A ball mill is a type of grinder used to grind and blend materials for use in mineral dressing processes, paints, pyrotechnics, ceramics and selective laser sintering. It works on the principle of impact and attrition: size reduction is done by impact as the balls drop from near the top of the shell.
A ball mill consists of a hollow cylindrical shell rotating about its axis. The axis of the shell may be either horizontal or at a small angle to the horizontal. It is partially filled with balls. The grinding media is the balls, which may be made of steel (chrome steel), stainless steel, ceramic, or rubber. The inner surface of the cylindrical shell is usually lined with an abrasion-resistant material such as manganese steel or rubber. Less wear takes place in rubber lined mills. The length of the mill is approximately equal to its diameter.
The general idea behind the ball mill is an ancient one, but it was not until the industrial revolution and the invention of steam power that an effective ball milling machine could be built. It is reported to have been used for grinding flint for pottery in 1870.