What is the Temperature Range for 304 Stainless Steel vs. 316 vs. 330?

September 2, 2015 | Stainless Steel Baskets

Many of Marlin Steel’s customers use production processes that involve high temperatures. From sterilization of parts to the heat treatment of specific alloys, there are a ton of applications that might require a custom parts cleaning basket to be put through temperatures in excess of 1,000 °F.

Because of this, many of Marlin’s clients ask the following question: “what’s the temperature range for (insert given steel alloy here)?”

Well, the answer varies based on a few different factors, including:

  • The specific steel alloy being used.
  • The weight load of the basket/container.
  • Any chemicals that may be present.
  • Length of time that the alloy is subjected to a given temperature.

Just to name a few potential factors that might affect the performance of a steel alloy being exposed to high temperature applications.

For example, say that you had a container made of plain steel that you were passing through a process where the temperature would reach 1,000 °F. At that temperature, the steel would lose its tensile strength, becoming only a fifth as strong as it is at room temperature.

So, if the basket were to be loaded with 50 lbs. of parts/materials, and had a capacity of 100 lbs. normally, the basket would fail. This is because the basket would now have a maximum weight limit of 20 lbs. at 1,000 °F.

Another issue would be the thermal expansion the metal could experience. As metals heat up, they can undergo expansion that causes them to lose their shape—ruining delicately-assembled custom wire and sheet metal forms.

With this in mind, what are the temperature ranges of different stainless steel alloys such as grade 304, 316, and 330?

Temperature Tolerances for Grade 304 Stainless Steel

When steel is red-hot, it usually means that the tensile strength of the steel has been compromised.One of the key properties of any stainless steel alloy is its resistance to oxidation. High temperatures can compromise the the oxidation resistance of steel alloys, leading them to become rusted and weakening their structural integrity.

As stated by AZO Materials, grade 304 stainless steel possesses “good oxidation resistance in intermittent service to 870 °C and in continuous service to 925 °C.” However, they warn that “continuous use of 304 in the 425-860 °C range is not recommended if subsequent aqueous corrosion resistance is important.”

In other words, you can expose grade 304 alloy steel to temperatures of up to 1,598 °F for short periods of time without ill effect, and for extended periods of time in temperatures of up to 1,697 °F. However, this can compromise the corrosion resistance of the metal, making it more susceptible to corrosion damage from exposure to moisture.

As noted in an AK Steel data sheet on 304 stainless steel, the alloy reaches its melting point at the 2,550 °F – 2,650 °F (1399 °C – 1454 °C) range. Naturally, the closer the steel is to its melting point, the more tensile strength it loses.

Contact a Marlin Steel Mechanical Engineer Expert for your next 304 Stainless Steel project.

Temperature Tolerances for Grade 316 Stainless Steel

Another popular alloy of stainless steel, grade 316 SS is often used for applications that involve powerful corrosives, as its corrosion resistance generally exceeds that of grade 304 SS.

The temperature tolerance of grade 316 stainless steel is close to that of grade 304, being just a little bit lower. As stated in an AK Steel data sheet for grade 316 stainless steel, the melting range of 316 SS is 2,500 °F – 2,550 °F (1,371 °C – 1,399 °C), roughly 50 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the melting point of grade 304 stainless.

This makes grade 316 alloy slightly less desirable for high temperature applications than grade 304 alloy.

Contact a Marlin Steel Mechanical Engineer Expert for your next 316 Stainless Steel project.

Temperature Tolerances for Grade 330 Stainless Steel

Unlike the previous two stainless steel alloys, grade 330 stainless is frequently specifically marketed as a high-temperature resistant alloy. As noted on the Penn Stainless website, grade 330 alloy “has great oxidation resistance and resists scale formation up to about 2000°F due to its chromium and nickel content.”

Typically speaking, the alloy has between 18 and 22% chromium content, and 34 to 37% nickel content.

While Penn Stainless says that 330 resists scaling and oxidation at temperatures up to 2,000 °F, we generally recommend limiting exposure to 1,900 °F, or 940 °C. If your application’s operating temperature exceeds 1,900 °F, you might want to consider a different alloy, such as Inconel, which is specifically formulated for high-temperature applications.

So, there are the operation temperature limits of three of the most popular stainless steel alloys. However, before you settle on a specific alloy for the custom parts washing baskets in your production application, be sure to check with an experienced mechanical engineer, as they can take into account other factors that might affect your custom basket’s design needs, such as chemicals used in your process or weight load of the basket.

Contact a Marlin Steel Mechanical Engineer Expert for your next project.

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Learn more about how to choose the perfect basket design for the job at the link below:

Marlin Steel's Stainless Steel Properties Sheet