Copyright © 2010 Qihong Duan et al. This is an open access article distributed under the
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In many applications, the failure rate function may present a bathtub shape curve. In this paper, an expectation maximization algorithm is proposed to construct a suitable continuous-time Markov chain which models the failure time data by the first time reaching the absorbing state. Assume that a system is described by methods of supplementary variables, the device of stage, and so on. Given a data set, the maximum likelihood estimators of the initial distribution and the infinitesimal transition rates of the Markov chain can be obtained by our novel algorithm. Suppose that there are transient states in the system and that there are failure time data. The devised algorithm only needs to compute the exponential of upper triangular matrices for times in each iteration. Finally, the algorithm is applied to two real data sets, which indicates the practicality and efficiency of our algorithm.