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What should the first grade be?

Not surprisingly, 304 (1.4301) and its variants are the most common grades in the SSAS database. This reflects the market as a whole.

Approximate Composition – 18% Cr 8% Ni (exact composition ranges vary between EN and ASTM standards).

This grade combines the following characteristics:

Good corrosion resistance

Good weldability

Excellent ductility giving stretch formability in pressings

Hygienic surfaces

Work hardening for spring properties

Ease of manufacture at the steel mill

This combination of properties leads to the grade being used for a wide range of applications including:

Sinks, pots and pans, catering surfaces, architectural cladding, handrails, food processing, water treatment, pressure vessels, transport containers, surgical instruments, building support products, refrigeration equipment, watch cases, automotive trim, street furniture, anaerobic digestion, chemical plant, sanitaryware.

This is merely a sample of the applications for 304/304L (1.4301/1.4307). Despite the competition from grades with a similar corrosion resistance, this grade is likely to continue to form the backbone of the stainless steel market for some years to come.