Stainless Steel Types: What’s the Difference?

Stainless Steel Types: What's the Difference?

Table of Contents

  1. Commonly Used Types of Stainless Steel in Vessel Production
  2. 304 Steel
  3. 316 Steel
  4. Make Sure You Manufacturer Has These Options Available
  5. When You Need a Stainless Steel Vessel, Contact Sharpsville Container

Most peoplxe have heard of stainless steel. But it’s important to know that there’s more than one type of stainless steel and each type is particularly useful for certain industries and commercial purposes. Since it first came along in the early 20th century, stainless steel has provided reliable and safe construction materials for buildings, dependable and clean storage facilities for food and beverages, as well as items more familiar to everyday consumers like stainless steel cookware, cutlery or beverage containers.

But we’re going to focus on its uses for industry. We’ll look at the different types of stainless steel, how they are created and the purposes to which they are uniquely suited. We’ll examine the advantages and disadvantages of the different types and how they have been used by various industries to the best advantage. In particular, we will look at their use in vessel production, specifically, vessels in which you store liquids, corrosive materials or foodstuffs.

Commonly Used Types of Stainless Steel in Vessel Production

Stainless steel is resistant to corrosion and is far more durable than other iron-based metals. Stainless steel is not composed of a single metal but is an alloy of several elements melted together. Its main component is iron along with a small bit of carbon.

As we mentioned above it was first used in the early 20th century when scientists and engineers discovered that by adding different amounts of chromium, ordinary steel became quite shiny and highly resistant to corrosion. While chromium reacts in any kind of an oxygen environment, which is common to all steels, it does so very slowly. This makes it very durable and largely non-reactive.

How much chromium? It depends upon the type of stainless steel. Originally engineers added about 12% chromium, which is still the amount most manufacturers use today.

While there are more than 100 grades of stainless steel, we’re going to focus on two or three types. Stainless steel falls into four different metallurgical groupings: austenitic, ferritic, martensitic and duplex.

Stainless Steel Falls Into Four Different Metallurgical Groupings: Austenitic, Ferritic, Martensitic and Duplex

For use in vessel production, let’s look at two grades of the austenitic family — 304 and 316 stainless steel. These steels offer strength, can be formatted for a variety of industrial uses and are very corrosion resistant. The 316 grade is particularly useful for products designed for use by food and beverage operations.

304 Steel

    • This is the most popular form of stainless steel in use globally. Many industries prefer it because of its excellent cost value and superb corrosion resistance. The most widely used form contains about 18% chromium, but it can range anywhere from 16% to 24%. It also contains about 8% nickel. It can’t be stained by the kind of organic chemicals you find in food processing and it’s also highly resistant to many inorganic chemicals.
    • 304 stainless steel is a very cost-effective and suitable choice for most work environments. It performs well in kitchens and anywhere you need to prepare or store food. You can also use it in building construction, stainless steel decorations favored by some designers, in furnishings and, for our purposes, in vessel construction.
  • 304 stainless steel is not recommended for use  near salt water such as the kind you might find on the coastline. That’s because while 304 is highly resistant to corrosion, it can react with chlorides and the kind of saline environment you would find it near the ocean. So, if your business is located on the coastline and you need a large stainless steel vessel to store important foodstuffs, liquids or chemicals, 304 steel is not recommended. You could end up with a form of corrosion known as “pitting.” You might also think about using a different grade of steel if your business is located near a road or area that is heavily salted in the winter. If you do work in a location where there may be a lot of salt you want to consider a steel that reacts more favorably to chlorides and other solvents.

316 Steel

  • There is not much difference between 316 and 304 stainless steel grades. They have almost identical physical and mechanical properties. But 316 steel includes 2% to 3% of molybdenum. It also contains a bit more nickel. This makes 316 stainless steel a great deal more resistant to the chlorides that undermine 304. It’s ideal for use in regions near the coast and any area where deicing salts get a lot of use. This makes it perfect for marine applications as well.

316 steel is ideal for use in regions near the coast and any area where deicing salts get a lot of use.

  • 316 steel is a great choice for any kind of acidic environment. It’s very useful for corrosion protection against many forms of acids and alkaline chlorides.
  • It can be maintained easily and has excellent creep strength, which means it’s much more resistant to industrial stresses. The addition of molybdenum also makes 316 steel ideal for surgical instruments. One of 316’s few drawbacks is that it doesn’t respond well to welding.

Other important stainless steel varieties to know about for vessel production include:

  • 316L Steel – This is an excellent stainless steel to use for a storage tank and to hold corrosive materials. It offers superb corruption resistance, even greater creep strength than 316 and there is very little metallic contamination. Like 316, it doesn’t harden under heat treatment. The difference between 316 and 316L is carbon. There is more of it in 316. The L in 316L stands for low carbon. This is the most suitable for welding.
  • Nickel Alloy – Nickel alloys are very much like stainless steel but have a higher nickel content. This also gives them a greater corrosion resistance, which makes ideal for use in chemical storage and transportation.
  • Carbon Steel – Carbon steel contains no chromium, and so it has a rather dull finish compared to the shiny finish of stainless steel. It can corrode more easily than stainless steel but its lower cost makes it ideal for those situations where steel is out of view. It could be an excellent choice if you work in a relatively non-corrosive environment and if your vessel or silo is not visible to the public.

