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Two broken ball-mill liners from a copper-mine ore operation were submitted for failure analysis. These liners failed prematurely, having reached less than 20% of their expected life. The chemical composition of the liners was within specifications for high-chromium white cast iron. The two broken liners were sand blasted for visual inspection and subsequent metallography and hardness testing. Many cracks were found externally and on the undersides. There were also signs of mechanical damage that occurred inside the mill before detection of the failures. The underside cracking is significant because the user advised that the liners were not backed in the installation. Cracking was present in the microstructures of both liners. These cracks tend to fracture the brittle carbide phase first; once nucleated, the sharp cracks can propagate and grow to critical dimensions, which eventually induces complete failure to the load-bearing section. The premature failure of these liners was caused by severe localized overstress conditions due to localized impact in service. Proper backing of shell liners should be ensured to reduce the effect of impact forces in the ball mill.

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