Friction is the natural response of all tribosystems. In a total knee replacement (TKR) prosthetic device, its measurement is hindered by the complex geometry of its integrating parts and that of the testing simulation rig operating under the ISO 14243-3:2014 standard. To develop prediction models of the coefficient of friction (COF) between AISI 316L steel and ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) lubricated with fetal bovine serum dilutions, the arthrokinematics and loading conditions prescribed by the ISO 142433: 2014 standard were translated to a simpler geometrical setup, via Hertz contact theory. Tribological testing proceeded by loading a stainless steel AISI 316L ball against the surface of a UHMWPE disk, with the test fluid at 37 °C. The method has been applied to study the behavior of the COF during a whole walking cycle. On the other hand, the role of protein aggregation phenomena as a lubrication mechanism has been extensively studied in hip joint replacements but little explored for the operating conditions of a TKR. Lubricant testing fluids were prepared with fetal bovine serum (FBS) dilutions having protein mass concentrations of 5, 10, 20 and 36 g/L. The results were contrasted against deionized, sterilized water. The results indicate that even at protein concentration as low as 5 g/L, protein aggregation phenomena play an important role in the lubrication of the metal-on-polymer tribopair. The regression models of the COF developed herein are available for numerical simulations of the tribological behavior of the aforementioned tribosystem. In this case, surface stress rather than film thickness should be considered.
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