303 is not manufactured as sheet metal, tube, or angle due.

304 Stainless Steel

Among the most popular in stainless steel alloys, 304 stainless is suitable for most welding jobs with its low carbon content.  Furthermore, 304 provides excellent rust and corrosion resistant properties.  Since the machinability is not as significant with 304, it’s common to see this material used for kitchen appliances, aerospace, automotive needs, marine applications, and architectural elements. 

303 stainless steel

Choosing between 303 stainless steel and 304 comes down to the intended use and if machining is a prominent part of the job.  Where 303 is specifically designed to handle machining applications, 304 is the better option for welding.  No matter what the application requires, Alliant Metals can supply you with the solution your job needs.  Contact our team today and experience a professional level of expertise like never before

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