St Benedict’s Catholic High School

St Benedict’s Catholic High School

A team of four Year 12 students designed and built a ball mill for a local company, Florence Paintmakers, to enable the precise grinding down of materials for paint production.


The Team: Caleb Hamilton (Project Manager), Kieran McGlennon (Researcher), Daniel Burns (Communications Officer) and Alex Graham (Admin Organiser)

Region: The North

Sponsor: National Nuclear Laboratory


Objective: Manufacture Multi-Use Ball Mill

The St Benedict’s team were tasked to optimise and manufacture a ball mill to be used to grind down samples of haematite, slate and sandstone for the production of paint at Florence Paintmakers, a local business.

An additional aim of the project, on completion, was to test how successful Nanobubble technology is in the removal of paint from certain surfaces, providing an insight into the capabilities of Nanobubble technology in nuclear decommissioning.



With help from graduate engineers at National Nuclear Laboratory, the team not only researched the process of ball milling, particle size distribution and rheology, but also visited the Florence Paintmakers studio, completing on-site research in order to ensure their designs met the needs of the company. This highlighted, for example, the importance of the use of slate and sandstone in the paint production process, and therefore the need to tailor the mill to these requirements.

Next, the team undertook practical experiments of ball mill efficacy at Newcastle University. These tests produced results which, when analysed by the team, provided useful insights for the manufacture of their own ball mill.  Further investigation, in which the team proactively liaised with and sought advice from experts at LKAB minerals, saw the team determine the best conditions to run the mill for the small-scale needs of Florence Paintmakers.



At the end of the project, the team donated the ball mill to Florence Paintmakers, as the company had recently been left without capability to mechanically grind materials for the paint making process following a machine failure. In this way, the team alleviated the company’s reliance on the inefficient and labour-intensive process of crushing these materials by hand to produce paint.

In terms of future use and safety precautions, the team would hope to design a cage to place over the ball mill when running in order to avoid potential injury or accident by users in close proximity.

Date published: 
September 18, 2015