316 vs 316L Stainless Steel: What’s the Difference?

Stainless steel is a popular rapid prototyping material used in different capabilities due to its durability, anti-corrosive property, strength, and other factors. While useful, there are a lot of stainless-steel grades of which the 316 vs 316L stainless steel argument is very common.

To use stainless steel especially with relation to 316 vs 316 stainless steel, there is a need to understand the difference between the two types. The article will not only explain the differences, but also will show you several factors that can help you select the right one to use.

316 vs 316L Stainless Steel

316 stainless steel or grade 316 as it’s popularly called, is a common alloy of stainless steel which has an austenite property. It contains a maximum carbon content of 0.08% and contains 2-3% of molybdenum. The additional molybdenum aids in its corrosion resistance property, acidic condition use, and resistance to pitting and increased temperature.

316L stainless steel or officially known as grade 316L has a lower carbon content compared to 316 stainless steel. It contains 0.03% maximum carbon content and molybdenum in its composition. This low carbon content reduces the effect of carbide precipitation during sheet metal fabrication processes such as welding.

Properties of each Type

The 316 stainless steel is applicable in different rapid prototyping operations for different functions based on its properties. Below are some of its important properties:
  • It has high strength, so it can be molded into different shapes without cracking.
  • It has a high resistance to corrosion and pitting
  • The melting point ranges from 1371-1399 degrees Celsius
  • It has a good form and weld property
  • Its density is 7.9g/cm^3
The 316L stainless steel is also applicable in different rapid prototyping operations for different functions based on its properties. Below are some of its important properties:
  • It has a large resistance to creep
  • It has an excellent ability to take different forms
  • At elevated temperatures it ruptures and has a good tensile strength
  • It has less carbon and molybdenum, hence its better corrosion resistance

Applications of each

316 stainless steel materials are used to fabricate products employed in areas where corrosive resistance is necessary. Examples of such uses are in making heat exchangers, pieces of pharmaceutical and photographic equipment, pumps, and parts constantly exposed to the marine environment.
The 316L stainless steel is a common material used in the fabrication of equipment and materials by various industries. However, it’s most commonly used as a rapid prototyping material, and is also applicable in sheet metal fabrication and CNC machining due to its mechanical properties.

Selecting the Right One

Depending on your project’s needs, it’s necessary to consider the factors above in addition to the ones listed below when deciding if 316 or 316L stainless steel is best for your project.

Cost – Cost is an important factor in selecting any grade of steel. However, even cost in the 316 vs 316L stainless steel comparison is not a limiting factor since they have a slight difference in their carbon content. Therefore, your choice should be dependent on the need for your project.

Magnetic Properties – 316 stainless steel is non-magnetic as it shows negligible response to magnetic fields. However, with further processing like welding, the crystalline structure of some 316 stainless steel can be altered which makes it inclined to some magnetism.

The Manufacturing Process – Depending on the sheet metal fabrication or CNC machining process you are using; you have to know about 316L stainless steel vs 316 stainless steel before selection. For example, if in your sheet metal design plan, the process to be used is welding, the best decision to make is to avoid using stainless steel with a higher carbon content as it may lead to cracks after it cools down. Therefore, you should use the one with lower carbon content.

Call Custom Tool Today!

Comparing 316 vs 316l stainless steel can be a little cumbersome. However, if all you need is to get the job done, Custom Tool is your best choice. Our efficient and dedicated team of experts works with our clients to ensure that their project needs and demands are met using the best quality materials and processes possible. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you.