All of the different types of stainless steel are excellent for corrosion protection but the grade you want to use depends upon what you will use the vessel for and where you will use it.

  • Chemicals – If your business involves the storage or transportation of hazardous chemicals and other such materials, you want to use 316 steel with its much stronger anti-corrosive properties. This is particularly the case with acids. If you need your vessel or storage container to be a non-standard size or shape, 316L may be your best bet because it can be welded safely and maintain its creep strength. Another possible choice for chemical storage is a nickel alloy vessel.
  • Commercial Food Preparation – Because of the resistance to organic and nonorganic compounds, 300 grades are used widely in commercial food preparation. Whether you are storing liquids like milk or solids like grains or corn, a stainless steel silo or vessel composed of 304 or 316 is a good choice. The strength, durability and noncorrosive qualities of these stainless steels also make them ideal for use in either small or large vessels and containers. A 304 steel is very usable and will suit many purposes. But as noted above, if you work in an environment with a high saline content, anywhere near the coastline or in a location that’s very near a road or parking lot that is frequently de-iced with salt in the winter, you want to go with a 316 steel vessel.

Because of the resistance to organic and nonorganic compounds, 300 grades are used widely in commercial food preparation.

  • Beverages – The stainless steel you would choose depends upon the beverage being stored. Liquids like soft drinks or spirits could probably be stored in a vessel composed of 304 steel. 316 steel will not react to acids and alkalis found in milk and many other food components that could be stored in a vessel or silo. If your storage tanks are located in a facility where they won’t be publicly viewed, you might want to look at carbon steel vessels. But the advantage of 304 and 316 is that they can be easily and repeatedly cleaned to high standards.
  • Water Purification – Stainless steel vessels and containers provide the very best for the proper storage of water, both non-potable and potable. All of the 300 grades of stainless steel, as well as the nickel alloy and carbon steel varieties, could be used. The important questions for you to consider is cost and location.

Stainless steel vessels and container provide the very best for the proper storage of water, both non-potable and potable.

Whether you need a vertical silo, a smaller vessel or a specially designed container, stainless steel is the right material to use. It provides good value, more than adequate protection and lasts a long time. For chemicals and other corrosive materials that you might deal with in your business, stainless steel makes storage of all quantities possible in a convenient and safe way. And if you’re dealing with food and beverage, stainless steel not only provides the storage you need but does so in a way that preserves the quality and health standards of any food or beverage.

Make Sure You Manufacturer Has These Options Available

Whether you need a vertical silo, large tank or another type of vessel to store chemicals, food or beverages, you want to sit down with the manufacturer that you’ve chosen and review your options.

It’s important to discuss the value, durability and protection against corrosion available from the different types of tank steel. If money is important, and you know that you’re going to be able to build or store your tanks in a more secluded location, carbon steel may be your best choice. If your tanks are more visible to the public, you definitely want them to look better, and it’s hard to beat the look of a quality stainless steel tank.

If you need to store chemicals, then it’s important that your manufacturer understand your industry and the difficulties that you face. You want to make sure that the manufacturer has quality testing in every step of the vessel’s construction. With chemicals, you can’t afford shoddy workmanship. Your tanks or vessels need to meet the highest industry standards.

Some questions you might ask include:

    • What would you recommend as the best type of stainless steel or alloy to use for my particular need?
    • Can you give me a cost comparison between the different types of stainless steel?
    • How long will it take you to construct the vertical silo or vessels that I need?
    • What if I have a specific design in mind? Can you do that? How does that affect the cost and the delivery time?
    • Can you tell me a bit about your quality control process?
  • Can you show me some examples of your past work or perhaps give me the names of some previous customers that I can contact?

As someone who is researching the different types of stainless steel for tanks, don’t be afraid to ask any question that concerns you. It’s important for you and your business that you make the best decision about the best materials to use that you can.

When You Need a Stainless Steel Vessel, Contact Sharpsville Container

When you take into consideration all of the important features and necessities for the construction of a good stainless steel vessel, Sharpsville Containers offers experience and knowledge.

Our excellent engineering and design team knows how to construct standard and custom solutions for customers around the world. We’ve been fabricating steel since the 1860s and shifted our focus in 1990 to concentrate on making the finest stainless steel vessels available on the market. Our decades of experience mean that we have a solid grasp of what many industries are looking for and it is our goal to give them the finest possible product for their needs. We have the flexibility to produce vessels made from various steel and alloy materials.

If you have any questions, you can call us at 1-800-645-1248 or visit our contact page where you’ll have a chance to send us some of the details about your business’s needs. A member of our experienced and qualified staff will be in touch with you as soon as possible. We look forward to the chance to create new relationships with new customers.

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