For real engineering surfaces contact, most asperities come into contact in a configuration of shoulder-to-shoulder instead of aligned head-on. In this work, a three-dimensional (3D) model of two identical elastic–plastic spherical asperities in contact was developed which characterizes the initial contact offset with polar angle α and azimuthal angle β. The simulations with finite-element method (FEM) show that the adhesive coefficient of friction (COF) is only influenced by large initial azimuthal angle thus mainly depends on interfacial shear strength. The plowing COF is determined, however, by effective contact interference, which reflects the combined effects of α and β. Moreover, a detailed parametric study shows that the load ratio is significantly dependent on Young's modulus and interfacial shear strength, while the maximum elastic rebound force during the unloading phase is mainly dependent on polar angle.

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