Construction of Ball Mill

Ball mill introduction

Structurally, each ball mill consists of a horizontal cylindrical shell, provided with renewable wearing liners and a charge of grinding medium. The drum is supported so as to rotate on its axis on hollow trunnions attached to the end walls (attached figure 1 ball mill). The diameter of the mill determines the pressure that can be exerted by the medium on the ore particles and, in general, the larger the feed size the larger needs to be the mill diameter. The length of the mill, in conjunction with the diameter, determines the volume, and hence the capacity of the mill.

figure 1 ball mill
figure 1 ball mill

The feed material is usually fed to the mill continuously through one end trunnion, the ground product leaving via the other trunnion, although in certain applications the product may leave the mill through a number of ports spaced around the periphery of the shell. All types of mill can be used for wet or dry grinding by modification of feed and discharge equipment.

Construction of ball mill


Mill shells are designed to sustain impact and heavy loading, and are constructed from rolled mild steel plates, buttwelded together. Holes are drilled to take the bolts for holding the liners. Normally one or two access manholes are provided. For attachment of the trunnion heads, heavy flanges of fabricated or cast steel are usually welded or bolted to the ends of the plate shells, planed with parallel faces which are grooved to receive a corresponding spigot on the head, and drilled for bolting to the head.

Mill ends

The mill ends, or trunnion heads, may be of nodular or grey cast iron for diameters less than about 1 m. Larger heads are constructed from cast steel, which is relatively light, and can be welded. The heads are fibbed for reinforcement and may be flat, slightly conical, or dished. They are machined and drilled to fit shell flanges(attached figure 2 tube mill end and trunnion).

Tube mill end and trunnion
figure 2 Tube mill end and trunnion

Trunnions and bearings

The trunnions are made from cast iron or steel and are spigoted and bolted to the end plates, although in small mills they may be integral with the end plates. They are highly polished to reduce bearing friction. Most trunnion bearings are rigid highgrade iron castings with 120-180 degree lining of white metal in the bearing area, surrounded by a fabricated mild steel housing, which is bolted into the concrete foundations (attached figure 3 oil-lubricated trunnion bearing).

oil-lubricated trunnion bearing
figure 3 oil-lubricated trunnion bearing

The bearings in smaller mills may be grease lubricated, but oil lubrication is favoured in large mills, via motor-driven oil pumps. The effectiveness of normal lubrication protection is reduced when the mill is shut down for any length of time, and many mills are fitted with manually operated hydraulic starting lubricators, which force oil between the trunnion and trunnion bearing, preventing friction damage to the beating surface, on starting, by re-establishing the protecting film of oil (attached figure 4 Hydraulic starting lubricator).

Hydraulic starting lubricator
figure 4 Hydraulic starting lubricator

Some manufacturers install large roller bearings, which can withstand higher forces than plain metal bearings (attached figure 5 Trunnion with roller-type bearings ).

Trunnion with roller-type bearings
Trunnion with roller-type bearings


Ball mills are most commonly rotated by a pinion meshing with a girth ring bolted to one end of the machine. The pinion shaft is driven from the prime mover through vee-belts, in small mills of less than about 180 kW. For larger mills the shaft is coupled directly to the output shaft of a slow-speed synchronous motor, or to the output shaft of a motor-driven
helical or double helical gear reducer. In some mills thyristors and DC motors are used to give variable speed control. Very large mills driven by girth gears require two to four pinions, and complex load sharing systems must be incorporated.

Large ball mills can be rotated by a central trunnion drive, which has the advantage of requiting no expensive ring gear, the drive being from one or two motors, with the inclusion of two-or three-speed gearing.

The larger the mill, the greater are the stresses between the shells and heads and the trunnions and heads. In the early 1970s, maintenance problems related to the application of gear and pinion and large speed reducer drives on dry grinding cement mills of long length drove operators to seek an alternative drive design. As a result, a number of gearless drive (ring motor) cement mills were installed and the technology became relatively common in the European cement industry.


The internal working faces of mills consist of renewable liners, which must withstand impact, be wear-resistant, and promote the most favourable motion of the charge. Rod mill ends have plain fiat liners, slightly coned to encourage the selfcentring and straight-line action of rods. They are made usually from manganese or chromemolybdenum steels, having high impact strength. Ball-mill ends usually have ribs to lift the charge with the mill rotation. These prevent excessive slipping and increase liner life. They can be made from white cast iron, alloyed with nickel (Ni-hard), other wear-resistant materials, and rubber. Trunnion liners are designed for each application and can be conical, plain, with advancing or retarding spirals. They are manufactured from hard cast iron or cast alloy steel, a rubber lining often being bonded to the inner surface for increased life. Shell liners have an endless variety of lifter shapes. Smooth linings result in much abrasion, and hence a fine grind, but with associated high metal wear. The liners are therefore generally shaped to provide lifting action and to add impact and crushing, the most common shapes being wave, Lorain, stepped, and shiplap (attached figure 6 ball mill shell liners). The liners are attached to the mill shell and ends by forged steel countersunk liner bolts.

