Stainless steel Types

Stainless steel

Stainless steel is named “stain-less , it is really means “stain or rust resistant” for this purpose It is mainly used, this property comes from **its ability to naturally form an oxide-rich, passive layer on the surface, where it used. Oxide rich layer works as a protection sheet to resist the surface.
Due to it’s rust resistant property stainless steel is usually the preferred substrate for good manufacturing practice (GMP) applications, and it constitutes the majority of GMP product-contact surface areas



There are over 200 different types of stainless steel with a range of properties to suit various manufacturing needs and customer requirements.
Stainless steel used by its grade, and grade is its chemical composition as per need of usage, e.g. of some grades are as follows:

Martensitic grades (401, 410, 416, 420, 420F, 431, 440A, 440B, 440C, S44020),
Ferritic grades (405, 430, 430F, 434),
Austenitic ferritic grades (329, S31803, S31260),
Austenitic grades (201, 202, 301, 302, 303, 303Se, 304, 304L, 304N, 304LN, 305, 309S, 310S, 316, 316L, 316LN, 317, 317L, 321, 347, 304Cu, S17400, S17700).
Pharmaceutical companies must have pharmaceutical-grade stainless steel manufacturing equipment that passes the FDA’s rigorous standards.

Austenitic stainless-steel series (e.g., 304, 304 L, 316 and 316L) **has been popular in pharmaceutical applications because of its high stain and outstanding corrosion resistant properties and affordability.


L” indication in SS grades
L indicates low content of carbon. SS 304L and 316L has low amount of carbon (0.03%) in the compression of SS304 and 316 grade (0.08%).
Grade 304 & 304L have only difference of low carbon content in its chemical composition, same as in SS 316 and 316L grade. Rest chemical composition are same in both of grade. Low carbon content grade SS is more corrosion resistant than others, low carbon content also makes more ease to weld the SS

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Difference between SS 304 (304L) & SS 316 (316L).
Grade 316, 316L is used in all ‘product contact applications’ and 304 used in ‘non contact applications’. However, there are some instances where the product is not suitable to stainless steel and qualified guidance is advised.
Both type of Stainless steel are non magnetic, easily welded and formed.
316L grade Stainless Steel is often specified in Pharmaceutical installations in order to prevent excessive metallic contamination. 316L grade Stainless Steel is also significantly more resistant to heat in comparison to 304.
304 contains no trace of molybdenum, 316 contains 2% molybdenum. The biggest difference between the grades is molybdenum is added to grade 316 to increase corrosion and pitting resistance. The addition of Molybdenum makes 316L Stainless Steel stronger and more durable, capable of withstanding higher levels of corrosion and the affects of chemicals such as chlorides (found in salt, seawater, sweat, etc.) and sulphuric acid.
As e.g. Type 304 stainless steel bucket could pit through in less than 8 hours. When molybdenum is added to the stainless steel the pitting corrosion resistance improves.

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Effective role of other chemicals in SS chemical composition

Ni improves the resistant to hot and humid environment condition
Manganese increase the tensile strength
Silicon improve the resistant of SS to the strong acid and sulfuric acid.

Before use of new SS equipment, pipes and etc., to remove extra chemical or chemical layer from surface a process has been done usually called “Passivation”.
As per regulatories bodies Passivation is a compulsory process should be performed before use of SS made tools, equipment, pipes and all.

Passivation Process
Passivation means to make SS surface nonreactive as in surface chromium content of SS reacts with oxygen and develops a layer of chromium oxide, this is a form of passive layer, passivation is a process to remove this outer layer from the surface of SS. Usually it has been done by using nitric acid in mild concentration.
Technically we can say:
Passivation is the formation of a thin adherent film or layer on the surface of a metal or mineral that acts as a protective coating to protect the underlying surface from further chemical reaction, such as corrosion, electro-dissolution, or dissolution. The formation of this film is instantaneous in an oxidizing atmosphere such as air, water, or many other fluids that contain oxygen.
Once the layer has formed we say that the metal has become “passivated” and the oxidation or “rusting” rate will slow down to less than 0.002 of an inch


304 VS. 316 Stainless


Type 304, with its chromium-nickel content and low carbon, is the most versatile and widely used of the austenitic stainless steels. Type 304 alloys are all modifications of the 18% chromium, 8% nickel austenitic alloy. Applications for this group of alloys are varied and all possess somewhat similar characteristics in resistance to oxidation, corrosion, and durability. All provide ease of fabrication and cleaning, prevention of product contamination and over a variety of finishes and appearances.

Type 304 stainless steels can meet a wide variety of physical requirements, making them excellent materials for applications including auto molding and trim, wheel covers, kitchen equipment, hose clamps, springs, truck bodies, exhaust manifolds, stainless atware, storage tanks, pressure vessels and piping.

