A theory is presented for studying contact pressure and wear distributions for bodies in sliding contact. This theory can be used in designing machine elements for improved wear resistance and failure prediction. A point force-displacement influence function and a profile function are employed in conjunction with a discretization method, an automatic mesh generation technique and a discretized wear equation to determine the instantaneous contact pressure distribution and the corresponding worn surface profile for a given sliding distance. The theory is implemented in a computer program and is applied to a simple unlubricated sliding contact and adhesive wear problem. The results show that a higher pressure will exist at the leading edge of the sliding block and thus there results a higher wear at the leading edge of the sliding block than the trailing edge. This study also shows the sliding contact wear of a copper sphere on a steel plane. As expected, instantaneous contact radius increases as the sliding contact continues (for the same normal load) and therefore results in a smaller pressure within the contact region.

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