316 vs 316L stainless steel

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

316 vs 316L Stainless Steel: What’s the Difference and How to Choose?

Stainless steel is one of the most widely used materials in various industries, such as food processing , pharmaceutical , chemical , oil and gas , and of course, beer brewing . However, not all stainless steel grades are created equal. Depending on the composition and properties of the steel, some grades may be more suitable for certain applications than others.

In this article, we will compare two of the common and popular stainless steel grades: 316 and 316L. We will explain what they are, how they differ, and what are their advantages and disadvantages for different uses.

What is 316 Stainless Steel?

316 stainless steel is a type of austenitic stainless steel that contains molybdenum as an alloying element. Molybdenum gives 316 stainless steel a higher resistance to corrosion and pitting than other austenitic grades, such as 304. This makes 316 stainless steel ideal for applications that involve exposure to salt water, chloride, acids, and other harsh environments.

316 stainless steel also has excellent mechanical properties , such as high strength, toughness, and ductility. It can be easily welded , formed , and machined . It also has good resistance to oxidation and creep at high temperatures .

Some of the common applications of 316 stainless steel include:

  • Marine equipment and structures
  • Chemical and pharmaceutical processing equipment
  • Food and beverage processing equipment
  • Medical devices and implants
  • Heat exchangers and condensers
  • Pumps and valves

What is 316L Stainless Steel?

316L stainless steel is a low-carbon variant of 316 stainless steel. The lower carbon content reduces the risk of carbide precipitation during welding , which can cause intergranular corrosion . This makes 316L stainless steel more suitable for welding than 316 stainless steel.

However, the lower carbon content also reduces the strength of 316L stainless steel compared to 316 stainless steel. Therefore, 316L stainless steel may not be suitable for applications that require high strength or hardness.

Some of the common applications of 316L stainless steel include:

  • Welded structures and components
  • Biomedical devices and implants
  • Sanitary fittings and tubing
  • Jewelry and watches

How to Choose Between 316 and 316L Stainless Steel?

The choice between 316 and 316L stainless steel depends on several factors, such as:

  • The type and level of corrosion resistance required
  • The type and level of mechanical properties required
  • The type and level of welding involved
  • The cost and availability of the material

Generally speaking, 316 stainless steel is preferred for applications that require higher strength, hardness, or corrosion resistance than 304 stainless steel. However, if welding is involved, 316L stainless steel may be a better option to avoid intergranular corrosion.

Of course, there are other factors that may influence the choice of material , such as aesthetics , hygiene , durability , and maintenance . Therefore, it is always advisable to consult with an expert before making a final decision.


316 and 316L stainless steel are both excellent choices for various applications that require high corrosion resistance and good mechanical properties. However, they have some differences in their carbon content, strength, weldability, and suitability for different environments.

At Plygen Industries, we offer a wide range of high-quality stainless steel products for various industries. Whether you need a conical fermenter or a unitank for your brewery or a heat exchanger or a reactor for your chemical plant or any other custom-made equipment or parts made from stainless steel or other metals or alloys we can help you with our expertise and experience.

Contact us today to get a quote or to learn more about our products and services .