Represented by ASTM-A240 AND ASME SA240.
Elements by Percentage by Weight – Maximum Unless Range is Specified.
C = .08 / Mn = 2.00 / P = .045 / S = .030 / Si = 1.00 / Cr = 18.00 – 20.00 / Ni = 8.00-12.00 / N = .10

The 18% chromium, 8% nickel, provides good resistance to moderately acidic or caustic solutions. Type 304 may be considered to perform similarly in most non-severe applications. A notable exception is in the case of welding. Low carbon (304L) is the recommended alloy and provides increased resistance to intergranular corrosion.

Typical Mechanical Properties required for annealed material covered by ASTM A240.
Yield Strength .2% offset = 30,000 / Ultimate Tensile Strength = 80,000 / Elongation = 50%. Hardness R = 90 max.

Type 316 is an austenitic chromium-nickel stainless and heat-resisting steel with superior corrosion resistance as compared to other chromium-nickel steels when exposed to many types of chemical corrodents such as sea water, brine solutions, and the like.

Type 316 alloy is a molybdenum bearing stainless steel. It has a greater resistance to chemical attack than the 304 family. Similarly, Type 316 is durable, easy-to-fabricate, clean, weld and finish.

Represented by ASTM-A240 and ASME SA240.
C = .08 / Mn = 2.00 / P = .04 / S = .03 / Si = 1.00 / Cr = 16.00 – 18.00 / Ni = 10.00 – 14.00 / Mo = 2.00 – 3.00

The addition of 2% molybdenum makes 316 considerably more resistant to corrosion and oxidation than the 304 family of alloys.

Typical Mechanical Properties required for annealed material covered by ASTM-A240. Yield Strength .2% offset = 30,000 / Ultimate Tensile Strength = 80,000 / Elongation = 50%. Hardness R = 90 max.

Type 316 is considerably more resistant to solutions of sulfuric acid, chlorides, bromides, iodides and fatty acids at high temperature. In the manufacture of certain pharmaceuticals, stainless steels containing molybdenum are required in order to avoid excessive metallic contamination.

The basic resistance of stainless steel occurs because of its ability to form a protective coating on the metal surface. This coating is a “passive” film which resists further “oxidation” or rusting. The formation of this film is instantaneous in an oxidizing atmosphere such as air, water, or other fluids that contain oxygen. Once the layer has formed, we say that the metal has become “passivated” and the oxidation or “rusting” rate will slow down to less than 0.002″ per year (0,05 mm. per year).

Stainless gets its non corrosive properties from the chromium in the alloy. It’s created when oxygen combines with the chrome in the stainless to form chrome oxide which is more commonly called “ceramic”. This protective oxide or ceramic coating is common to most corrosion resistant materials. The chromium atoms combines with oxygen and forms a passive surface film over the base steel very much like the paint protects your car. Once this layer is removed the base metal is exposed to the moisture in the atmosphere and rust forms. Chlorine in any form combines with the chromium and removes this protective layer and exposes the base metal and rust will occur.

NEVER use any chemicals that contain chlorine near any stainless. This includes any cleaners, acids to clean quarry tile or brick, and some detergents. Even the vapors can attack stainless steel. The only inorganic acid that is friendly to stainless is nitric and it is used to remove any iron particles left on the surface from manufacturing or machining. Never use steel wool to clean stainless. Particles of the steel wool will get trapped in the grain of the stainless and these steel particles will rust. Halogen salts, especially chlorides easily penetrate this passive film and will allow corrosive attack to occur. The halogens are easy to recognize because they end in the letters “ine”. Listed in order of their activity they are:

  • fluorine
  • chlorine
  • bromine
  • iodine
  • astatine (very unstable.)

This type of corrosion occurs when there is an overall breakdown of the passive film formed on the stainless steel. It’s the easiest to recognize as the entire surface of the metal shows a uniform “sponge like” appearance. The rate of attack is affected by the fluid concentration, temperature, fluid velocity and stress in the metal parts subject to attack. As a general rule the rate of attack will double with an eighteen degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature (10° C.) of either the product or the metal part.

Chlorides are problematic with austenitic stainless steels like 304 as they can cause pitting, crevice corrosion, and stress corrosion cracking. Temperatures above ambient and cycling between hot and cold temperatures can make corrosion worse as concentration of chlorides due to evaporation can occur. The generally recommended maximum chloride level for 304 stainless steel is only 200 ppm (1000 ppm for 316 stainless steel). The low free chlorine levels of typical potable water systems will not affect austenitic stainless steels. However, free chlorine concentrations of as little as 25 ppm can have a detrimental effect on them. The subject of chloride induced corrosion of austenitic stainless steels is very complex and depends on many things such as concentration, temperature, pH, etc.

A clear epoxy power coating is a tough, durable clear protective coating that protects stainless steel from corrosion, salt air pitting and provides excellent fingerprint and smudge prevention. Stainless steel surfaces protected with a clear epoxy powder finish will be much easier to keep clean and will never darken as it will with oily protectants.


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Here are some useful guides into the different grades of Stainless Steel:

Why is Stainless Steel incredible?

Which type of Stainless Steel should you choose?