STAINLESS STEEL 304, 316 & 316L: Comparison & Usage

Nemaco manufactures toughest stainless steel electrical and electronic enclosures available to customers located across the world.  We offer many unique cabinets, junction box and enclosure product solutions in both grades of 304 and 316L of stainless steel our valuable customers. Our products are used to house and provide long lasting outdoor and indoor weather protection for electronic PLC (programmable logic controllers), SCADA controls, VFD (variable frequency drive) gear, electrical power distribution systems, and communications equipment.

As a matter of fact, stainless steel provides corrosion resistance, therefore, they are used to manufacture NEMA 4X and NEMA 6P, where corrosion resistance is required.

Nemaco offer you different thickness for stainless steel NEMA enclosure, to suitable your application, the different thickness can perform different submersion performance, generally thicker material can be submerged under deeper water.


These are some types of enclosure & cabinet ratings in stainless steel, we offer:

We design and offer stainless steel enclosures, cabinets and boxes that are mechanically polished and chemically cleaned to reduce and remove (oxide contamination) rust caused primarily from the welding process. Welding electrodes used electrical current to melt and metallically bond similar metals (for example stainless steel) together. Mechanically cleaning the metal includes the following common processes of grain sanding, polishing welded surfaces and deburring edges. Chemical cleaning includes the use of passivation acid solutions to remove oxidation and dis-colorization from welded seams.


Here are some examples of stainless steel that Nemaco offers to our customers.


์Nemaco Stainless steel NEMA 6P4X enclosure front view

Nemaco Stainless steel NEMA 6P4X enclosure front view

Stainless steels are classified according to their metallurgical structure.
Which are Austenitic, Ferritic, Martensitic, Duplex, and Precipitation Hardening. Generally, 70% of stainless in manufactures are Austenitic, we know as stainless series 300.

Austenitic stainless steel contains carbon at least 15%. Moreover, it contains chromium at least 16% as well as nickel, they will improve metal forming and corrosion resistance characteristic for stainless steel. However, some of them also contain manganese.


To better understand how to choose the stainless material for the application, then we need to understand the metallurgical differences and physical advantages for each application. Let’s explore the history of stainless steel to the roots of its discovery in Europe.

Originally, stainless steel obtained its’ name from its ability to resist rusting due to the positive metallurgical experiment between its alloying components and being exposed to a humid environment. It is believed that Harry Brearly (English metallurgist from Sheffield England in 1913) was experimenting with ferrous metals and alloying compounds including the use of the chromium element. He noticed that ferrous metals did not rust with chromium was added to the ferrous compound mixtures. Therefore, it is believed that famous metallurgist called the non-rusting metal composition the name “stainless” since it did not stain a rusty color. In other words, the metal remained shiny with no rust.

Typically, all stainless steel compounds are comprised of at least 10 percent chromium element. But note that not all “non-rusting” metal compound steels have the same properties and the metal grades can vary depending upon metallurgical chemistry with the chromium element and other complementary alloying elements in each metallurgical composition.

Each metallurgical compound is graded in accordance with its’ physical and chemical properties. Stainless steel series are classified by metallurgical composition and physical properties with a designated numbering from 200 to 600. Each metal composition is classified and quantified by metallic properties and descriptions that included including austenitic (non-magnetic), ferritic (magnetic), duplex, and martensitic and/or precipitation hardening (high strength and good resistance to corrosion) characteristics.


Type 304 Stainless Steel

Type 304 is the most common grade and it is widely used. It is an austenitic (non-magnetic) metal grade and it is also known as “18/8” due to its’ composition, which includes 18 % chromium and 8% nickel Type 304 grade has good forming and welding properties as well as good corrosion resistance and strength. Also, it is referred to as “A2” in accordance with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Type 316 Stainless Steel

Type 316 is the second most common grade (after 304) and it widely used for food and surgical stainless steel applications. The molybdenum prevents specific forms of corrosion and it is known as the “marine grade” due to its’ additional resistance to chloride corrosion compared to Type 304. This grade of 316 SS is referred to as the “A4” in accordance with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Type 316L Stainless Steel

Type 316L is similar to grade 304, except 316L is a “low carbon” composition. Many metal supply distributors offer 316L as a stock item or referred to it as an “off the shelf” material. Stainless steel 316L grades have more corrosion resistance due to the lower carbon content in the metal composition. Therefore, 316L SS is ideal for almost any form of marine application (boats, ships, boat hardware, offshore navigation equipment, etc.), chemical plants or sanitary surgical equipment due to its corrosion resistance.

So you might have a question, which one should I choose between 304 and 316 stainless steel?

The different between these two is type 316 has more nickel and molybdenum than type 304, these make grade 316 stainless steel a bit higher cost than 304. Other components are mostly comparable.

Therefore, grade 316 SSL has better corrosion resistance performance than 304, specially when consider about chlorides and chlorinated environment.

So, if your application requires to be exposure to salt, chlorides, choose a better one like grade 316 stainless steel would fit your project, however if none of those isn’t a concern for your project, 304 would be fit and save a little cost for you.


Choosing between these little details sometimes are quite tricky, Consult an experienced engineering team today!

Refer to Wikipedia for additional information about metal grades and uses.

ISO – Internation Organization for Standardization