Ball mill shell liners
figure 6 ball mill shell liners

Rod mill liners are also generally of alloyed steel or cast iron, and of the wave type, although Nihard step liners may be used with rods up to 4 cm in diameter. Lorain liners are extensively used for coarse grinding in rod and ball mills, and consist of high carbon rolled steel plates held in place by manganese or hard alloy steel lifter bars. Ball mill liners may be made of hard cast iron when balls of up to 5 cm in diameter are used, but otherwise cast manganese steel, cast chromium steel, or Ni-hard are used.

Ball Mill liners are a major cost in mill operation, and efforts to prolong liner life are constantly being made. There are at least ten wear-resistant alloys used for ball-mill linings, the more abrasion-resistant alloys containing large amounts of chromium, molybdenum, and nickel being the most expensive. However, with steadily increasing labour costs for replacing liners, the trend is towards selecting liners which have the best service life regardless of cost.

Rubber liners and lifters have supplanted steel in some operations, and have been found to be longer lasting, easier and faster to install, and their use results in a significant reduction of noise level. However, increased medium consumption has been reported using rubber liners rather than Ni-hard liners. Rubber lining may also have drawbacks in processes requiring the addition of flotation reagents directly into the mill, or temperatures exceeding 80℃. They are also thicker than their steel counterparts, which reduces mill capacity, a particularly important factor in small mills. There are also important differences in design aspects between steel and rubber linings.

The engineering advantage of rubber is that, at relatively low impact forces, it will yield, resuming its shape when the forces are removed. However, if the forces are too powerful, or the speed of the material hitting the rubber is too high, the wear rate is dramatic. In primary grinding applications, with severe grinding forces, the wear rate of rubber inhibits its use. Even though the wear cost per tonne of ore may be similar to that of the more expensive steel lining, the more frequent interruptions for maintenance often make it uneconomical. The advantage of steel is its great hardness, and steel-capped liners have been developed which combine the best qualities of rubber and steel. These consist of rubber lifter bars with steel inserts embedded in the face, the steel providing the wear resistance and the rubber backing cushioning the impacts.

A concept which has found some application for ball mills is the “angular spiral lining”. The circular cross-section of a conventional mill is changed to a square cross-section with rounded corners by the addition of rubber-lined, flanged frames, which are offset to spiral in a direction opposite to the mill rotation. Double wave liner plates are fitted to these frames, and a sequential lifting of the charge down the length of the mill results, which increases the grinding ball to pulp mixing through axial motion of the grinding charge, along with the normal cascading motion. Substantial increases in throughput, along with reductions in energy and grinding medium consumptions, have been reported.

To avoid the rapid wear of rubber liners, a new patented technology for a magnetic metal liner has been developed by China Metallurgical Mining Corp. The magnets keep the lining in contact with the steel shell and the end plates without using bolts, while the ball “scats” in the charge and magnetic minerals are attracted to the liner to form a 30-40mm protective layer, which is continuously renewed as it wears. Over 10 years the magnetic metal liner has been used in more than 300 full-scale ball mills at over 100 mine sites in China. For example, one set of the magnetic metal liner was installed in a 3.2m (D) x 4.5 m (L) secondary ball mill (60mm ball charge) at Waitoushan concentrator of Benxi Iron and Steel Corp. in 1992. Over nine years, 2.6 Mt of iron ore were ground at zero additional liner cost and zero maintenance of the liners. The magnetic metal liner has also found applications in large ball mills, such as the 5.5 m (D) x 8.8 m (L) mills installed at Diaojuntai concentrator in Qidashan Iron Ore Mines.

Another advantage of the magnetic metal liner is that as the liners are thinner and lighter than conventional manganese steel, the effective mill volume is larger, and the mill weight is reduced. An 11.3% decrease in mill power draw at the same operational conditions has been realised in a 2.7m (D) x 3.6m (L) ball mill by using the magnetic metal liner.

Mill feeders

Spout feeder

The type of feeding arrangement used on the mill depends on whether the grinding is done in open or closed circuit and whether it is done wet or dry. The size and rate of feed are also important. Dry mills are usually fed by some sort of vibratory feeder. Three types of feeder are in use in wet-grinding mills. The simplest form is the spout feeder (attached figure 7 Spout feeder), consisting of a cylindrical or elliptical chute supported independently of the mill, and projecting directly into the trunnion liner. Material is fed by gravity through the spout to feed the mills. They are often used for feeding rod mills operating in open circuit or mills in closed circuit with hydrocyclone classifiers.

Spout feeder
figure 7 Spout feeder
Drum feeders

Drum feeders (attached figure 8 Drum feeder on ball mill) may be used as an alternative to a spout feeder when headroom is limited. The entire mill feed enters the drum via a chute or spout and an internal spiral carries it into the trunnion liner. The drum also provides a convenient method of adding grinding balls to a mill.

Drum feeder on ball mill
figure 8 Drum feeder on ball mill
Combination drum-scoop feeders

These (attached figure 9 Drum-scoop feeder) are generally used for wet grinding in closed circuit with a spiral or rake classifier. New material is fed directly into the drum, while the scoop picks up the classifier sands for regrinding. Either a single or a double scoop can be used, the latter providing an increased feed rate and more uniform flow of material into the mill; the counter-balancing effect of the double-scoop design serves to smooth out power fluctuation and it is normally incorporated in large-diameter mills. Scoop feeders are sometimes used in place of the drum-scoop combination when mill feed is in the fine-size range.

Drum-scoop feeder
figure 9 Drum-scoop feeder