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What is 304 stainless steel?

304 stainless steel is a general-purpose stainless steel material that is widely used in a variety of applications due to its excellent corrosion resistance and processing properties.


Composition and Characteristics of 304 Stainless Steel


Chromium (Cr): 18-20% – The main element conferring corrosion resistance. Forms a protective oxide layer on the surface.

Nickel (Ni): 8-10.5% – Improves corrosion resistance, ductility, and toughness.

Carbon (C): ≤0.08% – Low carbon content ensures better weldability and corrosion resistance.

Other Elements: Silicon, manganese, sulfur, phosphorus, and nitrogen in trace amounts.



Excellent Corrosion Resistance:

Forms a thin, adherent, and self-repairing oxide layer on the surface, protecting it from corrosion.

Good Mechanical Properties:

High ductility, toughness, and strength. Can be easily formed, welded, and machined.


In the annealed condition, 304 is non-magnetic, but it may become slightly magnetic when cold-worked.

Aesthetically Pleasing:

Has a smooth, shiny surface that is easy to clean and maintain.

Wide Applications:

Used in a variety of industries, including construction, automotive, food processing, and medical equipment.

In summary, 304 stainless steel offers a balance of corrosion resistance, mechanical properties, and ease of processing, making it a versatile material for multiple applications.

Why is 304 stainless steel corrosion resistant?

The excellent corrosion resistance of 304 stainless steel is largely attributed to its unique chemical composition and microstructure. Firstly, 304 stainless steel contains approximately 18% chromium (Cr) and 8% nickel (Ni). Chromium is a key factor in the corrosion resistance of stainless steel because it forms a dense film of chromium oxide (Cr2O3) on the surface of the stainless steel. This film effectively isolates the stainless steel from the external corrosive environment, such as oxygen, water and various chemical media, thus preventing further corrosion reactions.

In addition, the addition of nickel not only enhances the mechanical properties of 304 stainless steel, but also improves its corrosion resistance. Nickel can stabilise the austenitic structure, so that the stainless steel can still maintain stable properties and reduce corrosion tendency when subjected to stress or temperature changes.

In addition to chromium and nickel, 304 stainless steel also contains a small amount of carbon (C), silicon (Si), manganese (Mn) and other elements, these elements also have a certain impact on corrosion resistance.

It is worth mentioning that the corrosion resistance of 304 stainless steel is also affected by its surface condition, fabrication process and processing level. For example, surface scratches or damage may affect the integrity of the chromium oxide film, thereby reducing the corrosion resistance. Therefore, care needs to be taken to protect the surface of stainless steel from damage during use and processing.

Overall, the corrosion resistance of 304 stainless steel is largely due to its high chromium and moderate nickel content and the interaction between these elements and the microstructure. This allows 304 stainless steel to maintain a high level of corrosion resistance in a variety of environments, making it the material of choice for many applications.

Machinability of 304 stainless steel

304 stainless steel, a popular choice for various applications, offers good machinability, making it suitable for a wide range of manufacturing processes. Its machinability is determined by several factors, including its material properties, thermal conductivity, and workability.

Firstly, 304 stainless steel has a high ductility and relatively low hardness, allowing it to be easily shaped and formed. This makes it suitable for processes like cutting, drilling, and milling. However, its high ductility also means that it tends to work-harden easily, which can affect tool life and machining efficiency.

Secondly, 304 stainless steel has a low thermal conductivity compared to some other metals. This means that it generates more heat during machining, which can lead to thermal expansion and distortion of the workpiece. Proper cooling techniques and tool selection are crucial to minimize these effects.

Lastly, the presence of chromium and nickel in 304 stainless steel gives it a high resistance to corrosion and heat. This allows it to maintain its structural integrity during machining, reducing the risk of tool wear and tear.

Application of 304 stainless steel

304 stainless steel, with its excellent corrosion resistance, high ductility and easy fabrication, is widely used in many fields.

1. Construction and decoration field: 304 stainless steel is often used to make doors, windows, handrails, railings, wall decorations, etc. It is not only beautiful and durable, but also easy to clean.

2. food processing and kitchen utensils: 304 stainless steel is harmless to food safety and has strong corrosion resistance, so it is widely used in food processing equipment, tableware, kitchenware and food storage equipment.

3. medical equipment: due to its corrosion resistance and biocompatibility, 304 stainless steel is used to make surgical instruments, medical equipment, artificial joints and so on.

4. Automotive industry: In the automotive industry, 304 stainless steel is used to make automotive exhaust systems, intake piping, body trim and other parts with high corrosion resistance.

5. Chemical and petroleum industry: The corrosion resistance of 304 stainless steel makes it an ideal choice for pipelines, tanks, valves and other equipment in the chemical and petroleum industries.

In addition, 304 stainless steel is also used in chemical laboratory equipment, ship equipment, textile machinery and many other fields. In short, the excellent performance of 304 stainless steel makes it widely used in many industries.

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