Wear tests involving thousands of operating cycles can be impractical and costly. Therefore, the use of numerical methods to predict surface evolution due to wear can be a good alternative. A generalised three-dimensional finite element (FE) method is presented here to determine the wear of mechanical components. The method is tested and validated against the results obtained from the ball on disc sliding tests performed on different materials and in different conditions, with the aim to predict the wear profiles of the ball and disc. The wear simulation procedure is, for simplicity, based on Archard’s wear law and is implemented in a commercial FE package, ABAQUS. The developed methods are appropriate for 3D surfaces and the wear profiles are based on the contact pressures calculated on both surfaces. The surface evolutions of both contacting bodies are calculated simultaneously. The generation of artificial roughening of the worn surfaces due to numerical restrictions of element sizes is minimised using a local smoothening procedure. The developed methods are compared with the results obtained for reciprocating sliding tests, which result in wear of few microns wear depths, and continuous sliding tests, which result in tens of microns wear depths. The results were generally in good agreement with the test, with the maximum discrepancy of ~10% in all indicators used considering the statistical error margin of the tests. The developed method is versatile and applicable to a wide range of sliding wear tests. The model can be updated to consider both more complex material descriptions and to incorporate tribofilm or oxide layer growth or removal.
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