No matter what you call it - 304, 1.4301, 18 / 8 or even V2A - most people in the industry will know what you mean. There are two (or three) obvious reasons for this. The 304 grade is one of the first stainless steel grades developed. It quickly became the mainstay of the stainless steel industry and consumers, and still maintains this outstanding position. So, surprisingly, the 304 stainless steel coil is the most popular grade offered by the British stainless steel belt.
But obviously, this is not just because the 304 is one of the first levels of development, it continues to dominate today's market. We have made great progress over the years. We now have a variety of austenitic stainless steels, of which 304 is only one type, as well as various ferritic stainless steels, 200 series, duplex, super composite and lean duplex. Each of them has specific properties and has been developed for a particular application, or even an attempt to avoid the use of expensive alloying elements.
For example, by choosing duplex stainless steel, you can achieve higher strength (thus reducing weight) and higher corrosion resistance. You can choose CrNiMo grades (eg 316) to achieve higher corrosion resistance when necessary - for example in the marine environment, or using large amounts of salt to remove ice, or specific chemical processes requiring specific resistance to specific chemicals or acids.
You can also choose ferritic stainless steel or 200 series (CrMn) grades to reduce the cost of alloying elements, resulting in a cheaper product, even decided to completely detach from stainless steel and specify galvanized steel. However, when using this method, it is very obvious that if it is not painted frequently, it will soon start to rust and may soon need to be completely replaced. At first glance it seems to be a cheap option that does become very expensive and even dangerous.
All of these "updated" grades are in line with their purpose and help to make stainless steel the material of choice. But with so many levels, people may have expected them to quickly replace the 304 series. Why insist on using the series developed more than 100 years ago, there are so many alternatives available today that can be tailored to perform well under certain conditions. People can almost say that today every application has a level.
Grade 304 will not maintain its popularity because it is "relatively" a "cheap" option. It contains quite a lot of nickel, and as we know it can indeed be a very expensive ingredient, especially when the restocking of a period of time goes into the destocking period, when the price starts to rise, and the pension and investment funds begin to accumulate. To further push prices up, sometimes to raise prices to levels that no longer reflect supply and demand.
So, if it's not for historical reasons, the 304 is so popular, not because it doesn't contain "expensive" alloying elements like nickel, because it does, why is it still the industry's main force? The answer may first be that the 304 grade contains very good chrome (about 18%), of course, it is chrome, making it corrosion resistant. Why then add nickel, which only adds to the cost? Because nickel stabilizes the austenitic structure, this means that the steel is both tough and tough. How much nickel should I add? Obviously, the minimum required to stabilize the austenitic structure - about 8%. We have it - grade 18/8 (18% Cr, 8% Ni) or grade 304. The result is high corrosion resistance in a wide range of applications, good formability and good solderability. However, when the amount of nickel is not required for a particular application, the nickel content is not sufficient to make it too expensive. It is the combination of these characteristics that explains why 304 is still one of the most widely used grades, and of course why it is one of the most popular grades offered by stainless steel belts. The special combination of properties means that it is suitable for a wide range of applications from industrial (chemical, pharmaceutical, food, beverage, brewing, fermentation) to construction, distribution (counter, etc.) at a reasonable cost. , to your own kitchen and tableware.
The versatility and performance of the 304 series has been proven for many years, but it is a "safe bet" or "I am sure 304 will be good" is wrong. You can say that this is a bit like buying a car. You don't buy the Audi R8, it sounds good, and it's fast, and if you need it, the Renault Clio will get you to the corner store quickly and at a much lower cost. However, if you have a plane to catch up, then you can't buy a cheap small boat, it is likely to be interrupted in the middle of the airport. That's why you should always talk to experts. Stainless steel belts will advise you on the level you need for your specific application at the most reasonable cost and help you avoid the mistakes that can be very expensive in the long run. With this warning, 304 stainless steel is the main force in the stainless steel industry. This has been the case since its first development and seems to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. And you can rest assured that there will always be enough 304 coils in the stainless steel warehouse to cut the strips of the exact width you need and the processing and surface treatment you need in a short time.